ISEE FAQ

Most Frequenly Asked Questions about the ISEE

What is the ISEE?

The ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) is an entrance exam used by many independent schools and magnet schools in the United States. All levels consist of five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and a 30-minute essay. It is administered by the Educational Records Bureau.

The ISEE is administered on three levels, depending on the student's current grade:


  • Lower Level (for students currently in grades 4-5 and are candidates for admission to grades 5 and 6)
  • Middle Level (for students curently in grades 6-7 and are candidates for admission to grades 7 and 8)
  • Upper Level (for students curently in grades 8-11 and are candidates for admission to grades 9 and 12)

The following is a breakdown of the ISEE lower level

Total length: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Section Question Length
Verbal Reasoning 34 questions 20 min
Quantitative Reasoning 38 questions 35 min
Reading Comprehension 25 questions 25 min
Mathematics Achievement 30 questions 30 min
Essay one essay 30 min

The following is a breakdown of the ISEE middle level

Total length: 2 hours and 40 minutes

Section Question Length
Verbal Reasoning 40 questions 20 min
Quantitative Reasoning 37 questions 35 min
Reading Comprehension 36 questions 35 min
Mathematics Achievement 47 questions 40 min
Essay one essay 30 min

The following is a breakdown of the ISEE upper level

Total length: 2 hours and 40 minutes

Section Question Length
Verbal Reasoning 40 questions 20 min
Quantitative Reasoning 37 questions 35 min
Reading Comprehension 36 questions 35 min
Mathematics Achievement 47 questions 40 min
Essay one essay 30 min

General Information

  • All questions are multiple choice for the first four sections
  • All multiple choice questions have four choices
  • There are two five minute breaks, one following the Quantitative Reasoning section and another following the Mathematics Achievement section
  • Scrap paper, calculators, calculator watches, rulers, protractors, compasses, dictionaries, and thesauruses are NOT permitted during the actual test
  • Cell phones and other electronic devices are also not permitted

The verbal reasoning section consists of "vocabulary" and "sentence completion" type questions and is twenty minutes long. "Vocabulary" type questions contain an abstract, grade-level appropriate word followed by four potential answer choices. "Sentence completion" type questions contain a sentence missing a word or phrase. Out of the four answer choices, a word or phrase must be chosen that best fits the blank space..

The quantitative reasoning section contains various word problems and is thirty five minutes long.

The reading comprehension section consists of a passage and corresponding questions related to the passage. For lower level students, the section is 25 minutes long; for middle and upper level students, the section is 35 minutes long.

The mathematics achievement section is 30 minutes for lower level students and 40 minutes for middle and upper level students.

Students are given a "prompt" or topic that is grade-level appropriate and they are asked to write a response to it. The goal is to produce an informed essay on the particular topic they are given. The essay section is 30 minutes long. The essay portion of the ISEE is not graded, but is instead sent to the private schools to which the student is applying for evaluation.

How many times can I take the ISEE?

The ISEE may be taken only once per admission season or six month window. For a list of ISEE test dates and testing locations, please click here.

Scoring

All questions on the ISEE are equal in value, and scores are based on the number of questions correctly answered. There is no penalty for answering a question incorrectly.

Recommended Study Guides.

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