19 May 2021

Key Differences between the SSAT and ISEE

To some, the private school admissions process has become as daunting as the college admissions process. One of the many elements required to apply to private schools is the ISEE or SSAT. For many students, this is one of their first experiences sitting for a standardized test. As such, it can be a bit scary for students and their parents. But it doesn’t have to be! Here’s what you need to know:

What’s the difference between the SSAT and ISEE?

These tests are similar in many ways. Both have a quantitative reasoning section, which tests a student’s problem solving skills and command of mathematical reasoning. Both tests also include a reading comprehension section, as well as a verbal reasoning section that involves synonym questions Finally, both tests end with a timed essay which requires a student to showcase their descriptive writing skills.

In addition to the quantitative reasoning section, the ISEE has a mathematics achievement section, which tests students’ understanding of content and skills taught in school. Overall, the math content on the ISEE tends to be slightly more advanced than that of the SSAT. For this reason, and because the ISEE has two math sections instead of one, the ISEE is generally best suited to students whose strength is math. 

The ISEE’s verbal reasoning section is slightly less challenging than that of the SSAT, as it consists of synonyms and sentence completion questions. The SSAT’s verbal section tends to be more difficult —  it includes a portion that tests a student’s command of analogies. Due to the challenging nature of this section, and because the SSAT only has one math section, the SSAT is usually better suited to students whose strengths lie in English and language arts.

The only way to know for sure which test is the best fit for a child is for them to take a mock test of each. Their experience with each test, along with a professional assessment of the scores, can help to determine which test a student should pursue.

When should my child take the SSAT or ISEE?

Most students take these tests in the late fall or early winter. Schools usually want to see scores by January, so families should count backwards to decide which test sittings are best suited to the timeline for admission. 

How many times can my child take the SSAT or ISEE?

Each test has slightly different rules regarding this. Students can take the ISEE once per season. The fall season concludes at the end of November, and the winter season starts in December. So most students sign up for a test in each season. The SSAT’s rules are less restrictive; students are permitted to take the tests as many times as they’d like.

When should my child start preparing for the test?

Most students benefit from three to six months of tutoring leading up to their first sitting of a standardized test. Of course, this varies depending on a student’s baseline score, so it’s important for any student beginning the test prep journey to start with a mock test. 

Do you have more questions about ISEE/SSAT prep? I’d be happy to answer them! Reach out to me at lauren.singerman@sentiaeducation.com.

Lauren Singerman

Director of Tutoring, Sentia Education

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