The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is one of the most common admissions tests used by private schools to determine whether a student can meet their academic standards. Although the requirements vary from school to school, and test scores are usually only one component that’s considered among a student’s other accomplishments and qualities, it can be a crucial part of a student’s application package, particularly when applying to highly competitive schools.
The ISEE, however, uses a unique scoring method that is likely unfamiliar to parents who are more used to the cumulative scores that are common on most other academic exams.
Here’s what you should know before your child starts their exam preparation.
The ISEE is made up of five sections. The first four sections, all of which are graded, include Verbal Reasoning (VR), which tests a student’s vocabulary; Quantitative Reasoning (QR), which tests a student’s ability to interpret and answer written math problems; Reading Comprehension (RC), which contains written passages and asks students to answer questions about them; and Math Achievement (MA), which is a straightforward test of math skills. The fifth section, which is not graded but is simply sent to admissions directors for review, is the Essay section.
Each of the four graded sections of the ISEE is composed of multiple choice questions. Depending on which level is taken, the entire test includes between 48 and 160 questions, not counting the essay.
Scores, however, aren’t provided as simple cumulative totals. Instead, they’re calculated as scaled scores, percentile ranks, and stanines, with separate scores for each of the four graded sections.
Scaled scores range from 760 to 940 for each section. Since several different versions of the ISEE are administered every year, using scaled scores rather than raw scores allows for fairer comparisons to be made between students who take different versions of the test.
Percentile ranks compare a student’s results to the norm group of all students who have taken the test within the past three years. A percentile of 60, for example, would indicate that a student did better than 60% of the students who have taken the ISEE in the three prior years.
It’s stanines, however, that will be of most interest to parents preparing their children for ISEE training, because these are the scores that are most commonly used by admissions departments. Stanines are scores of 1-9 which correspond to different ranges of percentile ranks. A percentile rank between 40 and 60, for example, is equivalent to a stanine of 5. This is the most common score on any given section of the exam, representing around 20% of all students.
With ISEE, as opposed to many other standardized tests, students are being evaluated in comparison to all of the other students taking the test. Since the ISEE is a standard requirement for entrance into highly competitive private schools, a disproportionate number of the students taking it are high-achieving. This means it can be quite difficult for students to achieve the highest scores, as only around 4% of students score a 9 on any given section, and only around 7% score an 8.
The exact stanine scores required for admission vary by institution, but since these scores are ranked against other high-achieving students, proper test preparation can be particularly important for students hoping to excel on the ISEE.
Is your child preparing to take the ISEE?
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