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.

ISEE | Emily Hennah

"Thank you so much for all your help... I want (my daughter) to take another test just so you can keep visiting!" ... 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 | 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.

Upper Level SSAT | Isabel Elson

"Isabel helped us navigate US boarding school applications as well as the SSAT from London — we had a niche set of needs and Isabel was the right woman for the job! I was impressed with her knowledge and the calm, systematic way she helped all three of my teenagers while they were also in GCSE year." ... See Isabel Elson'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.

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 grew up in London, and was in school at Godolphin and Latymer before deciding to head to the US to attend Phillips Academy, Andover for high school. I then went on to study History of Art at Harvard University where I graduated magna cum laude with high honors. After two years working at an art gallery in New York, I returned to London where I received my Master's degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art. I have since returned to New York where I am working toward my PhD at CUNY Graduate Center.

Throughout my education I have benefitted form tutoring to help me achieve my academic goals and I understand how effective one-on-one teaching can be in preparing for big tests, catching up in a specific subject, and also building confidence. I am particularly experienced in helping students prepare for US independent and boarding school entrance examinations (ISEE, SSAT) and in working with students who need help with their personal essays or general applications for boarding school or university. As an alumni admission representative at Phillips Academy, I have worked with many students who are working on preparing applications to boarding schools and enjoy helping them to identify their strengths and use those to build a strong application. ...
Having worked in the education space for over four years as a Senior Academic Mentor and University Admissions Counsellor, I have built up my experience of working with a wide range of students. My primary focus has been on SAT & ACT tutoring, US & UK University Admissions Counselling, and general high school Mathematics tutoring. I take a 'mentorship' approach to my work with students and focus on building a strong relationship based on trust and respect to ensure that students feel well-supported and are able to improve their abilities and performance levels. ...
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. ...
After finishing two degrees from Stanford and Kingston Universities (covering a range of topics from philosophy of religion and mathematics to critical theory) I am now preparing to teach philosophy in prisons and studying to become a psychoanalyst. ...
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. ...
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. ...
I graduated from the University of Oxford in 2019 with a BA in Human Sciences. Based in Central London, I now split my time between teaching and music.

I have significant experience as a tutor (40+ hours since the start of the academic year) and have recently taken on a classroom teaching job at The Academy School, Hampstead, where I teach KS3 Science.

Studying a uniquely broad degree and benefitting from outstanding teaching at Oxford, I have developed a strong understanding of the biological sciences (from Ecology to Animal Behaviour to Genetics), leading me to focus on tutoring Biology to A-Level (or below). I was a College Scholar at Oxford and have maintained a strong academic record throughout my education, achieving 2A* (Chemistry and Biology) and 1A (Maths) at A-Level while at Mount Kelly School.

My tutoring style is responsive and comprehensive, going far beyond the time I spend with a tutee. I believe that the most productive tutoring involves solutions and resources tailed to individual learning challenges - this preparation process is an essential part of my teaching style. ...
I am a graduate of Durham University, where I completed a BA in English and Philosophy. Although I went to university in the UK, I grew up in New York, and completed all of my schooling in America. I attended one of the top boarding schools in the country, Groton School, on an academic scholarship. I took the SAT and AP exams, earning some of the highest scores in my class for both. I have been tutoring since the age of 15, as part of a tutoring program at Groton. I continued at university for English and Philosophy students, and post-graduation, here in London. Having attended both US and UK education systems, I understand and can work with both curriculums, especially with school and university entrance exams and processes. ...
I am a friendly, encouraging teacher with over a decade's experience, particularly with students aged 11-13. Since graduating from Cambridge 13 years ago I have taught students of all sorts of abilities and ages (5-58) anywhere from Notting Hill to Nairobi. My curiosity about the world has drawn me to journalism as well as teaching. I worked at the Telegraph for two years and now I write about arts and culture for The Economist’s 1843, The Spectator and Apollo magazines. I am also the co-author of 'What on Earth is Going On? A Crash Course in Current Affairs' (HarperCollins, 2009 - Sunday Times 'Stocking Filler of the Year'). Both my teaching and writing are informed by a desire to understand the world, and to help others do so too. ...
I grew up in a family that moved every few years, so I attended school first in private academies in Singapore, then the U.S. public school system. I went on to Harvard University, where I focused on the social sciences and graduated with a degree in Women & Gender Studies. After working in tech in the US, including over 3 years building and leading the customer support organization at Uber, I am currently pursuing a Master of Science at the London School of Economics.

As a lifelong bookworm and overall nerd, I look to bring that excitement for learning to those around me, be that within a classroom or in the workplace. During my undergraduate years, I focused my extracurricular time tutoring in and leading an organization that provided free English Second Language classes. At Uber, I personally coached 11 direct reports to develop leadership, analytical, and people management skills, either directly promoting or facilitating their promotion to higher level roles within the company.

I am well versed in the US system, including AP and college entrance exams, and I particularly enjoy working with students through the entire admissions processes, especially when it comes to personal essays. In addition, I can support any students looking to gain presentation and data analysis skills. You can always count of me to bring some humor and levity to facilitate learning, whether the topic is the SAT exam or using Excel. ...