Which SSAT or ISEE will my child take?
The SSAT is available in three levels: ELEMENTARY for students in grades 3 and 4, MIDDLE for students in grades 5 through 7, and UPPER for students in grades 8 through 11.
The ISEE is offered in four levels: PRIMARY for students currently in grades 1, 2, and 3, LOWER for students in grades 4 and 5, MIDDLE for students in grades 6 and 7, and UPPER for students in grades 8 through 11.
What's the difference between the SSAT and ISEE?
While the SSAT and ISEE test similar core concepts, there are certainly differences in question-types as well as the structure of each test. Generally speaking, the verbal section of the SSAT is considered more difficult than that of the ISEE, whereas the math section of the ISEE is considered more difficult than that of the SSAT. And while both tests ask students to match vocabulary words with synonyms, the SSAT also contains analogy questions, whereas the ISEE contains sentence-completion questions that ask students to fill in blanks based on the context of words in the sentences. Additionally, the reading passages on the SSAT include both nonfiction and fiction, whereas the reading passages on the ISEE are only nonfiction.
It’s important to note that all three levels of the SSAT and ISEE include a writing section or “essay.” In both cases, the writing samples are unscored. However, your child’s writing sample is sent to schools along with his or her scores for the multiple-choice sections. In other words, admissions officers can use the essay as an example of your child’s writing skills. On the SSAT, middle level testers choose between two creative writing prompts, and upper level testers choose between a creative and expository prompt. All ISEE testers are required to write an expository essay.
Another key difference between the SSAT and ISEE is the “guessing penalty.” On the middle and upper level SSAT, students gain one point for each correct answer, zero points for questions left blank, and lose ¼ point for each incorrect answer. On the ISEE, there is no penalty or loss of points for incorrect answers.
When should my child start preparing for the SSAT or ISEE?
Regardless of signing up for tutoring, the answer to this question is: AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Please note this does not mean that your child needs to devote an inordinate amount of time to SSAT or ISEE preparation. But when you consider the span of vocabulary tested on both the SSAT and ISEE tests, it becomes clear that, like most things in life, a relatively small amount of daily or weekly prep over an extended period of time is far more productive (and certainly less stressful) than a large amount of prep over a short period of time. Students can start prepping for their SSAT or ISEE by making flashcards and memorizing 10 or 15 or 20 words per week. In addition to vocabulary, it’s a great idea for students to practice their essay writing skills on a weekly basis using different essay prompts. Most importantly, it’s vital for students to take a full-length timed practice test. This way students get familiar with the test format and level of difficulty. Moreover, students (and their tutor) can pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, focusing attention in areas where the student can improve while maximizing his or her true testing potential.
When can my child take the SSAT or ISEE?
Because students can take the SSAT and ISEE more than once, it’s a very good idea to schedule your first test date well ahead of time. You want to give yourself time so that your child can take the test twice if needed.
The SSAT offers test dates every month, whereas the ISEE can be taken only once during each of its testing seasons. The ISEE testing seasons are: fall (August-November), winter (December-March), and spring/summer (April-July).
Can my child take the SSAT or ISEE more than once?
You should always check with the schools to which you’re applying to learn specific application dates and deadlines, as well as any specific test policies (for example, students in 8th grade who take the UPPER level SSAT for admission to Ransom Everglades can only take the test once). Ideally, your child should take his or her test(s) well ahead of any school application deadlines. In most cases students can take the SSAT more than once on various Saturdays throughout the school year. If you need to arrange a different testing date, you can set up a “Flex Test” that suits your schedule. (NOTE: You are only allowed one flex test per year.) For most families, the most convenient testing center will be a nearby private school.
How important is the SSAT or ISEE for admission?
It’s important to note that the SSAT and ISEE tests are just one factor in a student’s candidacy and admission. In addition to a competitive test score, students should demonstrate strong grades and participation in extracurricular activities.
What does each SSAT look like?
SSAT Elementary Level
(for students in grades 3 and 4 applying to elementary school)
SSAT Middle Level
(for students in grades 5-through-7 applying to middle school)
SSAT Upper Level
(for students in grades 8-through-11 applying to high school)
What does each ISEE look like?
ISEE Lower Level
(for students in grades 4 and 5 applying to 5th or 6th)
ISEE Middle Level
(for students in grades 6 and 7 applying to middle school)
ISEE Upper Level
(for students in grades 8 through 11 applying to high school)
What else should parents know about these tests?
For more information about the SSAT, we recommend reviewing the SSAT FAQ page section of the SSAT website.
For the ISEE, we recommend reviewing the ISEE Quick Facts Guide for helpful information.