What Every Parent Must Know About the ISEE and SSAT

Choosing a private school for your child is a critically important decision you may soon face.  Not only will that decision determine where your child will spend the next few years of his life, it will affect how and what your child learns and may even play a central role in shaping his character.

Most private schools require students to take either an SSAT or ISEE exam. While some schools require one or the other, some allow you to choose. You should check each school’s website to determine its admission policy, or ask Chyten to provide guidance in this area. The ISEE and SSAT are used by private schools in much the same way as the SAT and ACT are used by colleges. These tests strive to measure each student’s academic and reasoning abilities. The ISEE and SSAT are also similar to the SAT and ACT in that performance can be improved with practice, feedback, and, of course, strategies.

At a quick glance the ISEE and SSAT exams seem very similar. They both contain verbal, reading comprehension, mathematics and writing sections—but there are notable differences.  For example, the ISEE contains sentence completion questions while the SSAT uses analogies. In the mathematics section, the ISEE uses quantitative comparison questions, while the SSAT does not. These quantitative comparison questions, which are found in the Middle and Upper ISEE test only, require students to use mathematical knowledge to compare two quantities in order to determine the relative values of each. Overall, the differences between the exams must be considered when choosing the test that will best showcase your child’s strengths.

Levels: The ISEE is administered in three levels (Lower 4th/5th, Middle 6th/7th, Upper 8th +), while the SSAT has two levels (5th through 7th and 8th through 11th).

The method by which the two tests are scored is different as well. The SSAT penalizes incorrect answers with a ¼ point deduction. Conversely, the ISEE does not factor incorrect answers into the scoring. Despite these discrepancies in scoring, statically there is no adverse effect associated with guessing. Students should always use strategies to deduce the most appropriate or likely answer. Students should break down each question on the test, avoid overthinking, and eliminate obviously wrong or extreme answers in order to increase the chance of choosing the correct answer. While neither test is designed to trick students, both are designed to reward critical thinking and to punish lazy thinking.