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At Mindfish, we understand the importance of getting a jump on a great education, and preparing for the ISEE is a great way to do it! This is many students’ first step on their test prep journey, and we’re here to help you learn how to approach standardized tests, what strategies are most effective, and the content you’ll need to make you feel confident and excel at the ISEE!

What is the ISEE?

The ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) is used by independent schools worldwide to help determine admission. It is broken up into Primary (students entering 2-4 grades), Lower (entering 5-6), Middle (entering 7-8), and Upper Levels (entering 9-12). While there’s typically no need to prep for the Primary Level ISEE, the other levels all do require familiarity with standardized testing, section-specific strategies, and content reinforcement for your student to excel. 

ISEE Timing

The ISEE allows you to take the test up to 3 times per year, or once per testing season:

Fall – August, September, October, and November

Winter – December, January, February, and March

Spring/Summer – April, May, June, and July

Since most students will take the test twice, most of our programs focus on the November and December dates to take advantage of the tests being fairly close to each other. Since we count backwards from the test to determine when we should start preparing for the test, most programs should begin in August, giving students a full 15-week runway to the November ISEE

What’s in the ISEE?

The ISEE has four scored sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Analysis, Reading Comprehension, and Math Achievement. 

Verbal Reasoning is vocabulary, and it can be a doozy. Suffixes and prefixes and root words, oh my! There are both single-word synonym questions and dual-blank sentence completion questions which students will need to answer, so not just knowing the words, but recognizing the relationship between them.

Quantitative Analysis is number theory. And it’s often the hardest section of the test. This section looks at how you would decide to solve a math problem based on the concepts involved more than the computation itself. There are also GRE-style paired questions, where your student has to evaluate two separate equations and compare their values. As a result, the timing on this section is particularly tight.

Reading Comprehension is, well, reading comprehension. 36 questions in 35 minutes broken into 6 passages. Students must answer a series of multiple choice questions, which will ask them to identify main and supporting ideas, draw inferences, and analyze the vocabulary, organization, tone, and figurative language used in the passage.

Math Achievement is the more ‘normal’ of the math sections. Here, students taking the Upper Level test will see questions involving Numbers and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis, and Probabilities.  The ISEE also has an unscored Essay. This is simply a writing sample mostly used to help with class placement. Solid sentence structure, clarity of thought, and general command of English are the primary components of a good essay.


How is the ISEE Scored?

The ISEE uses “stanines” (which are essentially averages) that range from 1-9. Since multiple grade levels take each test, it is not out of 100% as is typical for school tests. Students are scored by considering how their score compares to other students in their grade who have also taken the ISEE. Stanines of 3-4 are solid starting points for prep; 5-6s are competitive scores; and 7-8 are excellent; and 9 is a rarity since an 8th grader taking the Upper Level test would have to have command of 11th grade content to achieve it. 

How Can I Sign My Student Up?

The first step is to sign your student for our Practice ISEE Exam & Review program. We’ll send your student a practice test to take at home (or at one of our in-person proctored tests), then you’ll have a consultation with a Mindfish ISEE expert to answer your questions and plan the ideal test prep program for your child. From there, they will begin weekly 1-on-1 sessions with a tutor specially chosen for your student.