ISEE vs. SSAT: Which is Best for My Student?

By: Spencer Moravek, spencer@evolveded.com

 

The Big Apple? For New York City Families, it’s more like The Big Admissions. 

 

If you are raising children in New York City you have probably heard of the excellent schools, and the competitive process of securing a spot in one. Your child’s education is a big decision, so as I like to say, prep early, prep often. 

 

Let’s start with answering the question, does my child have to take an admissions test?

 

If they are applying for independent schools in and out of the city for grades 2 and above, the answer is usually yes. *During COVID-19, some schools are moving to test-optional. Always check with schools directly to find out the emphasis they make on testing. 

 

So what is the test?

 

There are two tests for independent schools in New York, the ISEE and the SSAT. Most schools accept either one, however; it is important to check with your schools before deciding which one to prepare for. It’s a good rule of thumb that boarding schools prefer SSAT, in the city private schools ISEE.

 

If you have the choice between the two tests choose the one that will show off your child’s skills. The first and most crucial step is to have your student take a practice test for both. This is ESSENTIAL and the best way to see which test your student will score highest on. If the pre-test scores show similar results, think about your student’s skills and match them to the right test. 

 

Important Differences

 

ISEE SSAT
  • Only 3 chances to take it per year 
  • Verbal: completing sentences with vocabulary using context clues. No analogies.
  • No penalty for guessing 
    • ISEE every correct answer is +1 (Ex. 10 questions answered, 9 correct, score: 9/10)
  • The Essay topics: expository
  • 8 chances to take it per year
  • Verbal: Answering analogy questions
  • Penalty for guessing (SSAT every incorrect is -.25 (Ex. 10 questions answered, 9 correct, score: 8.75/10)
  • The Essay topics: expository and creative

 

ISEE vs. SSAT Quiz

 

Answer the following questions with YES or NO.

 

  1. I want unlimited chances to take this test.
  2. I love analogies
  3. I am not a guesser, it’s either I know it or I am not answering. 
  4. I love writing expository and creative pieces!

 

If you answered yes to the above questions the SSAT is attuned to your skills. If you answered no, then the ISEE is more attuned to your skills.

 

Either way, make sure you confirm with a pre-test and begin to prepare sooner rather than later. These tests are both difficult in their own respects, if you want your child to have a fighting chance in the admissions game, give them plenty of time to prepare and do their best. It will help their application, your child’s confidence, and your sanity!

 

Writing Samples: Topics

Creative vs. Expository 

 

Verbal Reasoning: Question Types

Sentence Completion vs. Analogies

 

Scoring

ISEE every correct answer is +1 (Ex. 10 questions answered, 9 correct, score: 9/10)

SSAT every incorrect is -.25 (Ex. 10 questions answered, 9 correct, score: 8.75/10)

 

Schools: Check with schools before deciding

Good rule of thumb, boarding schools prefer SSAT, in the city private schools ISEE.

 

ISEE

1 per testing season (3 testing seasons per year)

Fall: Aug-Nov

Winter: Dec-March

Spring: April-July

 

Multiple choice with 1 ungraded writing sample 

No calculator or scrap paper

 

Lower Level - 2 hours 20 minutes. 

Section Questions Time
Verbal Reasoning-Vocabulary 34 questions 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning-Math/Word Problems 

Break

38 questions 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension 25 questions 25 minutes
Mathematics Achievement Break 30 questions 30 minutes
Essay one essay 30 minutes

 

MIDDLE LEVEL - 2 hours and 40 minutes

Section Questions Time
Verbal Reasoning-Vocabulary 40 questions 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning-Math/Word Problems

Break

37 questions 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension 36 questions 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement

Break

47 questions 40 minutes
Essay one essay 30 minutes

UPPER LEVEL - 2 hours and 40 minutes

Section Questions Length
Verbal Reasoning-Vocabulary 40 questions 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning-Math/Word Problems

Break

37 questions 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension 36 questions 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement

Break

47 questions 40 minutes
Essay one essay 30 minutes

  •  

SSAT

The SSAT is offered 8 Saturdays throughout the year. The test is offered on Sundays to approved individuals with religious accommodations. Students may take the test on any and all test days available.  

 

Elementary Level (students in grades 3-4 at the time of the test)

Middle Level (for students in grades 5-7 at the time of the test)

Upper Level (for students in grades 8-11 at the time of the test)

 

Elementary Level

Section Questions Length
Quantitative (Math) 30  30 minutes
Verbal 30 20 minutes
Reading 28 30 minutes
Writing Sample  1 15  minutes

 

Middle and Upper Levels

Middle Level

Section Questions Length
Math I 25 30 minutes
Verbal 60 20 minutes
Reading 40 30 minutes
Math II 25 30 minutes
Writing Sample  1 25 minutes

 

Upper Level

Section Questions Length
Quantitative (Math) 30  30 minutes
Verbal 30 20 minutes
Reading 28 30 minutes
Writing Sample  1 25 minutes

There are two sections of quantitative reasoning on the Upper-Level SSAT.

 

To learn more about ways Evolved Education prepares students for the ISSE or SSAT, please email admin@evolveded.com.