Breaking it Down: ISEE Content Revealed


Now that we have covered a lot of ground when it comes to logistics, let’s dive a little more deeply into the content of the test.  Based on actual score reports from our most recent students, we have created a handy chart to detail the actual number of questions dedicated to each type of question on the ISEE (I love charts, don’t you??) This chart is for the Upper Level ISEE test just taken in January.  Contact us for the same information on the Middle or Lower Level exams.

2013/2014 Upper Level ISEE Question Types
Type of question
# of questions
      Verbal Reasoning
   (40 questions)*
Single word response
Paired word response
Quantitative Reasoning
(37 questions)*
Word problems
Quantitative comparisons
Reading Comprehension
(36 questions)*
Main ideas
Supporting ideas
Tone/Style/Figurative language
Mathematics Achievement          (47 questions)*
Number sense
Algebraic concepts
Data analysis/ Probability
*Questions do not total correctly due to experimental questions included in the exam that are not included in the students’ scores.

If you read the footnote, or you just happened to try to total the questions from each section, you have realized that the number of questions in each section literally don’t add up.  This is because the ERB (just like the SAT’s College Board and publishers of several other standardized tests) inserts 5-6 experimental questions into each section of the ISEE.  These questions are not a part of the student’s score, but they are used to collect data and test out new questions for future tests—basically, your child is being used as a lab rat for the ERB.  There is no way to know which questions are experimental, so students should give every question their full effort.

This chart is a great reference to get oriented to the concepts that should be included in any comprehensive ISEE curriculum, whether that preparation is done at home or with a preparation company.  Most preparation books are dedicated to more than one test (hence all the ISEE/SSAT books) and do not use the actual ISEE content areas or base their material on the actual ERB material.  They organize the content based on Upper/Middle/Lower levels, meaning that the vast majority of the book is not at the actually level that your student will be testing.

At UP, we have organized our ISEE curriculum around these exact areas of content and address each area with practice problems and strategic approaches for each question type.  Our curriculum is tailored to the level of the test that the student will be taking, so the material is applicable to your student without all the excess.  We have combed many available resources and combined the best content (in addition to creating our own practice problems and quizzes) to provide thorough coverage of the concepts actually tested on the ISEE.

Each of our next 5 newsletters will be dedicated to one section of the ISEE with examples of the questions and tips on how to best prepare for that specific section.  We hope that zooming in on each section will bring more clarity about what it will take to reach the performance goals that you and your child have set for the exam.

If you’d like any more information about our programs and offerings, we would encourage you to set up a free consultation. We promise, you’ve got nothing to lose…except maybe some needlessly thick preparation books.

Breaking it down so you don’t break down,

Jenni and Erin

P.S. Tune in next week for the first chapter in our thrilling new ISEE Exposé series, during which you’ll be introduced to Verbal Reasoning and her two subsections. Don’t miss it!



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