Independent School Entrance Exam

Standardized tests don’t only assess students' math and verbal abilities. Some questions are simply a test of how good they are at test-taking.

The Independent School Entrance Exam is a standardized test used by admission officers to assess the abilities of students seeking to enroll in an independent school.


For students in grades 4th-11th, there are three levels of the exam:

  • Lower Level: for application to 5th and 6th grade

  • Middle Level: for application to 7th and 8th grade

  • Upper Level: for application to 9th-12th grade


Click here for more information on the GRE.




“We first were introduced to Hartman Tutoring when our daughter was getting ready to apply to private school. Her tutor did a great job building her confidence and preparing her for admission tests, with great results. Today, a few years later, with both of my children at their preferred Manhattan private school, we use a Hartman tutor regularly to reinforce what is taught in the classroom. The tutor we have worked with is professional, friendly, punctual and very effective. We are so grateful to have found Hartman Tutoring – your firm has really helped our children succeed and embrace learning with confidence. Thank you!"

Rebecca P.

ISEE  |  8th Grade  |  Spence



The first step along the ISEE path is deciding if it is in fact an optimal or pertinent exam for students. We explain the distinctions between the ISEE and SSAT, and guide students towards selecting the ideal option to suit their specific needs. Click here for a comparison of the ISEE vs. SSAT.



Ideally, students have 4-8 months of consistent test prep leading up to their first ISEE. Students ought to aim to take the test twice: once in November and again in December. We are very careful to pace our prep programs properly, ensuring that students neither burn out or peak too early.



The first goal is to get students comfortable with the features, expectations and format of each section of the ISEE. We then move onto strategies, both in the realm of general test-taking as well as how to tackle particular question types. Lastly, we turn to content, and create personalized curricula for students to master. All of these elements come together during our group test simulations, which allow students to continuously refine their abilities in real time.  





Our tutors are prepared to shape our ISEE program to fit every individual student’s learning and personality type. Our programs are malleable, and our 30+ years of experience has equipped us to lead every student towards achieving his/her personal best on test day.



We approach test prep from a child-centric perspective, and are sure to cater to the needs of the human we’re working with, not only the student. We don’t try to make a child’s life fit into a test prep program; we make sure that test prep fits comfortably into a child’s life.



As the test prep process proceeds, our eyes remain fixed on maximizing a student’s score on test day. However, there are a variety of test-taking skills and perspectives which will follow students beyond the day of the test. Our esteemed EF program is interwoven into our test prep, ensuring that students will gain lifelong skills on their way to achieving their optimal ISEE score. We'll help you change schools, and we might just change your life along the way.




More about the ISEE


When and where can my child take the ISEE?

Students may register to take the ISEE one time in any or all of three testing seasons, at a variety of testing locations. The ISEE testing seasons are defined as Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July). Application deadlines for most independent schools are in late January or early February. Accordingly, students will want their final sitting to take place in December or January in order to meet these deadlines. Paper score reports are mailed to families 2-3 weeks after the exam; however, online score reports are ready and can be viewed online the week following the exam.


What is the test like?

There are five sections of the ISEE: Verbal Reasoning (VR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), Reading Comprehension (RC), Math Achievement (MA), and the Essay.


  • Verbal Reasoning: This section tests a student’s vocabulary, and the ability to deduce the meaning of words both with and without contextual support.

  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section is composed of math problems that are assembled in various ways. On the Middle and Upper Level tests, there are both straightforward questions as well as questions that rely on a student’s ability to deduce a relationship between two quantities. On the Lower Level, the QR is essentially a conventional math test.

  • Reading Comprehension: This section contains reading passages, followed by questions that combine careful reading skills with subjective inference abilities.

  • Math Achievement: This section is composed of traditional math questions, and is often expected to be more challenging than the QR in terms of content.

  • Essay: Students are provided with grade-appropriate open-ended questions or topics as essay prompts. The primary intent of this test section is to evaluate the ability of the students to compose a well-structured personal essay, with equal emphasis on content and mechanics. The essay is not graded, but a copy is provided to schools along with the student’s score report.

How do I register?
Visit the ERB website.


How is the ISEE scored?

Stanine: This is the feature of the scoring report that admissions directors use as the most prominent determining factor when considering a student’s success on an ISEE section. The Stanine has 9 possible values, and divides students into nine groups:
























Click here to see a sample ISEE Score Report.  

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Click here to download the ISEE one-sheet.


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