ISEE vs SSAT Exams - Which Test To Take?

The ISEE and SSAT aptitude tests can be very confusing. We break down for parents the differences between them and how to choose which exam to take. Overall, most of our clients, opt take the ISEE. Most children are more comfortable taking the ISEE and it is probably slightly easier - unless youre very strong in maths.

ISEE vs SSAT Exams - Which Test To Take?

The ISEE and SSAT aptitude tests can be very confusing. We break down for parents the differences between them and how to choose which exam to take. Overall, most of our clients, opt take the ISEE. Most children are more comfortable taking the ISEE and it is probably slightly easier - unless youre very strong in maths.

ISEE vs SSAT

What are the ISEE & SSAT?

The ISEE is used for application to independent secondary schools in the United States. There are three levels of the ISEE depending on whether a student is applying for entrance to Grades 5/6, 7/8 or 9-12. The ISEE assesses verbal and quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and mathematics. There is also an essay component that is sent to the schools to which a student is applying. The exam lasts between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 2 hours and 40 minutes.

SSAT Tutoring at with Wentworth Education

The Secondary Schools Admissions Test (SSAT) is another examination that is used for application to secondary schools. It assesses the reading, writing, and mathematical skills of students. It is divided into two test types, lower and middle/upper, depending upon the age of the student.

These exams are excellent preparation for the SAT exams that students take in the 10th and 11th grade; indeed, many of our students have gone on to excel in the SATs. Read more about our ISEE and SSAT private tutoring options, our experience and approach, and about testing and measuring success.

ISEE vs SSAT - which to take?

The ISEE and SSAT are very similar and we're often asked what the difference is and what is the best exam for our students to take. The only definitive answer is you need to take the test the school you're applying to requires; you should double check this with the admission departments of your schools. There is no hard and fast rule for which schools require which exam, as they are free to choose whichever exam they choose. New York private day schools and boarding schools often prefer the SSAT; whilst other private schools often only accept ISEE; nonetheless many schools accept both.

ISEE Tutoring at with Wentworth Education

If you're in the position of being able to choose between the two exams, it can seem a difficult choice between the two. There are subtle differences between the two and one or either may be slightly better for your child. We've prepared a short guide on the differences between the two exams to help you think about this decision. We find, amoungst our students, the ISEE is about twice as popular as the SSAT. Nonetheless, both tests are quite different to what most British children are used to. Both exams rely heavily on multiple choice style questions and are of a long duration. The 11+ and 13+ syllabii are quite similar, but the exam style (and thus exam strategies) are quite different.

Our Recommendation: The ISEE

Overall, most of our clients, opt take the ISEE. Most children are more comfortable taking the ISEE and it is probably slightly easier - unless you're very strong in maths. Nonetheless, it is very important you make sure you know what tests your potential new schools accept, your school may require one and not the other.

Verbal Questions - ISEE
Synonyms and sentence completion. Generally considered to be more straightforward than the SSAT verbal questions.
Verbal Questions - SSAT
Synonyms and analogies. Often more difficult than the ISEE. The anaolgy questions are generally considered to be hardest part of the SSAT
Verbal Questions - Our Verdict
ISEE. We recommend the ISEE for students who aren't particularly strong verbally. If you really can differentiate yourself verbally then consider the SSAT.
 
Math Questions - ISEE
4-choice multiple choice type questions. Some question formats can seem unfamiliar to students, and there are more numerical questions in the ISEE than the SSAT.
Math Questions - SSAT
5-choice multiple choice type questions. The SSAT math questions do get very hard - and even our best students find some of them tricky.
Math Questions - Our Verdict
Tie. We don't have a strong preference, there are more ISEE math questions, but there are always some very hard math questions in the SSAT.
 
Marking Questions - ISEE
Only positive marking. This can feel nicer and more gentle on students who struggle to deduce 'best guesses'.
Marking Questions - SSAT
Negative marking (-1/4 mark per wrong answer). Negative marking can really intimidate some students. But with practice and experience students get used to it.
Marking Questions - Our Verdict
ISEE. Negative marking is somewhat alien to most students in the British system. Our young students, in particular sometimes find it difficult to provide an answer unless they're 100% certain and negative marking can really throw them off

Functional differences between the ISEE and SSAT

Test Levels - ISEE
  • Primary Level: entrance to grades 2 - 4
  • Lower Level: entrance to grades 5 - 6
  • Middle Level: entrance to grades 7 - 8
  • Upper Level: entrance to grades 9 - 12
Test Levels - SSAT
  • Elementary Level: students currently in grades 3-4
  • Middle Level: students currently in grades 5-7
  • Upper Level: students currently in grades 8-12
 
Test Format, Length & Questions - ISEE
  • Primary Level: younger grades have a short listening section; 20-30 minute reading section; 20-30 minute math section; untimed writing sample; dependent on level c.1 hour total time plus unlimited writing time
  • Lower Level: 20 minute verbal reasoning section; 35 minute quantitative resasoning section; 25 minute reading comprehension section; 30 minute math achievement section; 30 minute essay; 2 hours 20 minutes total.
  • Middle and Upper Levels: 20 minute verbal reasoning section; 35 minute quantitative reasoning section; 35 minute reading comprehension section; 40 minute math achievement section; 30 minute essay; 2 hours 40 minutes total.
Test Format, Length & Questions - SSAT
  • Elementary Level: 30 minute quantative/math section; 20 minute verbal section; 15 minute break; 30 minute reading section; 15 minute writing sample; 1 hour 50 minutes total.
  • Middle and Upper Levels: 25 minute writing sample; 5 minute break; 30 minute quantitative section; 40 minute reading section; 10 minute break; 30 minute verbal section; 30 minute quantitative section; 15 minute experimental section; 3 hours 5 minutes total.
 
Further Reading - ISEE
The ISEE's official site by ERB Learn is comprehensive and has lots of detail and resources, or download some of the most helpful ISEE resources below.
 
Further Reading - SSAT
The SSAT's official site is comprehensive and has lots of detail and resources, some of which you need to buy, or download the SSAT resources we find most helpful below.
 
Disclaimer: we do not own any of these resources and full credit goes to the original owners.

Selected ISEE & SSAT Testimonials

Please see below some example ISEE & SSAT Testimonials that we have received. If you would like to hear more, you may be interested to read about our tutor guarantee or to read about Wentworth Tutors' philosophy and approach in a letter to parents from Dr Katherine Wiles, our Founder. Alternatively, some more ISEE & SSAT Testimonials can be found on our dedicated testimonials page, where you can filter by subject.

ISEE | Scarlett M

"We were very happy we both were with the lessons." ... See Scarlett M's tutoring profile.

ISEE | Sophia Ohler

"[Our daughter] enjoyed very much the sessions she had from you and she gained a good ground. " ... See Sophia Ohler's tutoring profile.

SSAT | Emily Hennah

"Thanks again for being such a great tutor, Emily. My daughter enjoyed every session that she had with you." ... See Emily Hennah's tutoring profile.

SSAT | Wentworth Education Private Tutoring

"The first session went very well. [My son] liked [the tutor’s] style and is keen to have her return."

ISEE | Thomas Evans

"Everything went well and I’m optimistic my daughter will get into both schools and then have their choice of where to go. Her ISEE results are in and they are strong." ... See Thomas Evans's tutoring profile.

ISEE | Alexander Peter

"Alex was really great for our son as he is knowledgeable, calm and reassuring. As a result, he just achieved 9, 9,8 and an 8 on the ISEE. He started at 5's and 6's!" ... See Alexander Peter's tutoring profile.

Maths and English, SSAT | Arthur House

"Arthur enjoyed a good rapport with my children and engaged them extremely well. He was accommodating and organised. I am happy to recommend Arthur as a tutor and am confident that he will do well teaching students at any level." ... See Arthur House's tutoring profile.

ISEE & SSAT | Dr Caitlin Rea

"Caitlin has been all around terrific. She is on time, gets right to work, and most of all has established a great relationship with my daughter. I am relieved to have such a smart and genuinely interested tutor that can interact with my daughter in a positive way that keeps her interested and motivated! I am looking forward to having her work with my son over the next few months as well." ... See Dr Caitlin Rea's tutoring profile.

ISEE Lower Level | Catriona Ramsay

"Catriona has advised us on various aspects of the ISEE test for which I am very grateful as this is our first experience of taking an exam for an American primary school. Her knowledgable comments and calm demeanor have been very reassuring these past months! [Our daughter] looks forward to her sessions with Catriona and respects her highly. The tutorials are always very lively with lots of ideas sparking interesting conversations." ... See Catriona Ramsay's tutoring profile.

ISEE | Isabel Elson

"Isabel worked wonders preparing our 10 year old daughter for a US standardised test. Always organised and thorough, her support was individualised and motivational, understanding and meeting her student on a personal level. Our daughter felt that Isabel genuinely cared and was on her “team”, which meant that she trusted her implicitly and enjoyed the process of working together towards a shared goal that much more. We are extremely grateful to Isabel for all her help and have already recommended her to our friends!" ... See Isabel Elson's tutoring profile.

Selected Profiles of our ISEE & SSAT

Please see below some example profiles of the ISEE & SSAT that we represent. If you would like to hear more, you may be interested to read about our tutor selection criteria or to read about Wentworth Tutors' philosophy and approach in a letter to parents from Dr Katherine Wiles, our Founder. Alternatively, some more profiles of our ISEE & SSAT can be found on our dedicated tutors page, where you can filter by subject.

I'm originally from New York, and have been living in London for a bit over a year now. After graduating from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Creative Writing (Cum Laude), I received my Master's degree from the London Film School. I've been privately tutoring for years, as a peer tutor on Harvard's campus with the Bureau of Study Council, as well as with private agencies. I also have extensive experience as an Admissions Representative in the Harvard Admissions Office. I specialise in the American curriculum and US College Counselling, but know and work with the English curriculum as well. ...
I graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2015, where I studied French and Italian. Since then, I have completed the Graduate Diploma in Law with Distinction and I am currently studying for the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in Moorgate. I have been working as a tutor for four years, with a particular focus on language tuition, Oxbridge applications and tutoring for the 11+. For me, tutoring is an incredibly rewarding experience. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to watch my tutees make progress not only in terms of their academic ability but also in developing self-confidence and a love for learning overall. ...
I graduated from Cambridge University in 2015, where I studied Arabic and Spanish. Following graduation, I worked in a top boarding school in midtown Manhattan, New York supporting the students' preparation for SSAT/ISEE exams. On my return from the US, I began working for an educational charity in Cambridge, Red Balloon, which recovers severely bullied children who have self-excluded from mainstream education through a bespoke educational and therapeutic provision. Currently I am doing a social innovation graduate scheme, Year Here, I have introduced engaging new methods to support English language acquisition for participants of English Speakers for Other Languages (ESOL) courses at the Bromley by Bow community centre. Education has always been very important to me. My experiences above, in conjunction with teaching English to refugees in Jordan and supporting students in the US prepare for Spanish tests, leads me to having a broad understanding of education and the techniques that work for people of all levels. ...
I graduated from Cambridge University (Newnham College) with a 2:1 in Social Anthropology (and a 1st in Development Studies) in 2009. I have been tutoring private clients since 2005 in subjects ranging from English, Maths, English as foreign language, Interview Technique and Preparation, Test & Exam Preparation and Mentoring. However, my current focus and speciality is tutoring students for all levels of the ISEE and SSAT test as well as tutoring the 11+ and 13+ entrance exams. As a child, I attended the Chinese International School in Hong Kong and Alice Smith International School in Kuala Lumpur and then boarded at school in the UK as an overseas student. As a consequence, I particularly enjoy working with students based in Asia applying to international schools and preparing them for the cultural and curriculum adjustment of becoming an overseas student. I am now based in Singapore and tutor students of all ages here and in Hong Kong primarily. I have an excellent track record of increasing test scores and helping tutees to have the confidence and ability to achieve the grades required for their desired schools whilst also acting as a mentor throughout the preparation process. ...
My passion for tutoring stems from my own personal experience with understanding the impact that excellent teachers can have on our lives. At Winchester College, the leadership and inspiration of my teachers motivated me to succeed, and is reflected in my consistently strong academic record. Having now graduated with a First Class BA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge and successfully completed an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London, I am keen to share my understanding and passion of the sciences and mathematics with new students. ...
I’m a postgraduate medical student at King’s College London and Bristol University graduate with a passion for a wide range of subjects. Studying humanities to A level, focusing on crop genetics during my undergraduate degree and now working to become a doctor translates well into tutoring a varied curriculum and ensures I’ve had plenty of experience in the process of learning. I'm an enthusiastic tutor; effective tutoring raises children’s confidence and gives them skills which they can take far beyond our sessions, which is my favourite aspect of the job. ...
I specialise in US exam preparation, reading comprehension, Art History, English (writing and literature), History, and French language. I have benefitted from one-on-one tutoring throughout my education in order to prepare for standardized tests (ISEE/SSAT, SAT/ACT, GRE), which helped me build confidence and was a huge factor in my success. Having grown up in Manhattan and having attended boarding school and university in the US, I am intimately acquainted with the American educational system and the testing and admissions processes for US high schools and universities. Because of my background, I am well equipped to provide admission advice and counselling.

In New York, I attended a private, all-girls school, Convent of the Sacred Heart, before continuing my education at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. At Choate, I took many Advanced Placement and honors courses. I achieved a 35 (of 36) on my ACT and 5's on my Art History, French, English Literature, and European History AP exams. I attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where I double-majored in Art History and French. Before beginning my graduate studies in September 2019, in order to improve my German, I attended the Middlebury College Intensive Summer Language Program in Middlebury, Vermont, an 8 week, immersive program where all classes and socialising are conducted in German. I moved to London in 2019 to attend the master's programme in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute (M.A. distinction, 2020; course: German Modernism: Politics, Utopia, and Times of Turmoil).

I am now the Project Curator of an online journal and exhibition space affiliated with MIT on art and migration and Performa director RoseLee Goldberg's research assistant for the fourth edition of her book Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, focusing on performance and new media from 2010 onward. ...
I have experience teaching a range of ages, both privately part-time and in full time employment as a teacher at Hurstpierpoint College, where I worked for a year before starting my degree at Oxford University. I have a particular interest in entrance into the UK's top schools and Universities, teaching 11 plus, Common Entrance, and preparing students for Oxbridge. I am aided by a detailed understanding of UK independent schools as well as experience preparing for the American education system at ISEE and SSAT level in particular. I have delivered private tuition to children between 5 and 20 years. I find tutoring immensely rewarding and particularly enjoy the focused nature of assisting an individual with their academic goals. ...
I've been tutoring and working with children part time since I finished school in 2014, and have graduated from Oxford University, where I studied English literature. Before that, I took IB at Wellington College, in which I scored 43 out of a possible 45 points. I've tutored in London, Oxford and Hong Kong, worked as a nanny, and set up and continue to run a school sponsorship program in Nepal, which provides disadvantaged children with the opportunity to be educated in Kathmandu. For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of tutoring is helping students gain confidence in something they thought they would never understand, or felt they weren't good at, turning a daunting task into something enjoyable. I've worked with children who range from 3 to 23 years old, but have most experience with Common Entrance at 11+ and 13+. The breath of the IB course means that I'm able to teach a range of subjects to a high standard, and have great experience balancing academic work with other areas of life, as well as finding important overlaps between diverse subjects and interests. ...
Dr Caitlin Rea is a dual (US/UK) citizen, graduating from Harvard with a BA in Neurobiology and Anthropology in 2015. She graduated with a degree in medicine from Kings College London Graduate medical school in 2019 and has relocated from London to Edinburgh last year. She has been working for Wentworth since 2015 focusing on US school and college admissions. At Harvard, she worked for Veritas Education for 2 years and travelled to China to work as both a teacher and US college consultant. She also tutored children with Autism throughout college. Researching and teaching children who have learning difficulties is one of her main interests. Before Harvard, she completed her GCSE's and A-levels (Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Geography) in the UK. Alongside her final year of A-levels, she completed the SAT and SAT II exams and went through the US college application process alongside her UK UCAS application. She is well versed in the various US entrance exams and the US application process. ...