Have you ever wondered why all the test prep books combine ISEE and SSAT prep together? What is the SSAT? What are the differences between the ISEE vs SSAT? Which one should you register your child for? If these are the questions that have crossed your mind, then I am here to help!

What is the SSAT?

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a standardized test for admission into private schools. There are three levels of the SSAT: elementary level, middle level, and upper level.  Each level consists of a verbal section which includes synonym and analogy questions, a reading section which measures students’ ability to comprehend what they read, an essay section, as well as 2 quantitative sections (1 for the elementary level) which focuses on grade level mathematics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry.  Each section, except for the essay, is multiple choice and consists of 5 answer choices. The essay section will not be scored. However, it will be sent to the schools for which the student is applying for admission.

Elementary level: for students currently in grades 3-4

Section 1Quantitative/Math30 questions30 minutes
Section 2Verbal30 questions20 minutes
Section 3Reading28 questions30 minutes
Section 4Writing1 prompt15 minutes
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Middle level: for students currently in grades 5-7

Section 1Writing1 prompt25 minutes
Section 2Quantitative/Math25 questions30 minutes
Section 3Reading40 questions40 minutes
Section 4Verbal60 questions30 minutes
Section 5Quantitative/Math25 questions30 minutes
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Upper level: for students currently in grades 8-11

Section 1Writing1 prompt25 minutes
Section 2Quantitative/Math25 questions30 minutes
Section 3Reading40 questions40 minutes
Section 4Verbal60 questions30 minutes
Section 5Quantitative/Math25 questions30 minutes
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What is the ISEE?

The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is a standardized test for admission into private schools. There are four levels of the ISEE: primary level, lower level, middle level, and upper level.  The primary level consists of 3 sections that assess students on reading, math and writing. The lower, middle, and upper level consists of 5 sections that assess students on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement and essay writing.  Each section, except for the essay, is multiple choice and consists of 4 answer choices. The essay section will not be scored. However, it will be sent to the schools for which the student is applying for admission.

What is the difference between the ISEE and SSAT?

 ISEESSAT
When to take the testStudents can take the ISEE once every season.

Fall: August-November

Winter: December-March

Spring: April-July
Students taking the elementary level can take the SSAT 2x a year.

Students taking the middle or upper level can take the SSAT an unlimited amount of times.
Test levelsPrimary level: for students currently in grades 1-3

Lower level: for students currently in grades 4-5

Middle level: for students currently in grades 6-7

Upper level: for students currently in grades 8-11
Elementary level: for students currently in grades 3-4

Middle Level: for students currently in grades 5-7

Upper Level: for students currently in grades 8-11
Point systemThere is no penalty for wrong answers. Students gain points for every question they answer correctly.¼ of a point is taken off for every wrong answer. No points are taken off for questions left blank.
Verbal sectionsNumber of questions range from 34-40 questions depending on test level which include:

synonyms

sentence completions
Number of questions range from 30-60 questions depending on test level which include:

synonyms

analogies
Math sectionsThe middle and upper level include a mixture of straight forward multiple choice questions and quantitative comparison questions that focus on grade level math.All multiple choice questions that focus on grade level math.
Writing sectionStudents must answer the one prompt that is given. This section is not scored.The middle and upper level includes two writing prompts for students to choose from. This section is not scored.
ScoringStudents’ scores are split into 4 sections that include verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and math achievement.

Scaled scores range from 760-940.
Students’ scores are split into 3 sections that include reading comprehension, verbal and quantitative math.

Scaled scores range from 300-600.
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Which test should my child register for?

The first thing you should do is look into the particular schools your child is applying to.  Some schools require one test over the other. It is important to note which test the schools will accept.  If they only accept one exam, then the decision is already made for you. However, if the school accepts both exams, then it is important to make the right decision on which test to take.

Students should take practice tests for both the ISEE and SSAT to determine which one they are stronger in.  In general, the SSAT has a more difficult verbal section while the ISEE has a more difficult math section. Depending on the student’s strengths, he/she may prefer one test over the other.   

Since both tests are quite similar, it is possible to study for both at the same time and register for both tests.  When applying to the schools, students are able to submit the scores of the exam they performed better on. However, some students may feel overwhelmed by having to study for and take two exams.  

For registration information and to register for the ISEE please visit the ERB website.

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