Differences Between the ISEE and SSAT Tests

Wondering what the differences are between the ISEE and SSAT tests? 

First of all, below are the levels of the test that your child would be taking: 

SSAT: Elementary Level SSAT, Students currently in grades 3-4
​Middle Level SSAT, Students currently in grades 5-7
Upper Level SSAT, Students currently in grades 8-11

ISEE: Primary Level ISEE, Students currently in grades 2-3
Note: The Primary Level ISEE contains only Reading & Math sections
Lower Level ISEE, Students currently in grades 4-5
Middle Level ISEE, Students currently in grades 6-7
Upper Level ISEE, Students currently in grades 8-11 

The website for the private school to which your child will be applying will list which test is required for admission. Then the level is determined by which grade your child will be in when they test. But what if different schools require different tests, and you have a choice of which test to take, or what if you want your child to take both the ISEE and SSAT? Here’s what you should know.

The biggest of the differences between the two tests is that on the SSAT there is a penalty of 1/4 of a point off for every wrong answer. Because of this, it is important that your child does not put equal effort into every question, because they will be unlikely to finish in time if they do this. They need to learn which types of problems they may need to skip all together when they run low on time near the end. It is important that they can focus their energy on the questions they are most likely to be able to answer correctly. Our tutors help with specific strategies for employing process of elimination, because the more answer choices your child can eliminate, the better chance they have of getting the question right. 

Another of the key differences between the tests is that the ISEE verbal section has Sentence Completions while the SSAT verbal section has Analogies. Here is an example of a Sentence Completion:

He spread such ________ rumors about Betty that many of her friends abandoned her shortly thereafter. 

  1. Benign
  2. Malicious
  3. Intricate
  4. Comprehensive

Here is an example of an Analogy:
Stagnate is to economy as

  1. Shorten is to bridge
  2. Dam is to stream
  3. Hasten is to flow
  4. Attack is to government
  5. Ease is to cashflow

The vocabulary is very challenging for both Sentence Completions and Analogies, but the Analogies are generally considered to be more abstract and subjective, and for that reason most students find them more difficult than Sentence Completions. 

One more of the differences between the tests is that the ISEE (middle and upper levels) has a section called Quantitative Comparisons, in which you are presented with two columns, Column A and Column B.  In each of the columns there is a different quantity. You have to determine which column has the greater quantity.  

As the directions at the top of the page will explain, you will choose A if Column A is always greater, choose B if Column B is always greater, choose C if the amounts in the two columns are always equal, and choose D if there is not enough information provided to determine which column has the greater amount.  Let’s look at an example of one of these questions:

Column A         Column B

     4^3                    3^4

These are meant to look tricky, and the test-makers are hoping you’ll rush, decide not to calculate, and just guess (and guess wrong). These questions get much more difficult and confusing, but are not on the SSAT test. 

Our ISEE and SSAT test prep program is customized to address each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and we will develop a customized preparation plan to arm your child with powerful and up-to-date strategies for all sections of the test. Knowing the differences between the two tests is essential. Click here to learn more about our ISEE/SSAT test prep programs. 

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