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 would certainly recommend Scarlett to friends and colleagues." ... 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.

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 | 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 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 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'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 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. ...
Nicholas is a recent graduate of the University of Cambridge, where he studied Preclinical Medicine before moving to pursue global health projects. After a stint at the World Health Organisation Nicholas completed an MSc in International Health Policy at the London School of Economics and now works for the National Health Service in England. With a mother as a teacher, and many other family members working in education, he was exposed to the world of education at an early age, and has experience in working with children of all ages covering a variety of subjects. He has also spent time teaching in China and Kenya during university holidays. ...
Having boarded and studied at the King's School Canterbury, I then went on to graduate with a first class BA and an MPhil from St John’s College Cambridge in July 2017. I was then employed as a Philosophy and Theology teacher at Rugby school. Here I underwent teacher training for the PGCE and also functioned as a full time tutor to ten GCSE level boys, as well as choral assistant and shooting coach. Having worked closely with the head of Oxbridge, I am in a very strong position to advise on applications to leading universities worldwide. Balancing work with a competitive rifle-shooting at a semi-professional level requires huge drive and efficiency. I now work as a full time tutor, and bring this drive to each of the pupils that I work with in the hope that I can help them to realise their own passions and potential. ...
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 am a driven and enthusiastic tutor with over 8 years of tutoring experience. I have a passion for learning, and am currently completing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at UCL.

Given my academic background, I have experience teaching GCSE, A level and undergraduate level Psychology. I also have experience tutoring creative writing, English literature / language, and maths.

I have spent time training and working at The Princeton Review in New York where I taught English as a second language to children and adults, and worked with highly driven students on US boarding school and university test preparation (SSATs, SATs, ACTs). I have a specialized knowledge of US higher education.

I have spent time working in a private children’s therapy clinic, and my career has lent itself to working with students with a diverse range of learning styles, including working with students with special learning needs (i.e. ADHD, autism spectrum, dyslexia / dyspraxia / dyscalculia etc).

I hold an MA in Clinical Psychology, and a BA in Sociology from the University of Toronto. I believe in recognising the unique potential in each of the students I work with. ...
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 was born and raised in Washington, D.C., attending area private schools until matriculating at Yale University in 2008. After graduating, I spent several years working in PR, Marketing, and Content Creation roles before moving to the UK in 2017 to pursue my MPhil in Film and Screen Studies at Cambridge. I have worked with Wentworth since 2018, focusing mainly on US entrance exams for secondary schools and university.

I have worked successfully with clients both in-person and via Skype. In addition to teaching the material covered in these exams, I use my personal familiarity with the tests to focus particularly on helping students get used to the stressful and strange test-taking experience so that their results can best represent their full potential. ...
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. ...