ssat-vs-isee

The ISEE versus the SSAT

While the SSAT, or Secondary School Admissions Test, and the ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Examination, are standardized examinations used by admissions professionals at private elementary, middle, and high schools. They share a common purpose, but there are some key differences between the two.

 

Exam Format

The SSAT has 3 levels: Elementary (for students currently in grades 3-4), Middle (for students currently in grades 5-7), and Upper (for students currently in grades 8-11). The ISEE follows a very similar level breakdown, including an additional level: Primary (for students currently in grades 1-3). The other levels are Lower (for students currently in grades 4-5), Middle (for students currently in grades 6-7) and Upper (for students currently in grades 8-11).

The structures of the SSAT and ISEE are also similar.

SSAT Structure

Here’s a breakdown of the SSAT, by level:

Elementary Level SSAT Breakdown
SectionNumber of Questions (Elementary)Time Allowed
Math I30 questions30 minutes
Verbal30 questions20 minutes
Break15 minutes
Reading28 questions30 minutes
Essay* One writing prompt15 minutes
Total89 questions110 minutes

Upper and Middle Level SSAT Breakdown
SectionNumber of Questions (Middle)Number of Questions (Upper)Time Allowed
Essay*One essay promptOne essay prompt25 minutes
Break5 minutes
Math I25 questions25 questions30 minutes
Reading40 questions40 questions40 minutes
Break10 minutes
Verbal 60 questions60 questions30 minutes
Math II25 questions25 questions30 minutes
Experimental16 questions16 questions15 minutes
Total167 questions167 questions3 hours, 5 minutes

*Remember that the essay will not be scored, nor will it be included in your score report. It will be sent to the schools to which you are applying.

All questions on the SSAT will have five answer choices, (A) through (E).

ISEE Structure

Here’s a breakdown of the ISEE, by level:

SectionLower LevelMiddle LevelUpper Level
Verbal Reasoning34 questions (20 minutes)40 questions (20 minutes)40 questions (20 minutes)
Quantitative Reasoning38 questions (35 minutes)37 questions (35 minutes)37 questions (35 minutes)
Reading Comprehension25 questions (25 minutes)36 questions (35 minutes)36 questions (35 minutes)
Mathematics Achievement30 questions (30 minutes)47 questions (40 minutes)47 questions (40 minutes)
Essay*One writing prompt (30 minutes)One writing prompt (30 minutes)One writing prompt (30 minutes)
Total Time2 hours 20 minutes2 hours 40 minutes2 hours 40 minutes

SectionPrimary 2 (for current 1st grade students)Primary 3 (for current 2nd grade students)Primary 4 (for current 3rd grade students)
Auditory Comprehension6 questions (7 minutes)
Reading Comprehension18 questions (20 minutes)24 questions (28 minutes)24 questions (28 minutes)
Mathematics24 questions (26 minutes)24 questions (26 minutes)28 questions (30 minutes)
Essay**one writing prompt, with a pictureone writing prompt, with a pictureone writing prompt
Total Time53 minutes (+ writing time)1 hour (+ writing time)1 hour (+ writing time)

**Remember that the essay will not be scored, nor will it be included in your score report. It will be sent to the schools to which you are applying.

All questions on the ISEE will have four answer choices, (A) through (D).

Sections of the SSAT and ISEE

As mentioned previously, much of the test makeup of the SSAT and ISEE is the same. The exceptions are the Analogy section of the SSAT, the Sentence Completion section of the ISEE, and the Quantitative Reasoning section of the ISEE.

Verbal Sections

The ISEE has a Verbal Reasoning section that is composed of of two different kinds of questions: synonyms and sentence completions. Synonym questions focus on word recognition, since the correct answer choices are those that have the same meaning, or are the closest in meaning, to the word in the question. Sentence completion questions measure your ability to understand words and their function.

The Verbal section of the upper level SSAT asks you to identify synonyms and to interpret analogies. The synonym questions test the strength of your vocabulary. The analogy questions measure your ability to relate ideas to each other logically.

Quantitative Sections

Quantitative Reasoning in the ISEE is designed to show how your reasoning skills have developed. It tests your ability to use your understanding of mathematics to develop your own opinions about how to solve math problems. It does not test the amount of math you have learned, but how well you think mathematically. Quantitative Reasoning questions require little or no calculations; the emphasis is on your ability to reason mathematically.

SSAT Experimental Section

New questions are continuously being tested for future SSAT forms. These questions appear on the SSAT to ensure they are reliable, secure, and acceptable. This section contains six verbal, five reading, and five quantitative questions.

Scoring on the ISEE and SSAT

The biggest scoring difference between the ISEE and SSAT is that while it’s beneficial for you to guess when you don’t know the answer on the ISEE, the SSAT takes 1/4 point off for every incorrect answer. That means that not only does an incorrect answer not add to your overall score, but it also subtracts. This doesn’t have to be scary– it just means your tactic for answering questions you’re not sure about has to be a little different. Check out more information about scoring on the SSAT.

The ISEE doesn’t subtract points for incorrect answers; they simply don’t add to your overall score.

Click here for more information about the ISEE!

Click here for more info about the SSAT!