Mar 07

The ISEE Explained: A Guide for International Students

The ISEE Explained: A Guide for International Students

Pursuing an educational journey with an international focus can be both exciting and challenging. For many international students, the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an important step in this journey. Our ISEE guide is crafted with you in mind, offering essential information, insights and strategies to understand and be prepared for the ISEE. 

What is the ISEE? 

The ISEE is a standardized admission test accepted by over 1,200 independent schools around the world, and is given to students in specific age brackets and broken into four levels:

  • Primary (entrance to grades 2-4)
  • Lower (entrance to grades 5-6)
  • Middle (entrance to grades 7-8)
  • Upper (entrance to grades 9-12)

The ISEE assesses applicants on verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement, quantitative reasoning, and writing skills.

Important Tips for International Students

For international students, the ISEE is not just about academic proficiency but also about bridging educational and cultural gaps to succeed in the American academic context.

  1. Understanding Educational Contexts

    Familiarize yourself with the U.S. educational system’s approaches to learning mathematics and analytical writing. This may differ from the methods you are used to, especially in terms of expectations for problem-solving exercises and essay structure. Educational websites, online courses, and academic forums can be valuable resources for adapting to these differences.

  2. Language Proficiency

    If English is not your native language, verbal reasoning and reading comprehension sections can pose challenges due to language barriers. It is important to immerse yourself in English on a daily basis through books, movies, and conversations to work on your language skills. Consider engaging with English tutors or language exchange partners to expand your vocabulary and improve your comprehension in an interactive setting.

Preparation Strategies for International Students

  1. Build a Support Network

    Connect with international parents whose children are also preparing for the ISEE or who have already taken it. They can offer advice, share resources, and provide moral support. Online communities and social media groups are great places to find peers on a similar journey. Note: when contacting strangers via social media, please be mindful of others’ privacy. 

  2. Make Use of Technology

    Utilize educational apps and online resources designed for ISEE preparation. Many platforms offer practice questions, timed tests, and tutorials that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. There is an array of resources available depending on your particular needs, including flashcard apps, online courses and prep guides. These options will allow you to fit ISEE revisions flexibly into your overall academic and study schedule.

  3. Look for Guidance from Experts

    Consider enrolling in a test prep course specifically designed for international students. These courses will address common challenges faced by students from non-English speaking backgrounds and provide targeted strategies to overcome them. Have a look at the group classes and individual lessons available at Tokyo Academics to find specialized support in your ISEE journey.

  4. Be Ready on Test Day

    For international students, test day logistics may involve additional considerations, such as travel arrangements if you’re taking the test outside your home country, or outside of your city. Ensure you have all necessary documentation and arrive early to the test center to avoid unnecessary stress.

How to Register for the ISEE as an International Student

Visit the ERB website for the most current and comprehensive information on registering for the ISEE. Detailed guidance is offered on every aspect of the registration process.

Deciding Where to Take the ISEE

The ISEE is offered at various locations, including approved ERB member schools, Prometric testing centers, and directly at the ERB’s office in New York City. For students entering grades 5 through 12, the option to take the ISEE online either at home or at Prometric sites is available in specific countries, providing additional flexibility and accessibility. Make sure to choose the option that is most convenient for you.

When scheduling your test, especially if opting for an online test at a Prometric site, make sure to consider time zone differences that may affect your test timing.

Choosing Your Test Date

ISEE test dates are not fixed; they vary annually and by location. It’s crucial to plan ahead and select a date that aligns with your application deadlines and preparation schedule. Early registration is recommended to secure your preferred date and location, especially if you’re considering multiple school applications. 

When applying to schools, students also must submit scores from their current grade level. That is to say, if you are applying for 6th grade, your score must be from when you were a 5th grader. You can’t submit a score from 4th grade, even if it is really good.

The ISEE can be taken once per testing season, up to three times per school year. The seasons include Fall (August-November), Winter (December-March), and Spring/Summer (April-July).

If possible, students should aim to take the test twice, as this can help reduce the stress that comes with testing. Having a second chance relieves some of the pressure, and if the first attempt is successful, there is no need to retake a second time.

Navigating ISEE Registration for International Students

Understanding the registration process is essential for international students planning to take this exam. It is advisable to explore all registration options and choose the one that best suits your needs. Registration for the ISEE can be completed through multiple channels to accommodate different preferences:

  • Online: the most convenient way to register is online, providing immediate confirmation and the ability to choose your preferred test date and location.
  • By mail: for those who prefer a traditional approach or may not have reliable internet access, registration by mail is an option.
  • By phone: registration can also be completed over the phone, offering a personal touch and the opportunity to ask any immediate questions you may have.

Note: Each country is different and certain options to take the test may not be available in your country. Students should always confirm what is available for them in the country they are taking the test in.

Registration Fee

The cost of taking the ISEE varies based on the registration method and testing location. Fees are structured to accommodate different testing environments and registration processes. It’s important to factor in these costs as you plan your application budget.

How the ISEE is Scored

The ISEE is scored on a scale that varies slightly depending on the level of the exam:

  • Primary Level: This level assesses the youngest students on their abilities in reading and mathematics. The scores are reported in a descriptive manner rather than numerical scores. This level also includes a Writing Sample, which is not scored but sent to schools for evaluation.
  • Lower, Middle, and Upper Levels: These levels feature scaled scores for Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement sections. Scores typically range from 760 to 940 per section. Additionally, there is an unscored Essay that is sent directly to schools.

In the ISEE, there is no penalty for incorrect answers, encouraging students to attempt every question. A student’s raw score represents the number of questions they have answered correctly. These raw scores are then converted into scaled scores through a process that accounts for the difficulty of the test form.

Many schools accept ISEE scores in the 25th-40th percentiles, but more selective private schools might require scores in at least the 75th percentile.

Understanding Score Reports

The score report provides a comprehensive view of performance across the sections. You will be given the following information:

  • Scaled Scores: These are the main scores for each section, offering a snapshot of performance relative to the standardized scale.
  • Percentile Ranks: This indicates the percentage of students in the norm group (a group of students of the same grade who have taken the test in recent years) who scored lower than you. For example, a percentile rank of 90 means you scored better than 90% of the students in the norm group.
  • Stanine Scores: Ranging from 1 to 9, stanines are a simplified way to understand where you stand on a national scale, with 1 being the lowest and 9 the highest. Stanines are derived from percentile ranks and group students into broader categories of performance.


What the Scores Mean

These scores help gauge where you stand academically among your peers and can guide you in identifying areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. High percentile ranks and stanines indicate strong performance, while lower scores may highlight areas needing more focus.

For international students, these scores offer insights into how you compare academically with students in the U.S., assisting in identifying any academic gaps or areas that may benefit from additional support or enrichment.


Embracing the Global Educational Journey

The path to taking the ISEE as an international student is filled with unique challenges and opportunities for growth. This journey is not just about achieving a score but about expanding your academic skills, bridging cultures, and preparing for a global educational experience.

All in all, the ISEE is a significant step for international students looking to join private and independent schools in the United States. By understanding the test and taking the necessary steps to prepare and register, you can approach the ISEE with confidence. 

Embrace a comprehensive preparation strategy and leverage your unique international perspective to turn this into an exciting educational experience. Remember, this journey is as much about personal development as it is about academic success.


Need Support Preparing for the ISEE?

Our tutoring services are your gateway to mastering key standardized tests like the ISEE, offering personalized guidance and proven test-taking strategies from tutors from prestigious institutions such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and NYU. Our innovative approach is designed not only to elevate your scores but also to optimize your study time, ensuring you make the most significant improvements in the shortest period possible. Partner with Tokyo Academics and embark on a transformative learning journey that accelerates your path to success, paving the way to the university of your dreams.

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