Preparing for ISEE Primary Level Test

Are you thinking about helping your child prepare for the ISEE Primary Level test or attempting to find a quality ISEE Primary practice test online? In this article, we discuss a few important basics about the ISEE test as well as why your young child probably does not need to prepare for the ISEE at the Primary Level.

For prestigious schools, off-cycle and non-prime-entry admissions are often determined more by a parent’s relationship to the school than test scores. For less selective schools, admissions testing for young kids is more of a formality than an actual deciding factor. Read on to discover more! 

What is the ISEE?

Before diving further into ISEE Primary Level testing, it’s important to answer the question- “What is the ISEE test?” The ISEE stands for Independent School Entrance Examination. It is a specialized admissions test required by many of the most prestigious middle and high schools (and administered at less-selective schools more as a formality and revenue generator).  

There are four different ISEE test levels and each coincides with the entrance to different grade levels:

For more information on when to begin preparing for the Lower, Middle and Upper Level ISEE, please see our article: When to Take the ISEE. 

What does the ISEE test for?

As a diagnostic tool for understanding where your child stands academically, the ISEE is most relevant at the Lower, Middle, and Upper levels. This is because it not only tests what knowledge a student has, but also how they think, which is useful for admission’s committees.  

Students taking the ISEE in these levels will be tested on four subject tests — Verbal Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and Quantitative Comprehension. 

What Makes the ISEE Primary Level Different? 

Piqosity is the leader in test prep for the lower, middle, and upper levels of the ISEE test… so you may wonder why Piqosity does not also offer ISEE Primary practice tests or other Primary Level course materials—

1. The Primary Level ISEE is Not Offered During “Prime Entry” Years

A “prime entry year” is the year when most students start at a school. For elementary school, the prime entry years are pre-kindergarten through 1st grade depending on how young the school starts. For middle school, the prime entry years are usually 5th or 6h grades, and for high school, the prime entry year is almost universally ninth grade. Outside of these prime entry years, it’s extremely difficult to be admitted to the most prestigious schools since the only spaces available will be the ones left by previously-admitted students. 

The ISEE is typically taken as part of a larger application for students to get into private schools.  Most students elect to apply to these schools during “prime entry” years because that’s when the schools purposely have a set number of spaces available. 

However, the Primary Level ISEE is intended for students entering grades 2, 3, and 4; these are not prime entry years for Elementary school or even Kindergarten. 

2. Schools are Frequently Less Interested in Academic Assessments for Students at Primary Level Ages

There are simply not many academic measurements that private schools wish to assess at such a young grade level. To be blunt, most prestigious schools admitting “off-cycle” students at that age tend to care more about alumni relationships than actual merit. If the school requires you to take the Primary Level ISEE, it is largely a formality; your child’s Primary Level ISEE score will likely not make or break your child’s application. 

3. Testing Students at Such Young Age Presents Problems with Testing Conditions

The ISEE Primary Level test is between fifty-three minutes to one hour long. Especially for first graders entering Grade 2, it can be difficult to sit and/or focus for that length of time. The ISEE is also taken on the computer, and some young children may lack the computer understanding to succeed at this age.

Reasons Students Still Might Take the ISEE Primary Level Test

There are three reasons to consider taking the ISEE at Primary Level.

First, if the school your child wishes to attend requires the Primary Level ISEE, then your child will need to take it as part of their application. However, it is our experience that trying to prepare your child for the Primary Level ISEE at such a young age is still not likely to be worth your child’s happiness or your money. Your child will need to use the core concepts they have been learning over time in school. And again, your child’s Primary Level ISEE score will likely not make or break your child’s application.

The second reason is practice for future exams. We learn through experiences and building background knowledge; if your child has taken an ISEE test at an early age they may feel empowered and confident when taking it again at a later date. 

Finally, you may also want your child to take the test simply to build your child’s test score portfolio. Building a portfolio like this may look impressive to certain schools, and help make your child stand out from the pack.

What Does the ISEE Test for at the Primary Levels?

While the subjects tested on the Primary Level ISEE remain somewhat similar to the other tests, there are some key differences. The Primary Level ISEE tests 2-3 subject areas and includes an essay. 

  1. The first subject, only included in the Grade 2 test, is auditory comprehension. This short section includes an audio passage followed by questions that will test how well the child understood what they heard. Children will not see the text in this section, and they will have seven minutes to complete the questions.
  1. The second subject tested is reading. Depending on whether or not the child is taking the Grade 2, 3, or 4 test, they will read a few different passages, and answer questions about what they read. Passages are age-appropriate and may be fiction or nonfiction. Grade 2 has twenty minutes to finish, while Grade 3 has twenty-eight and Grade 4 has a full half an hour. 
  1. All three grade levels also test on mathematics. Grades 2 and 3 will have twenty-six minutes to complete this section, while those entering Grade 4 will have an additional four minutes. This section involves one math problem, again appropriate for your child’s grade level.
  1. Lastly, Grades 2 and 3 will receive one picture prompt for their personal essay. Grade 4 will receive a single written prompt. Your child would be able to take their time, as this section of the test has no time limit.

How is the Primary Level ISEE Graded?

Regardless of what grade level your child is entering, the scoring process is the same. There are no “wrong” answers with the ISEE test. Instead, there are four types of in-depth scores. The most general is the Stanine Score. The highest score is a Stanine Score of 7, 8, or 9, and an average Stanine Score falls into the 4, 5, and 6 range. Scores lower than this- 1, 2, and 3- are considered below average. 

The other three types of scores are Raw Score, Scaled Score, and Percentile Rank. Each of these scores will tell school admissions teams exactly what they want to know about your child before they are accepted. 

For a more in-depth look at ISEE grading, check out our article: What is a Good Score on The ISEE?

Piqosity: ISEE Test Prep You Can Trust 

Many parents will do anything to ensure their child receives the best education possible, while  also valuing the need to use their children’s time wisely. At Piqosity, we pride ourselves in providing advice you can trust. This includes being open and honest with our families when they probably don’t need to spend time and resources on test prep!

And when it’s time for your child to take the Lower, Middle, or Upper level ISEE test, we’ll be here. As the market leader for ISEE test prep materials, Piqosity provides in-depth ISEE resources and other test prep materials. Our course packages include full-length practice tests, lessons, tutorials, personalized practice, and more, all available via affordable, competitively-priced plans.

Sign up for free today to be connected to Piqosity’s test prep services. Then, when it’s the best time for your child to take the ISEE, we will be there to help!

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