The ISEE test is very challenging for many reasons, as described in this article. The students taking the test are self-selecting, so the pool of test-takers is already made up of the brightest students. The article also states that the ISEE test is vulnerable to test prep, meaning that with proper ISEE test prep, students can surpass their expectations and still get a very high test score.
The ISEE (Independent Schools Entrance Exam) is a standardized test for admission to independent schools, developed and administered by the ERB (Educational Records Bureau). It is the test of choice for the majority of independent day schools and, consequently, is of continual concern to admission-crazed families.
The ISEE appears to be the most daunting of all standardized admission exams. Most who take it are well prepared since they have grown up in a highly competitive independent school environment. So, although they frequently perform well above the national average, they may only produce average ISEE scores. Also, the ERB issues very little in the way of practice material and, unlike the SAT or ACT, the ISEE may be taken only once during each admission period, i.e., once every six months. Competition is fierce because doing well on the ISEE is essential for gaining acceptance to an elite middle or high school, considered a win in this early phase of jockeying for a position in the college-admissions race.
Despite these difficulties, the good news is that taking the ISEE is still manageable since its structure allows for the design of successful test-prep strategies.
The most difficult questions require students to analyze implicit ideas and synthesize disparate information to form logical predictions and conclusions. This higher thinking is not expected of younger students, but, again, can be taught to gain an advantage over a student’s peers.