Is your child struggling to improve his or her ISEE math score? Has your child taken multiple practice tests with the same outcome? Here are some tips that will help your child improve his or her ISEE math score on the quantitative reasoning and math achievement sections.

1.  Know the content

The number one way to improve ISEE math score is to be familiar and comfortable with the content being tested.  The quantitative reasoning and math achievement sections focus on grade level mathematics in the following areas:

  • Numbers and operations
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Data analysis/probability
  • Problem solving

Make sure students spend an ample amount of time learning these concepts until they are comfortable answering a variety of questions in each topic.  The more practice and exposure they get, the more prepared they will be.

2.  Plug in answer choices

This effective strategy will help students save time when answering math questions that include variables or figuring out a particular quantity in a word problem.  Answer choices are often in numerical order from smallest to greatest. The best strategy here is to start in the middle at answer choice C. Students should plug in the answer choice into the problem to see if it works.  If it does, they’ve got the right answer! If not, they can go higher or lower, depending on the outcome of plugging in the middle number.


John had a bag of apples.  He gave ¼ of the bag of apples to his friend and 3 apples to his sister.  He now has 5 apples left. How many apples did John originally have in the bag?

A)  10

B)  18

C)  24

D)  32

Start with answer choice C by plugging 24 into the problem:  

(¼ of 24) – 3 = 3  

Since he should have 5 apples remaining, beginning with 24 apples is too little.  

Therefore, we should try plugging in a larger number, which is answer choice D. 

If we plug in 32 into the problem, the equation becomes:  

(¼ of 32) – 3 = 5.  

This answer fits!

Therefore the answer here is D.

3.  Estimate


Remember, this is a multiple choice test.  All the answers are already present and students need to choose the correct one.  This means that they don’t need an exact answer for every problem. If the numbers in the answer choices are farther apart, then students only need an estimate of the correct answer in order to pick the correct answer choice. This will help save time by not having to work out the exact calculation.


Three friends worked together to raise money for a field trip by selling cookies at a bake sale.  If they sold 50 cookies at $2.00 each. How much money does each friend receive if they split the profits evenly among all three friends?

A)  $10.29

B)  $15.76

C)  $33.33

D)  $45.86

If they sold 50 cookies at $2.00 each, they made $100 dollars in profit.  

50 x 2 = 100 

$100 divided among 3 friends is approximately $30-$35 per person.  

The only answer choice in this range is C.

Therefore the answer here is C.

4.  Avoid mental math


The most common mistake I have seen students make is minor calculation errors that lead them to choose the wrong answer choice.  These careless mistakes can be avoided if students wrote down all their calculations. There is no benefit in doing mental math! Students should always write down every step and calculation so that they can easily backtrack their work when they are checking over their answers.  By simply writing down all their work, they will reduce the amount of careless errors by 75% which automatically improves their ISEE math score.

5.  Stop using a calculator


Calculators are not allowed on the ISEE.  Therefore, they should put away their calculator until after the students have taken the ISEE.  From this point on, they should practice completing all calculations and math problems using pencil and paper.  This will allow students to get used to working out calculations and not relying on a calculator. By the time they take the ISEE, they will be comfortable performing calculations on their own which will save time during the test.  

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

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