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If your student is applying to independent schools, they may have to take either the ISEE or SSAT tests for admission. The ISEE and SSAT test your on-the-spot thinking, not the knowledge you already know. The following is a breakdown of both exams.

Which Test Should Your Student Take?

The subtle differences between the two tests make it hard to determine the best test for your child. That's where we come in. We're here to help you determine which test is the best fit. Stone Ridge Prep has the skills to guide your student through the concepts and strategies they will need for success.

Similarities between ISEE & SSAT

  • Spectrum of difficulty due to range of grade levels

  • Contain verbal, reading, math and essay sections

  • Reported scores are calculated by comparing results with other students of the same grade

  • Can be taken online or at test centers

Differences between ISEE & SSAT

  • Middle/Upper level SSAT is longer than Middle/Upper level ISEE

  • SSAT contains experimental section

  • ISEE verbal has sentence completions. SSAT verbal has analogies.

  • SSAT has a score penalty

  • SSAT has eight test dates for each academic year

  • ISEE can only be taken at most three times a year


The ISEE has five sections — verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement and an essay.

The verbal reasoning section consists of synonyms and sentence completions.

The quantitative reasoning and math achievement sections contain questions relative to the student's grade level and each ISEE level.

The reading comprehension section asks for analysis of fiction and nonfiction passages.

The essay section is not scored, but schools may use it to assess writing skills.


Each section has varying degrees of difficulty based on the ISEE level. The exam takes two hours and 20 minutes with breaks for students in the lower level, while the middle and upper levels take two hours and 40 minutes. The ISEE has no penalty for guessing.

Find more information on the ISEE or on the SSAT.

*SSAT is a registered trademark of the SSATB, which is not affiliated with this website. The ISEE is a registered trademark of ERB, which is not affiliated with this website.


There are three SSAT levels: elementary, middle and upper. The elementary level has five sections: quantitative (math), verbal, reading, writing sample and experimental sections. The test takes two hours and five minutes and has a 15-minute break between the verbal and reading sections.

The middle and upper level tests have six sections: writing sample, two quantitative (math), reading, verbal and experimental sections. The middle and upper level tests take three hours and 10 minutes with a 15-minute break. There is a five-minute break between the writing and first quantitative (math) section and a 10-minute break between the reading and verbal sections.

There are differences between the middle and upper level tests. The middle level contains two creative writing prompts that students must choose from in the essay section. The upper level essay has a creative prompt and an essay prompt. Upper level math contains more multi-step problems and algebra than the middle level. The upper level verbal and reading comprehension sections can have more difficult vocabulary and longer, more complex passages.

All three levels also have similarities. The verbal reasoning section consists of synonyms and analogies. Just like with the ISEE, the essay section is not scored but may be used by schools to assess writing skills.

Each section has varied difficulty based on the level of the SSAT. Students will receive a penalty of a ¼ point off of each incorrectly answered question.

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