Tag Archives: ISEE vs. SSAT

23 Oct 2020

Life Beyond COVID: ISEE vs. SSAT

Though COVID has put our lives on hold in many ways, for families and students who are interested in the private school application process, it may be time to think about standardized testing. Most private, independent, and boarding schools require either the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or the Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT). While these two exams are similar in many ways, there are a few key differences that students and their families should keep in mind when deciding which one to take. 

What testing levels are available for the ISEE and SSAT?

For both exams, there are several levels available that correspond with the age and grade level of the test-taker. The ISEE offers four categories: 

– Primary Level (for students applying to grades 2-4)

– Lower Level (for students applying to grades 5-6)

– Middle Level (for students applying to grades 7-8)

– Upper Level (for students applying to grades 9-12)

The SSAT, on the other hand, offers three categories:

– Elementary Level (for students applying to grades 4-5) 

– Middle Level (for students applying to grades 6-8) 

– Upper Level (for students applying to grades 9-12)

What is the format of each exam? 

Both exams are composed of five sections that assess students’ verbal, reading, quantitative, and writing skills. The ISEE includes 4 section scores: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, mathematics, and reading comprehension. 

The SSAT consists of just three scores: verbal, reading, and quantitative. Both exams also include an unscored writing sample, which is sent to schools along with the score report and considered as part of each student’s application. 

How are the ISEE and SSAT scored? 

One important difference to note is that the Middle and Upper Level SSAT have a quarter point penalty for each incorrect answer. In contrast, The ISEE does not have a guessing penalty. Additionally, the SSAT score is converted to (and reported as) a percentile score, while the ISEE is scored on a standard nine-point scale (1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest score). 

How are these exams administered? 

Both the ISEE and SSAT can be administered on a computer or as a paper-based exam. The digital version of both exams — a more attractive option in the pandemic landscape — can be taken at home or at a testing center. The paper-based version may be taken at school or at a testing center. 

The ISEE may be taken up to three times, once during the fall, winter, and spring/summer testing seasons. The SSAT, on the other hand, can be taken a maximum of eight times and the SSAT can be taken at home no more than 5 times. 

So, should I take the ISEE or SSAT? 

Answering this question requires research into the admissions requirements of the school(s) that you or your child are most interested in attending. Some schools prefer one exam over the other, while some accept both. In which case, taking a practice exam for both tests and comparing your scores would be a good way to assess which exam best caters to your strengths as a student. 

We understand that applying to private and independent schools can be an overwhelming process even in the best of times — let alone during a pandemic, when all aspects of in-person and remote learning are in flux. We are always happy to provide support, from exam selection to test prep to ongoing academic support. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!