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 | 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.

ISEE | Scarlett M

"once meeting Scarlett and seeing his interaction with her I felt incredibly comfortable and knew we had done the right thing by him." ... See Scarlett M'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.

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 | Alexander Peter

"Our daughter has enjoyed working with her tutor Alex very much. She sat her test in mid October. Her results were quite good. We decided she could take it again in early December to see if she does even better. We’ve therefore asked Alex to continue with us for a few more weeks." ... See Alexander Peter's tutoring profile.

SSAT/ISEE | Catriona Ramsay

"We are back from our US school trip. Everything went well and I’m optimistic the girls will get into both schools and then have their choice of where to go. Their ISEE results are in and they are strong (99th percentile and mostly stanine 9). Thanks so much for all your help." ... See Catriona Ramsay'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 | 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 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'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. ...
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 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 was brought up in Paris and moved to London to study at Imperial College, where I obtained a Bachelor’s and Master's degree in Theoretical Physics with High First Class honours. My research focused on the way in which alternative logic systems can help us bridge the gap between quantum mechanics and relativity. I was awarded Associateship of the Royal College of Science.

Although I am a science specialist, I also have a strong background in English and Verbal Reasoning. I sat the GRE in 2016 for entrance to US Grad School and got exceptionally good grades (Verbal Reasoning - 99th percentile, Analytical Writing - 93rd percentile).

Since 2011, I have offered private tuition for all major examination boards as well as working for the Imperial College summer schools. ...
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. ...
My name is Matthew and I have completed my History doctorate from Oxford, hold a first class History degree from Oxford, and received a masters degree (with distinction) in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. As well as my experience teaching in academic settings in one to one tutorials, I have extensive experience teaching students between the ages of 8 to 30 in a number of different settings - all to the highest standard. Though I specialise in preparing students for examinations in History and English, I also teach a number of other subjects at various levels. I am a teacher because I believe in the power of education to change the lives of individuals and the world. I believe passionately in the ability of all students, no matter their abilities, to achieve their potential with the right level of encouragement and personalised guidance. ...
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. ...
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. ...