The Upper Level ISEE® (or its competitor, the SSAT®) is often a requirement when applying to independent high schools, which makes it an early stepping stone in many students’ academic careers. Our instructors guide students through the ins and outs of the test so that they can feel confident come test day.

what is the ISEE?

The ISEE is a standardized test that is used by certain independent schools to assess applicants for grades 2 through 12. The test has four different levels: Primary (for entrance to grades 2-4), Lower (for entrance to grades 5 and 6), Middle (for entrance to grades 7 and 8), and Upper (for entrance to grades 9-12). The test is scored in four areas: Verbal Reasoning (synonyms and sentence completions), Quantitative Reasoning (math word problems and quantitative comparisons), Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement. The test also features a 30 minute writing prompt. The responses are not scored, but copies are sent to admissions offices of schools to which students apply.

The structure of the ISEE is not as “old school” as the SSAT (the ISEE’s competitor) — it offers sentence completions in place of analogies, and it does not have a guessing penalty. However, students are only permitted to take one ISEE per “season” (fall, winter, and spring). While some independent schools, particularly in New York City, used to require or prefer the ISEE, these days most schools accept both tests — check with the schools your family is considering to see which tests they accept.

what is LOGICPREP’S STRATEGy for the isee?

LogicPrep recommends that students start with a diagnostic practice ISEE to assess individual strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, we focus on core concepts of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry for the quantitative section, on roots, prefixes, and suffixes for the verbal section and on identifying main ideas, inferences, structure, and tone in reading comprehension. Once students start to strengthen these areas, we recommend moving forward with a balance of practice ISEE tests to hone approaches and pace with consistent review of notes and past mistakes to build knowledge and recognition.

Our team is particularly skilled at helping students get comfortable with the format of the test, which is quite different from the exams and assignments most students see in middle school.

what content is covered on the isee?

The test covers consists of two reasoning tests (verbal and quantitative) and two “achievement” tests based on national curriculum standards (reading comprehension and math). The test ends with an unscored essay in response to one of several prompts.

Who takes the ISEE?

The ISEE is taken by many students who are seeking admission to independent schools. The ISEE or SSAT is required by certain independent schools, while others may consider the scores if a student has taken either test. Each school's admissions office can provide candidates with more information about the school's individual policy.

For example, students applying for 9th grade generally begin preparing for the ISEE in the spring of 7th grade to take the test by the fall of 8th grade.

What is the format of the isee?

Test Section Timing
Verbal Reasoning 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement 40 minutes
Essay 30 minutes
Total 2 hours, 40 minutes


Students receive scaled scores between 760 and 940 for each section, a percentile rank when compared to a norm group of applicants of the same age in the past several years, and then a “stanine” score band between 1 and 9 based on the percentile rank.


The ISEE is offered throughout the year as a paper exam at various member schools or an online exam at test centers.