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Independent School Entrance Examination

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Title: Independent School Entrance Examination  
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Subject: ISEE, Elisabeth Morrow School, The Princeton Review, Iona Preparatory School, List of standardized tests in the United States
Collection: Standardized Tests in the United States, Year of Introduction Missing
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Independent School Entrance Examination

The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is an entrance exam used by many independent schools and magnet schools in the United States. Developed and administered by the Educational Records Bureau, the ISEE has three levels: the Lower level, for entrance in grades 5–6; Middle level, for entrance in grades 7–8; Upper level, for entrance in grades 9–12. All levels consist of five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and a 30-minute essay. The ISEE can be seen as a parallel to the Secondary School Admission Test, or SSAT.


  • Verbal reasoning 1
  • Quantitative reasoning 2
  • Reading comprehension 3
  • Mathematics achievement 4
  • Essay 5
  • Breaks 6
  • Incorrect scoring of 6,120 students lower level examinations Fall 2010 / Winter 2011 administration 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9

Verbal reasoning

This section consists of two parts: synonyms and sentence completions. On the Upper and Middle Levels there are 40 questions to be answered in 20 minutes. On the Lower Level there are 34 questions to be answered in 20 minutes.

Quantitative reasoning

On the Lower Level, there are 38 questions to be answered in 35 minutes. On the Upper and Middle Levels, there are 37 questions to be answered in 35 minutes. The Lower Level consists of Word Problems, and the Middle and Upper levels consist of Word Problems and Quantitative Comparisons.

All questions found in the two math sections of the ISEE are linked to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards. The ISEE uses the following NCTM strands as a basis for the Quantitative Reasoning section:

  • Numbers and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Data Analysis and Probability
  • Problem Solving

Reading comprehension

On the Lower Level, there are 25 questions to be answered in 25 minutes. On the Middle and Upper levels, there are 36 questions to be answered in 35 minutes.

The Lower Level contains five reading passages, each followed by five questions. The Middle and Upper levels contain six reading passages, each followed by six questions. The passages include topics related to history, science, literature, and contemporary life.

The types of questions focus on six categories:

Main Idea, Supporting Ideas, Inference, Vocabulary, Organization/Logic and Tone/Style/Figurative Language.

Mathematics achievement

There are 30 questions to be answered in 30 minutes on the Lower level, and 47 questions to be answered in 40 minutes on the Middle and Upper levels.

As with the question in the Quantitative Reasoning section, this section will include questions from NCTM standards.


On all three levels, candidates must plan and write an essay to provide a sample of his or her writing to schools to which the candidate is applying. A random topic is distributed, and students have 30 minutes to write an essay using a black or blue pen. The essay is not scored, but is photocopied and sent to schools to which the student is applying.


On all three levels, students are given two five-minute breaks when they take the ISEE. One is after the Quantitative Reasoning section and the other is after the Mathematics Achievement Section. During the breaks, students may use the restroom, talk, eat a small snack, or walk around the room. However, students are not permitted to discuss the test.

Incorrect scoring of 6,120 students lower level examinations Fall 2010 / Winter 2011 administration

On April 6, 2011, the ERB sent a letter to approximately 6,120 parents and guardians of students who had taken the lower-level admission test which started "Dear Parent, ERB has confirmed and sincerely regrets that on some Independent School Entrance Exams (ISEE), our contractor incorrectly scored 1-3 questions out of 110. Your child's score report was affected and we have enclosed the revised report." The letter was signed by the ERB's president and chief executive officer, David F. Clune, Ph.D., and the Executive Director for the ISEE at ERB, Elizabeth Mangas. The letter did not mention Measurement Incorporated or its President, Henry H. Scherich, Ph.D. Measurement Incorporated was the contractor who incorrectly scored the test. More students were affected by this error in scoring of the ISEE than in the October 2005 erroneous scoring of the College Admission test, the SAT, which affected 4,400 test takers.[1]

After the error was corrected, 17 percent of the test takers received revised scores, the vast majority of which raised their raw scores and percentiles ranks. Up to 3 out of 110 questions on the lower level were incorrectly scored, and up to 2 questions out of 139 on the Upper level were incorrectly scored. As the corrected scores for the 2010–2011 admission year were sent after most independent schools had completed their admission process for the year, the effect is not known, but presumably did not change any admission decisions. ERB noted in the letter it sent out that each ISEE-member school makes decisions about school entrance based on a broad array of factors besides the ISEE, such as transcripts, teacher recommendations, the personal interview, writing samples, and other. According to the ERB, all ISEE schools have been made aware of the scoring error and have received revised reports for the affected students.

As mentioned in The New York Times article, "Patricia T. Hayot, the head of the Chapin School and the president of the trustees of the Independent School Admission Association of Greater New York, a consortium of private schools, said the error would have been much more significant had it involved younger children, who have a much smaller portfolio to submit to round out the scores."

Commenting on the effect of the error on students' school applications as, reported by the New York Times, Dr. Clune stated, "I'm apologetic and regret that it happened and apologize to the schools and their families". Dr. Clune was also quoted as saying, "We try to be perfect, and we weren't." and "It is a lesson we all learn at some point – that life isn't fair." The employee responsible for the error at Measurement Incorporated was reported to have resigned. Dr. Clune stated to the New York Times that he was reviewing whether or not to continue employing Measurement Incorporated.[2]

The future effect of this on Measurement Incorporated's business as a testing contractor is unknown.

You can also only do ISEE once every six months.

See also


  1. ^ Hoover, Eric (August 24, 2007). "$2.85-Million Settlement Proposed in Lawsuit Over SAT-Scoring Errors".  
  2. ^ "7,000 Private School Applicants Got Incorrect Scores, Company Says".  
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