ISEETopics: Our Philosophy | About the ISEE | Lower Level ISEE
Middle Level ISEE | Upper Level ISEE | Should I Prep?
Cardinal Education administers a diagnostic practice test to every student before beginning tutoring. This allows us to assess strengths and weaknesses, get a baseline score, and develop an individualized tutoring plan for each student. Tutoring sessions typically last 1-1.5 hours and are held 1-2 times a week; we adapt the schedule to fit your student’s particular needs, goals, and timeline. All of our sessions are 1-on-1 tutoring, which we have found to be the most successful way to motivate and raise students’ scores. All Cardinal Education test prep tutors are highly trained specialists, who not only know the best way to do each problem, but can also explain the nuances of the test in a way that your child will understand. Students complete significant amounts of homework outside of the tutoring session and come in for multiple proctored practice tests, so they attain mastery of our nuanced strategies through rigorous practice and are prepared for the difficulty of the test. The ISEE covers concepts that many students have forgotten or have never seen before, which is why such an extensive amount of preparation is required. Contact us today to schedule a diagnostic test and get started.
About the ISEE
The ISEE is the most common entrance exam for private schools in the Bay Area. It may only be taken once every six months, so it is crucial that students are well prepared. We suggest beginning test prep during the summer or early fall before the ISEE and taking a practice diagnostic test in the prior spring. The test consists of four multiple choice sections (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement) and one essay section. The essay is not scored but is sent to the school as an additional writing sample. There is no penalty for wrong answers. There are three different levels of ISEE, which are explained in more detail below. Since math comprises nearly half the test, and students are able to make huge strides in the math sections with few months of prep, Cardinal Education has developed its own comprehensive math workbook designed to address the specific problems on the ISEE.
Lower Level ISEE
The Lower Level ISEE is for 4th and 5th graders applying to 5th or 6th grade. The math sections cover concepts up to and including area, volume, percentages, and proportions. It is critical that test preparation starts early for the LL ISEE, as each elementary school has a unique curriculum and will cover different topics at different times of the year. Because the ISEE is such a difficult test, STAR test results are generally a poor indicator of how a student will do on the LL ISEE.
Verbal: The Verbal section tests students’ vocabulary with synonym questions and sentence completion questions. On the Lower Level ISEE, the sentence completions are comprised of single word responses (fill in the blank with the most appropriate word) and phrase responses (fill in the blank with the most appropriate phrase). Many 5th graders find this section very challenging because there is no context given for the synonym questions, which is why we incorporate an extensive vocabulary regimen as part of our test prep.
Math: The first math section tests students’ ability to solve word problems and often requires students to conceptualize simple algebraic expressions in order to find the correct solution. The second section tests a wide variety of math concepts in a more straightforward, familiar manner. Most questions in the second math section are typical numerical problems that can be found in a standard math textbook.
Reading Comprehension: Students must read and answer questions about several passages in the reading section. The questions are designed to assess whether a student can identify main ideas, make inferences, and follow the logical organization of a multiple-paragraph passage. Cardinal Education’s Directed Reading and Writing Program teaches students to read analytically, think critically, and develop strong writing skills.
Middle Level ISEE
The Middle Level ISEE is for 6th and 7th graders applying to middle schools. Most private schools accept incoming classes for the 6th and 9th grades. Students are usually only admitted into a school at the start of 7th or 8th grades if other students have left the school. Because admission is so rare and the Middle Level ISEE is so difficult, we highly recommend that students wait until 8th grade to apply to private school. However, if special circumstances necessitate that your child take the ISEE now, we are happy to provide prep for the Middle Level ISEE. Please contact us to discuss our test prep options for 6th and 7th grade students.
Upper Level ISEE
The Upper Level ISEE is for 8th-11th graders applying to high schools. This is a very difficult test for 8th graders because it covers material learned in high school. While 8th graders are not expected to know all of the material, we prepare our students to expect these difficult problems and show them how to systematically approach unfamiliar and difficult questions. We also teach our students selected high school concepts that can be mastered in a short time, which gives them an edge over other 8th graders on the day of the test.
Verbal: The Verbal section tests students’ vocabulary with synonym questions and sentence completion questions. On the Upper Level ISEE, the sentence completions are comprised of single word responses (fill in the blank with the most appropriate word) and phrase responses (fill in two blanks with words that complete a logical sentence). Many 8th graders find this section very challenging because there is no context given for the synonym questions, which is why we incorporate an extensive vocabulary regimen as part of our test prep.
Math: As previously mentioned, the math sections of the UL ISEE are extremely difficult. The first section tests a student’s ability to solve word problems and quantitative comparisons, problems in which the student must determine which quantity is greater, if the quantities are equal, or if it cannot be determined from the information provided. The second section consists of demanding algebra and geometry questions; a student’s overall math ability is measured in this section.
Reading Comprehension: Students must read and answer questions about several passages in the reading section. The questions are designed to assess whether a student can rapidly identify main ideas, make inferences, and follow the logical organization of a lengthy passage. Cardinal Education’s Directed Reading and Writing Program teaches students to read analytically, think critically, and develop strong writing skills.
|Lower Level||Middle Level||Upper Level|
|Verbal Reasoning||34 questions, 20 minutes||40 questions, 20 minutes||40 questions, 20 minutes|
|Quantitative Reasoning||38 questions, 35 minutes||37 questions, 35 minutes||37 questions, 35 minutes|
|Reading Comprehension||25 questions, 25 minutes||36 questions, 35 minutes||36 questions, 35 minutes|
|Mathematics Achievement||30 questions, 30 minutes||47 questions, 40 minutes||47 questions, 40 minutes|
|Essay||1 prompt, 30 minutes||1 prompt, 30 minutes||1 prompt, 30 minutes|
|Total||2 hours 20 minutes||2 hours 40 minutes||2 hours 40 minutes|
Does your child need to prep for the ISEE?
All students can benefit from test prep. Even students who have always achieved A’s in school and high marks on STAR testing receive poor or mediocre scores on our diagnostic ISEE test. As we have mentioned before, the ISEE is a very difficult test that puts severe time constraints on students, tests them on unfamiliar concepts, and presents questions in unique formats. Through our comprehensive math, reading, and vocabulary programs, students of all levels are able to improve their scores significantly. Many students taking the ISEE without preparation not only miss the difficult questions, but also get flustered by the inclusion of so many foreign concepts and words. Our well-prepared students know exactly what to expect on the ISEE and go into the test with a specific plan or strategy for how to maximize their score.
To find out more about how our students have fared in the past, check out our results. Contact us today to arrange a diagnostic practice test and find out your student’s current test score.