how to prepare for the isee

The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is a tool many private schools use to assess potential students. This exam measures a student’s current knowledge, how quickly they can adapt to unfamiliar material, and their problem-solving skills. This helps school administrators gauge an applicant’s readiness for more advanced school work.

Properly preparing for the ISEE can help students develop test taking strategies and strengthen their fundamental knowledge. It also gives students an idea of what they can expect on exam day. Working with a tutor allows students to work on their individual strengths and weaknesses which can improve their confidence on test.

When Can I Take the ISEE?

Students have three opportunities each year to take the exam:

  • Fall (August to November)
  • Winter (December to March)
  • Spring/summer (April to June)

Students can take the exam only once during each testing period for a maximum of three times in a single year.

Even with ISEE test prep, students may feel overwhelmed by the testing environment which could negatively impact their scores. We recommend students plan to take the exam at least twice to reduce their anxiety. Most private schools begin accepting applications in January, so students should plan to take the ISEE during the fall and winter sessions.

Working with a tutor four to six months prior to the exam allows students to practice under test day conditions. This helps students build confidence in their test taking skills, monitor their progress, and practice new strategies in a low-risk environment.

What Does ISEE Measure?

The ISEE measures what students know and how quickly they can adapt to unfamiliar content. Although it is split into four levels, each tests a student’s current skills and readiness for more advanced learning environments.

The content and difficulty of each level are adjusted to match the intended grade level.

ISEE tests a broad range of skills throughout the exam. While some concepts are familiar, others require students to solve problems based on context. ISEE tests students on vocabulary, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and math.

Students are encouraged to answer as many questions as possible on the exam. Scores are based on the number of correct answers students provide. This means wrong answers will not negatively impact a student’s score. If students don’t know the correct answer, an educated guess may work in their favor.

Students taking the middle and upper levels of ISEE have the choice to write an essay. While this essay will not be graded, those planning on submitting one should strive to do their best to create a thoughtful and logical essay. This will serve as a writing sample and be passed along to their chosen school.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare for ISEE?

Preparing for the ISEE requires a mix of comprehensive studying and strategic practice. We recommend students start with researching the requirements of their chosen school to know what score they need on the ISEE. This provides a concrete goal for students to strive toward during test prep.

Take a Diagnostic Test

Diagnostic help students familiarize themselves with the test material. We recommend students work with a tutor to practice under test day conditions. This allows students to adjust to the testing environment without negatively impacting their actual score.

The results provide a baseline for the student’s performance and show where they may need additional assistance. Tutors can create customized study plans to help students overcome these areas and raise their scores.

Become Familiar with Test Content

The ISEE covers a student’s verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and mathematical skills. Practicing with official ISEE test content allows students to familiarize themselves with the types of questions they will encounter. Early content exposure through practice tests can boost a student’s confidence and reduce their anxiety.

Work with a Tutor

Working with a tutor can provide significant improvement during their sessions. Most tutors have specialized knowledge of the exam’s structure, content, and test taking strategies. They offer an individualized approach to help students overcome their weaknesses.

Tutors can help students gain confidence in their reading, writing, and math skills. They can help students build their vocabulary and gauge their progress through practice tests. One-on-one tutoring provides personalized attention and lessons with an expert who can help answer questions.

Tutors can keep students focused during sessions and ensure the content being covered is relevant to the exam.

Preparing for ISEE with a tutor provides a safe space for students to ask questions, explore difficult concepts, and try new things. Tutors can provide feedback and quickly adjust a student’s study plan to better suit their changing needs. This allows students to steadily improve and gauge their overall progress.


We encourage students to take two or three diagnostic tests in the month leading up to their testing date. This practice gives students an idea of how they will perform on test day. Working with a tutor during ISEE preparation can go a long way toward reducing test-day anxiety.

Through consistent practice and an organized study schedule, students can continuously improve their skills. This can boost their confidence, familiarity with the course content, and help them create strategies for answering unfamiliar questions.

Tutors recreate the testing environment and time constraints to improve a student’s confidence. Students who don’t achieve the score they want can always retake the test. This is why we suggest planning for at least two attempts when applying to a new school.

ISEE Test Preparation Can Prepare Your Child for Success

Embarking on any new journey can be a mixture of excitement and nerves. Students taking the ISEE might feel additional pressure because of the stakes. With the right approach to preparation and parental support, it doesn’t have to feel that way.

Early preparation is one of the keys to success with this exam.

C2 Education is ready to help! Our expert tutors can prepare students to reach their potential on test day. With a personalized course of study, they’ll go into the ISEE ready to show what they know.

Contact us for information about how to take the next steps for your child’s future!