About the ISEE

The Independent School Entrance Examination is an admissions test for private middle and high schools.

The ISEE tests in Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement, but is administered at three different levels, depending on the current grade level of the student. The Upper Level is for 9th graders and above, the Middle Level is for 7th and 8th graders, and the Lower Level is for 5th and 6th graders. The test also includes a written essay portion, but it is not scored and only provided as a sample of the student’s writing abilities.

What do we offer?


Session Structure

Our standard program consists of 1-on-1 and group tutoring. We provide comprehensive assignments and full-length practice exams for students to complete at home. Additional support is provided if desired.


Course Content

In addition to covering all ISEE content, we teach test-taking skills regarding time management, question interpretation, guessing strategy, and stress management.



Both in-session and at-home assignments are designed to cover the content of the ISEE while implementing test-taking strategies.

Local schools that accept or require ISEE testing:

  • Menlo (Atherton)
  • Castilleja School (Palo Alto)
  • Woodside Priory (Portola Valley)
  • Marin Academy (San Rafael)
  • Harker (San Jose)
  • The Nueva School
  • Drew (San Francisco)
  • Kehillah Jewish High School (Palo Alto)
  • Branson (Marin Co.)
  • Lick-Wilmerding (San Franciso)  
  • Belmont Oaks (Belmont)
  • Pinewood

Frequently asked questions about the ISEE

When and how do I register for the ISEE?

Students can take the exam a maximum of one time per season. The ISEE testing seasons are Fall (Aug.-Nov.), Winter (Dec.-Mar.), and Spring/Summer (Apr.-Jul). You can search your region and register for the ISEE on the ERB Website

What is the format of the ISEE?

Timetable and Analysis of the ISEE

(LL=Lower Level, UL=Upper Level)

Section and Content Minutes Allotted Number of Questions

Verbal Reasoning

  • Synonyms (UL and LL)
  • Sentence Completions (UL)
20 LL: 34
UL: 40

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Understanding and application of concepts measured by Problem Solving and Quantitative Comparisons portions
35 LL: 38
UL: 37

Reading Comprehension

  • Six 300-word passages and questions
LL: 25
UL: 35
LL: 25
UL: 36

Mathematics Achievement

  • Concepts in arithmetic
  • UL includes algebra, geometry
LL: 30
UL: 40
LL: 30
UL: 47


  • Five-paragraph essay prompt
30 minutes

How is the ISEE scored?

The student receives a raw score, scaled score, percentile rank, and a stanine for each section. Many schools look primarily at the stanine when factoring the ISEE into their admission’s decision.

Stanine Chart

Percentile Stanine
1-3 1
4-10 2
11-22 3
23-39 4
40-59 5
60-76 6
77-88 7
89-95 8
96-99 9

What is a good score on the ISEE?

The determination of a ‘good score’ varies depending on the school. Many schools focus primarily on the Stanine ranking. Stanines 7-8 are considered “above average,” stanines 4-6 are considered “average,” and stanines 1-3 are considered “below average.” However, it is important to remember applying to independent and private schools can be a very competitive atmosphere, and many schools, especially elite schools, can be very selective.

Does Gallagher Prep ISEE prep focus on both content and test-taking strategies?

Yes. As a standardized test, there are effective testing strategies that can give your student an edge when completing the ISEE. Our tutors focus on the ISEE’s content across all sections while also emphasizing time management, question interpretation, guessing strategy, stress management, and other test-taking strategies.

Where can I find more information about the ISEE?

The Educational Records Bureau (ERB) website is an excellent source of information and provides a free downloadable guide entitled What to Expect on the ISEE for each level of the ISEE exam.