The ISEE is scored along a normal curve, also called a bell curve, in which students are given a score relative to their peers – the norm group. For the ISEE, the norm group is students applying to the same grade from the three years prior to your student’s year.
Scores from the current year are not part of the norm group; therefore your student is not competing against their friends. Additionally, your student’s norm group is comprised only of students applying to the same grade. For example, an 8th grader will not be compared against an 11th grader.
These scores are then arranged in order and divided into nine, standardized groups, or sta-nines, ranging from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). Scores of 4, 5, and 6 are statistically average, while scores of 7, 8, and 9 are above average.
Your student’s Individual Student Report (ISR) will include 4 scores:
- The stanine
- Percentile Rank
- Scaled Score
- And # of questions correct in each section
The stanine is what you will hear parents and schools talk about. The percentile rank says the same thing as the stanine but is more specific on where the student falls within the stanine. The scaled score is more of an ERB internal measure by which to ensure that each iteration of the ISEE is of comparable difficulty.
Note that in this normal curve graphic, the percentage of questions correct is a “best guess” based off our experience with working with students over the last 10 years and will vary from section to section.
For example, students must get more questions correct in Reading Comprehension to score highly versus Quantitative Reasoning. Additionally, this number will change from year to year depending on the norm group.
What constitutes a “good score” is dependent on the schools to which your student is applying.
For example, for an academically rigorous school, students should aim to score a 7, 8, or 9 in order to be competitive.
Conversely, for a school that prides itself on accepting a wide academic range of students, average scores of 4, 5, and 6 are certainly acceptable. Depending on the student’s holistic application, even below average scores of 1, 2, and 3 can still be considered for admission.