The Independent School Entrance Exam Upper Level is used as part of the admissions process of most independent schools in the U.S. for students in grades 8 through 11. This exam is developed and regulated by the Educational Records Bureau or ERB for its member independent schools. Each school uses this exam and other information, such as school records/transcripts, teacher recommendations, and/or extracurricular interests and activities, to determine eligibility and placement within their school.
Who is Eligible?
All students seeking admission into any ERB member schools require this exam. Each school sets its own standard of eligibility so be sure to contact your school to know what these are.
There is a fee of around $200 for this exam. The exact amount will depend on where you decide to take the exam.
When and Where is it Taken?
The ISEE can typically be scheduled once during any of three testing seasons: Fall (August-November), Winter (December-March), and Spring/Summer (April-July). However, some independent schools administer the exam on their own campus once or several times a year.
Exams can also be scheduled to be taken at one of several ISEE offices for small groups or at Prometric Testing Centers individually. Prometric offers online, computer-based testing only, while some schools and ISEE offices may offer a paper/pencil version.
Prometric has sites located nationwide for your convenience. It is recommended that you register for your exam appointment as soon as possible. Seating is limited at many locations and is filled on a first come, first served basis.
Special accommodations are available to those with disabilities and who may not be able to test under normal conditions. This request must be made during your application and will require supporting documentation.
if you need to reschedule or cancel your appointment, you may do so by logging into your ISEE account. There is a fee to do so if you have registered with a group.
Once you have finished the registration process, you will be sent an emailed verification letter which will include your testing date, check-in time, location and any schools you have indicated to receive copies of your scores. Most testing locations (except ISEE offices) will require this letter on test day, so don’t lose it.
What Should I Bring?
Plan to arrive at the check-in time listed on your verification letter. Those who arrive late will not be allowed to enter or test that day and will have to reschedule and forfeit all previously paid fees.
Along with your verification letter, you will need to provide at least one form of personal identification. Acceptable forms of ID include a library card, student ID card, birth certificate, social security card, or passport. For exams taken at Prometric, the parent or guardian will also need to provide an original and valid legal ID such as a driver’s license, passport, or green card.
Paper test-takers are allowed to bring four #2 pencils and erasers (if not attached to pencils) and two black or blue ink pens.
All other personal items are not allowed in the testing area. This includes the following:
- Cell phones or electronic devices
- Calculators, protractors, or compasses
- Papers, books, or study materials
- Watches and jewelry
What is Covered?
The ISEE Upper Level is broken into five main sections. The first four consist of multiple-choice questions, while the last section is an essay. You will be given two hours and 40 minutes to complete the entire exam.
Below is a brief summary of each section, along with the number of questions involved and the amount of time given.
Verbal Reasoning (40 questions/20 minutes)
This section will include questions based on vocabulary and sentence completion. You will be given a grade-appropriate word or sentence with a blank and be expected to choose the answer that best fits the meaning or completes the idea.
Quantitative Reasoning (37 questions/35 minutes)
This section deals with word problems and quantitative comparisons. These will require very little if any, calculations. For comparison items, you will be given two quantities and be asked which one is greater, if they are equal, or if their relationship cannot be determined.
Reading Comprehension (36 questions/35 minutes)
The reading section will give you six age and length appropriate passages to answer questions about such as the tone, understanding of the author’s intent, or organizational structure. The subjects of these passages may include history, science, arts, or contemporary life.
Mathematics Achievement (47 questions/40 minutes)
The questions in this section will require you to find the solution to a problem using one or more steps of basic mathematical calculations.
Essay (1 preselected prompt/30 minutes)
Here, you will be given a one/two sentence prompt that asks for an informed response on a particular topic. The topics are similar to those in the reading comprehension section and will be age appropriate.
How is it Scored?
Your score report or Individual Student Report (ISR) is divided into two main sections: Test Profile and the Analysis. The Test Profile gives you an overview of your performance for each subtest on your exam in comparison to your peers. The Analysis offers a more in-depth look at each subtest and its subsection categories.
Each independent school sets its own criteria for what a good or passing score is for this exam. therefore, your ISR will not indicate a pass/fail status.
Those taking this exam online will receive their ISR about 3-5 days after your test session. Paper ISRs may take a little longer, as they have to be mailed in for scoring. These are typically posted within one week of being scored. For both test versions, an email will be sent to notify the family and the scores will be posted to the parent’s online account. It is important to note that the essay is neither scored nor sent to the parents; however, it is sent to any schools that were indicated and posted online for all ERB members to view.
How Can I Prepare for the ISEE Upper Level Test?
That’s a great question. We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.
- Do yourself a favor and study. Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try. Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping. All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance. If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
- Get a study guide or set of flashcards. Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them. We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam. Below you’ll see links to both!