Many students applying to private schools need to submit ISEE scores. The ISEE is known for being a tough exam, and preparing for it can help you reach the score you're aiming for. But where can you find the best ISEE practice tests? And how can you make the most of them? We've collected the absolutely best ISEE test prep resources, both free and paid, in this guide to help you with your ISEE studying.
Feature image credit: Nick Youngson / The Blue Diamond Gallery
What Subjects Does the ISEE Test You On?
Before you begin studying, it's important to know what the ISEE will test you on. Below are the main subjects tested for each section of the test. The difficulty level of the content tested will increase as you move from lower to middle to upper levels.
ISEE Test Section
Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!
Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.
Where to Find Official ISEE Practice Tests
ERB, the company that creates and administers the ISEE, has made some official ISEE online practice materials available for free. Official ISEE resources are the best to use because you can be sure they're an accurate representation of what the actual ISEE will be like. On this site, you can enter information about what grade the test-taker will be entering and receive practice questions for the appropriate level of the ISEE.
However, the resource that we really recommend is the PDF "What to Expect on the ISEE." There's one for each of the three levels of the ISEE:
Midway through the PDF are some sample questions, and after them is a complete practice test. There are unfortunately no answer explanations, just an answer key and information on how to score the test, but this is the only full-length official ISEE practice test available, and it will be the closest experience you can have to taking the real ISEE on test day. You should definitely make use of it, and we explain how in the next section.
How to Use Official ISEE Practice Tests
Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of official ISEE practice materials, so you want to make the most of what you have. Make sure you understand how to solve each of the sample questions included in the PDF and what skills they're testing.
The official practice test is the best ISEE sample test you can get, so you want to use it wisely. Take it about a quarter to midway through your ISEE prep so you have a general idea already of what the exam tests but still have time to make adjustments to your studying. Print out the test as you'll be taking the actual ISEE with pencil and paper. It's also very important to take the test timed (the same timing you'll have on the ISEE) and in one sitting. Doing this gives you the most accurate idea of how well you'll do on the actual ISEE.
If you give yourself an unlimited amount of time to take the practice test and lots of breaks, you may not be prepared for the time crunch and impact of testing for hours on the real ISEE. Both of these issues can cause students to see significant drops in their scores. The practice test includes timing rules, so follow those strictly when you take it.
Once you're done with the practice test, look over every question you got wrong or were unsure of. If there are areas you particularly struggled in, you know to focus on those for your future ISEE test prep.
The scoring information on this test is also very useful because it's the only test where you can be confident that the score you received is accurate. Many unofficial ISEE practice tests either don't give steps to convert your score to the 1-9 stanine scale used, or they may give score estimates that aren't accurate. The ERB is pretty opaque about how ISEE scores are converted to the stanine scale, so it can be difficult for unofficial ISEE test creators to accurately score their tests.
How to Use Unofficial ISEE Practice Tests
Unofficial ISEE practice materials range from pretty good to pretty bad, and it can be difficult to separate the two, especially if it's early in your ISEE prep. Below are the best unofficial ISEE study resources, separated into free and paid resources. They aren't as good as the official study materials, but they're still pretty close to the actual ISEE in terms of difficulty and content tested. For each we describe what is included and how best to use the resource.
Free Unofficial ISEE Test Prep Resources
This site has a free full-length ISEE online practice test for each of the lower, middle, and upper levels of the ISEE. The tests are good quality and similar to the actual ISEE, but the main drawback is that there are no answer explanations, only an answer key. If you don't understand why you got a question wrong, you might find it difficult to understand why without an explanation. We recommend using this resource later on in your prep, when you're more familiar with ISEE questions and likely won't need to rely on answer explanations as much.
Varsity Tutors has dozens of ISEE quizzes for all levels and sections of the test. The quizzes range from a few questions to full-length sections. The site has a lot of ads and pop-ups, but the quizzes are generally high-quality, and the answer explanations are in-depth and helpful. It's a good resource to use early on, when you aren't taking as many full-length ISEE sample tests yet.
Kaplan has a few dozen practice questions for each section of the test. The questions are high-quality, but there aren't that many of them, and there they aren't organized into lower, middle, or upper levels of the exam. Additionally, you find out immediately after answering a question if you got it right or wrong, which makes it difficult to time yourself. This resource is best for when you want to do a bit of quick studying earlier on in your ISEE prep.
Paid Unofficial ISEE Practice Tests
Cost: $80-$330, depending on the plan
If you want to do some in-depth prep for the ISEE, you may want to look at Test Innovators' plans. They have plans offering between one and six full-length practice tests, along with interactive lessons and tutor consultation. You can also take a mini quiz for free to see if you like their practice questions before you decide to purchase a plan. This is quite an expensive resource, but if you want an all-in-one ISEE test prep resource, it may be what you're looking for.
Cost: About $34 per book
Tutorverse has a prep book for each level of the ISEE, each highly rated on Amazon. Each book contains over 1,000 practice questions, and people who have bought the book generally feel it prepares them well for the ISEE. Most of these practice questions are scattered throughout the book in the form of exercises and quizzes, and each book only contains two full-length practice tests. Taking a full-length test is important because it gives you a sense of how well you can handle a long test in one sitting, so if you're looking for a lot of full-length tests, you should use additional resources.
Tips for Your ISEE Prep
Now that you know where to get the best ISEE practice tests, it's time to get the most out of them. Follow these three tips when studying for the ISEE.
#1: Know What Score to Aim For
A student's ISEE scores may be lower than they and their parents expect. There are two reasons for this. First, the ISEE is often one of the hardest tests the student has taken, and some of the information will simply be beyond their current knowledge. Second, the group that takes the ISEE tends to be academically stronger than the average student body, and that skews the averages. It's not uncommon for a student who is used to scoring in, say, the 80th percentile on statewide exams to get closer to a 50th percentile score on the ISEE.
Schools know this too, and they don't expect perfect scores. The stanine scores, ranging from 1-9 are the most important scores they look at. Many schools accept scores of 4 or 5, and only the most competitive schools in the country expect scores of 7 or higher. So don't think you need to aim for the top to get into the school of your choice.
#2: Review Every Question You Got Wrong
Your work isn't done after you take an ISEE practice test. You'll want to go over every single question you got wrong or had to guess on. Look to see what the correct answer is, then see if you can solve it without reading the answer explanation (if the practice test includes answer explanations). If you are, then you'll remember what you learned much better because you actively worked it out for yourself.
Doing this for every question is time consuming, no doubt about it, but it's the absolute best way to actually see major improvements in your score because you're learning from your mistakes.
#3: Target Your Weak Areas
Some students are tempted to simply read straight through prep books or guides they get, but this often isn't the most effective use of your time. If you typically do well on, say, reading questions but struggle with math questions, then you should spend more time reviewing topics and practice questions. Look through all the topics the ISEE tests, located in the first section of this guide, and note any sections you struggle to do well on. Now you know to target them during your ISEE prep.
What's a good ISEE score? Learn what score you should be aiming for on the ISEE exam by reading our guide.
Want to learn more about the ISEE? We have a complete guide on everything you need to know about the ISEE in order to be prepared for this important test.
When can you take the ISEE? Check out our guide containing every upcoming ISEE test date and where you can take the test.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.