How We Write ISEE Practice Tests
The first step in writing a practice test is to analyze the specifications provided by the ERB, the ISEE’s publisher. The ERB uses standards set by independent educational organizations:
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- International Reading Association (IRA)
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
These organizations publish grade-level standards, which we ensure are included in our practice tests.
Next, we compare these quoted specifications with the actual practice tests provided by ERB, “What to Expect on the ISEE.” Generally, we think the official sample tests are easier relative to the published specifications and student feedback.
We write practice questions according to these principles:
- Are we testing an academic concept as specified by the ERB, seen on a practice test, or cited by a student?
- Are we testing the concept in the same style as an official practice test question?
- Is our wording, punctuation, and sentence structure similar?
Furthermore, we follow additional guidelines when assembling full-length tests:
- Is our distribution of questions similar to the ERB specifications and practice test?
- Is the overall difficulty, including tested concepts and time constraints similar?
- Is the practice test unique from others that we have written?
In general, we strive to ensure that our practice tests are as difficult if not more difficult than the sample ERB tests.
Our practice ISEE content goes through multiple rounds of editing:
- The original writer works their test straight through looking for errors.
- A second writer works the test and writes answer explanations.
- An editor works the test looking for errors or variances from specifications.
- Several ISEE tutors themselves will work the test looking for errors or variances.
- Several ISEE tutors will work the test with their students ensuring content level appropriateness.
After all that editing is complete, we finally publish the practice tests through our partner Piqosity.com. However, one of the big benefits of digital publishing is the ability to make continuous improvements:
- Are too many students getting a question right (too easy) or wrong (too hard)?
- Are students and their tutors flagging questions for additional explanations (too hard or wrong)?
- After students have taken the actual ISEE, what kind of feedback are they providing on our practice material? Did it over, under, or adequately prepare them?
Based off of this feedback, we continuously make improvement or changes as necessary.
The process of writing ISEE practice test is continual. We are aways listening to feedback to make improvements to our existing content, and we are always writing more content.
Our goal is to have at least 10 full-length practice tests plus thousands of practice questions for the ISEE Upper, Middle, and Lower levels.
Additionally, we are also in the process of writing digital concept review lessons on the tested topics in math and English.
Purchase ISEE Practice Tests
Piqosity – 8 Full-Length Practice ISEE Tests + 2,000 Adaptive Practice Problems
With a Piqosity subscription, students will gain immediate access to General Academic’s 8 full-length practice tests plus 2,000 adaptive practice problems. Piqosity automatically scores and analyzes practice sets and predicts a test-day score.
Book – 6 Full-Length Practice ISEE Tests + 2,000 Practice Problems
Available online at major booksellers like Amazon and Barnes&Noble, “ISEE Upper Level Prep Guide with 6-Full Length Practice Tests” is arguably the most comprehensive prep book written just for the test applying for grades 9-12.
Piqosity – 7 Full-Length Practice ISEE Test
With a Piqosity subscription, students will gain immediate access to General Academic’s 7 full-length practice tests plus adaptive practice problems. Piqosity automatically scores and analyzes practice sets and predicts a test-day score.
Piqosity subscribers will receive access to new material as it’s available.
Piqosity – 9 Full-Length Practice ISEE Test
General Academic publishes 9 full-length practice tests for the ISEE Lower Level (applying to grades 5 and 6). These practice tests are available online as self-scoring and analyzing practice at Piqosity.com.
Piqosity subscribers will receive access to new material as it’s available.
ISEE® is a registered trademark of the Educational Records Bureau, which does not endorse these products.
We Support Multiple ISEE Test Levels
- Upper Level – Applying to Grades 9 – 12
- Middle Level – Applying to Grades 7 & 8
- Lower Level – Applying to Grades 5 & 6
The Upper and Lower levels are most popular in Houston. We offer both classroom courses and private tutoring for the ISEE Lower and Upper levels; we offer private tutoring for the ISEE Middle Level.
Students may take the ISEE up to three times a year or once each during three 4-month periods generally corresponding to summer, fall, and winter. These 4-month periods are set by ERB; a student could not, for example, take the ISEE in both December AND January because of the limitation of taking the test only once during each prescribed period.
Let’s now assume that you are a current 7th grader looking to apply to 9th grade, which is generally the “prime entry year” for a private high school –
- Your first opportunity to take the ISEE would be in the spring and summer during and after your 7th grade year, April through July.
- The second opportunity would be during the fall of your 8th grade year between August and November.
- The third and last opportunity would be during the winter of your 8th grade year between December and March.
Note that many Houston schools will not accept scores from the April to July test date. Instead, most schools see the spring testing as the 3rd opportunity primarily for students applying outside of the normal timeframe, usually the same calendar year in which they plan to enroll.
The ISEE is scored along a normal curve, which is divided into 9 slices (“stanines”), where 1 is significantly below average and 9 is outstanding. The norm group consists of students who applied for the same grade from the past 3 years; students are not compared directly to students in their current year.
Most Houston schools will accept average scores of 4, 5, and 6, but academically rigorous schools are more likely to enroll students with scores of 7, 8, and 9.
The Upper and Middle Level ISEE is a 5-part, 2 hour and 40-minute test with two breaks lasting between 5 and 10 minutes each. The ISEE Lower Level is a 5-part, 2 hour and 20-minute test with two breaks lasting between 5 and 10 minutes each.
Students will be tested on their knowledge of vocabulary, reading, writing, and math.
High achieving students at competitive schools should have already learned most of the tested concepts by the end of their first semester in 8th grade (Upper Level) or the end of their first semester in 6th grade (Middle Level) or 4th grade (Lower Level).
However, there will be some questions that ask about concepts that students have not learned as the Upper Level ISEE is taken by students applying to grades as high as 12, the Middle Level is taken by students applying to both grades 7 and 8, and the Lower Level is taken by students applying to both grades 5 and 6.
The ISEE is both an achievement and a reasoning test. Achievement tests strive simply to determine if a student has learned something they were taught. A reasoning test goes a step further to determine if a student can leverage what they were taught to reason their way through related but new and novel concepts.
To this extent, there are four, scored sections of the ISEE – two that test reading and vocabulary skills (Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension) and two that test math skills (Quantitative Reasoning and Mathematics Achievement).
The best predictors of a student’s success on the ISEE are good grades in school in core academic subjects like math, science, English, and history.
Therefore the best way for a student to prepare is to ensure that they’re doing well in core subjects well before a few months before they plan to take the ISEE.
Next up are standard good test-taking practices:
- Determine target score & what it takes to achieve
- Know the content and format of the ISEE
- Identify subject areas that are weak
Core academics are king. There are no amount of tips and tricks that will help students ace the ISEE if they do not know how to do division or punctuate a sentence.
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