We always talk about what students should do to increase their scores, but it is also important to mention what NOT to do! There are many strategies students can use to raise their scores on the ISEE.  However, there are some common mistakes students make on the ISEE that end up lowering their scores as well. Here are 5 common mistakes students should avoid during the ISEE.

1.  Rushing through the test

The ISEE is a timed test and students need to finish the test in the amount of time that is given for each section.  This may cause students to try to finish each question as quickly as possible. However, one of the biggest mistakes students can make is rushing through the test.  Rushing leads to careless mistakes which lead to wrong answers. Students who make careless mistakes will receive lower test scores. During the test, students should slow down and maintain a steady pace to ensure accuracy on every question.  It is more beneficial to be accurate on most of the questions than to rush through all of them and make careless mistakes.

2.  Performing mental calculations

This is a common mistake that I see from many students.  Students believe that they are saving time by performing mental calculations instead of writing them down.  However, this often leads to calculation mistakes causing students to either redo the problem or choose the wrong answer. Ultimately, they will spend more time by having to redo the problem than if they were to write down all the math in the first place.  Writing out all the calculations will also allow students to go back and check their work at any time. This will guarantee better accuracy and higher scores.

3.  Leaving answers blank


There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ISEE, so questions should never be left blank.  If students do not know an answer to a question, they should try to eliminate as many answer choices as possible, take a guess, and move on.  If questions are left blank, students will not get any points. However, if students fill in a random answer, there is a 25% chance that they will get it correct.  This percentage increases if students are able to cross out any answer choices they know are wrong. For example, if they cross off 2 answer choices and are left to choose between the remaining 2, they will have a 50% chance of getting the answer correct.  It is always better to fill an answer in than to leave it blank.

4.  Trying to be neat and organized


The only thing that schools see from the ISEE is the score report.  Schools do not look at the test booklets and the work students do to get to the correct answers. Therefore, students should take advantage of underlining, crossing out, and writing out their math on the test booklets.  They will not get any additional scratch paper. Test booklets should be messy because students should be writing out ALL of their work. There is no need to erase any calculations or marks made in the test booklet. No one will see them.  In fact, students SHOULD be marking up the test booklet and writing out all their calculations. Writing all over the booklet is encouraged!

5.  Trying to find an exact answer


All questions are multiple choice, so the correct answer is already displayed in the answer choices.  In the verbal reasoning section, there may not be an exact answer since vocabulary definitions are somewhat flexible.  Students should choose the BEST answer out of the choices. In the math sections, students may not be required to find an exact answer in every problem.  This is especially true in the quantitative comparison section. In this section, students need to compare the answer choices in column A and column B. Often times, they don’t need an exact answer when comparing. Students should estimate when possible.  This will save time and leave more time for other more difficult questions.  

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

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