Test Structure | Test Dates & Locations | Percentiles & Scoring

 

Test Structure


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


Test Format

The ISEE consists of (in order of appearance):

  • A 20 minute verbal reasoning section
  • A 35 minute quantitative reasoning section
  • A 25 (lower level)/35 (middle and upper level) minute reading comprehension section
  • A 30 (lower level)/40 (middle and upper level) minute mathematics section
  • A 30 minute essay


The following is a breakdown of the ISEE for each level:
 

LOWER LEVEL - 2 hours and 20 minutes

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

MIDDLE LEVEL - 2 hours and 40 minutes

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

UPPER LEVEL - 2 hours and 40 minutes

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

 

Verbal Reasoning Section

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.


Quantitative Reasoning Section

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


Reading Comprehension Section

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.


Mathematics Achievement Section

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


Essay

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.