Many selective private schools in America require prospective students to take the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). It’s a test designed to do two things-measure a student’s ability to learn, and to see how much knowledge they’ve acquired already. It’s a three hour test, and it may only be taken once every six months. The test does require the writing of an essay, but the essay is not graded or scored; it’s only sent to prospective schools. Except for the essay, all tests are multiple choice.

The first section of the ISEE test is Verbal Reasoning, and it’s set up around two main factors-synonym recognition, and the ability to correctly complete an unfinished sentence. There are 40 questions on this portion of the ISEE, and it takes 20 minutes to complete. The second part is Quantitative Reasoning, and students have 35 minutes to complete 35 questions. The aptitudes covered are the abilities to grasp basic math, algebra, geometry, understanding advanced concepts and applying them, and quantitative comparison. Reading Comprehension takes 40 minutes and has 40 questions about several short passages in humanities, science, and social studies. The next part of the ISEE is on actual mathematical knowledge in the areas of basic math, algebra, and geometry, and the ability to apply this knowledge in those areas. Students have 40 minutes to complete 45 question in this part. Calculators are not allowed. Finally, students will have 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic.

Scores are sent to the parents a few weeks after the test, and also to designated schools. There’s really no such thing as passing or failing the test-each private school determines for themselves what an acceptable score is. But because far more students want to attend selective private schools than the schools can accept, and because there’s a six month wait to retake the test, it’s very important to do as well as possible on the ISEE exam. Achieving a high score can enable a student to take advantage of a first class private school education.

Test Resources

Test Information
Practice Questions

ISEE Test Questions

ISEE Skill Building Exercises


Reading Comprehension
Sentence Completion
Synonyms, Antonyms, Definitions


Algebra 1 Practice Questions
Quantity Comparison

ISEE Test Practice Questions

Verbal Reasoning

DIRECTIONS: Each of the following questions consists of one word followed by four words. Select the one word whose meaning is closest to the word in capital letters.


  1. extreme
  2. fascinate
  3. devote
  4. bizarre


  1. gutless
  2. boor
  3. judge
  4. brave


  1. expert
  2. nurse
  3. beginner
  4. naught

DIRECTIONS: Select the word(s) that best fit the meaning of each sentence.

4. The teacher ______ her students when they gave the wrong answer.

  1. commended
  2. applauded
  3. belittled
  4. praised

5. Many rainforest species have ______ due to deforestation.

  1. perished
  2. persisted
  3. survived
  4. immigrated

6. Because of his easygoing ______, many people wanted to ______ James.

  1. personality .. destroy
  2. rudeness .. join
  3. demeanor .. befriend
  4. dominance .. ignore

Quantitative Reasoning

DIRECTIONS: In this section there are four possible answers after each question. Choose which one is best.

7. Which of the following numbers is greatest?

  1. 0.0236
  2. 0.236
  3. 0.0339
  4. 0.099

8. 1/3 + 1/4 =

  1. 2/7
  2. 1/7
  3. 7/12
  4. 7/8

9. A hotel charges $48.00 per day for a room. In addition, there is a 7% tax. What is the total cost for the room for one night?

  1. $48.00
  2. $51.36
  3. $55.00
  4. $81.60

Reading Questions

DIRECTIONS: Read each passage carefully and then answer the questions pertaining to it. For each question, decide on the basis of the passage which one of the choices best answers the question.

Protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in nature. They are able to multiply in humans, a factor which contributes to their survival and also permits serious infections to develop from just a single organism. Transmission of protozoa that live in the human intestine to another human typically occurs by a fecal-oral route (for example, contaminated food or water, or person-to-person contact). Protozoa that thrive in the blood or tissue of humans are transmitted to their human hosts by an arthropod vector (for example, through the bite of a mosquito or sand fly).

Helminths are large, multicellular organisms that are generally visible to the naked eye in their adult stages. Like protozoa, helminths can be either free-living or parasitic in nature. In their adult form, helminths cannot multiply in humans. There are three main groups of helminths (derived from the Greek word for worms) that are human parasites:

1. Flatworms (platyhelminths) – these include the trematodes (flukes) and cestodes (tapeworms).

2. Thorny-headed worms (acanthocephalins) – the adult forms of these worms reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The acanthocephala are thought to be intermediate between the cestodes and nematodes.

3. Roundworms (nematodes) – the adult forms of these worms can reside in the gastrointestinal tract, blood, lymphatic system or subcutaneous tissues. Alternatively, the immature (larval) states can cause disease through their infection of various body tissues.

10. As used in this passage, the word “parasite” means

  1. a person who lives in Paris
  2. an organism that live on or in another organism
  3. microscopic insects
  4. a person who takes advantage of the generosity of others

11. According to the passage, adult Roundworms can live in

  1. the arthropod vector
  2. fecal matter
  3. the subcutaneous tissue of humans
  4. contaminated water

12. You can infer from this passage that

  1. larval stages of parasites are more dangerous than the adult forms
  2. mosquitoes do not transmit parasites
  3. worms cannot infect humans
  4. clean sanitary conditions will keep you free of protozoa


DIRECTIONS: In this section there are four possible answers after each question. Choose which one is best.

13. A trucking company transports 8,000 pounds of tomatoes every day. How many pounds of tomatoes does the company transport in one week?

  1. 40,000 pounds
  2. 56,000 pounds
  3. 62,000 pounds
  4. 70,000 pounds

14. What is the difference between 3.8 and .571?

  1. .73
  2. 2.567
  3. 3.229
  4. 4.26

15. 5 more than 6 times a number is 77. What is the number?

  1. 12
  2. 17
  3. 72
  4. 82


1. B – To enthrall is to fascinate or mesmerize.

2. A – A coward is someone who is gutless, or lacks courage when facing danger.

3. C – A novice is someone who is new to the circumstances, or a beginner.

4.C – “Wrong answer” is a clue that indicates a negative word. Belittled means to criticize. All the other answer choices have a positive connotation and, therefore, do not fit the intended meaning of the sentence.

5. ADeforestation would have a negative effect on the rainforest: therefore, perished is the only word that makes sense in the context of the sentence.

6. C – “Easygoing” is the word clue here. Find the word that indicates a similar personality trait. Demeanor and personality work best here. If someone is easygoing, you most likely do not want to destroy them. Befriend works best in the second blank, making Choice C the correct answer.

7. B – Compare each place value of every number to determine the largest number. Since there are all zeros in the ones place, move to the tenths place. Two tenths is larger than the other numbers, Choice B.

8. C – To add fractions with different denominators, find the Least Common Multiple of the denominators, convert the fractions, and then add:

Choice C.

9. B – Multiply the cost of the room by the tax:

$48.00 x .07 = $3.36

Add the total tax to the cost of the room:

$48.00 + $3.36 = $51.36, Choice B.

Human Parasites Passage

The first passage is about the human parasites protozoa and helminthes. The author gives examples of each type of parasite and describes where they live in the human body.

10. B – As used in this passage, the word “parasite” means an organism that lives on or in another organism, Choice B. Choice A and C are obviously wrong, since the passage mentions nothing of Paris or insects. Choice D is another definition for “parasite,” but does not fit the context of the word used in this passage.

11. C – According to the description of Roundworms, they can live in the subcutaneous tissue of humans, Choice C. Choices A, B, and D describe where protozoa live and how they are transmitted.

12. D – According to the first paragraph, protozoa are transmitted through food and water contaminated by fecal matter. It can then be inferred that clean sanitary conditions will prevent the spread of protozoa, Choice D. Choice A is an incorrect inference because the passage discusses both larval and adult forms of parasites that infect humans. Choice B is an incorrect inference, since the first paragraph states that protozoa are transmitted by mosquitoes. Choice C is an incorrect inference because the second paragraph is about worms that infect humans.

13. B – To determine how many pounds of tomatoes were transported in one week, multiply the number of days in a week by the number of tomatoes transported each day:

7 x 8,000 = 56,000 pounds, Choice B.

14. C – The word “difference” signifies a subtraction problem. When subtracting decimals, align the decimals vertically:

– .571
= 3.229, Choice C.

15. A – Put this into an algebraic equation:

5 + 6x = 77

Subtract 5 from both sides:

6x = 72

Divide both sides by 6 to get x = 12, Choice A.

ISEE test blueprint and breakdown


Last Updated: February 7, 2022