How to choose for your child: SSAT or ISEE

ISEE parents SSAT

Applying to a private high school is similar in many ways to applying to a college, especially with college preparatory schools.  One thing is for sure: the process can be extremely daunting. The high school admissions process includes the application form, recommendation letters, a transcript, a tour of the school, an interview, a day of classes, and (perhaps most terrifying of all) several standardized tests.

The Secondary School Aptitude Test (SSAT) and the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) are the two admissions tests used to determine placement into independent and private junior highs and high schools. They're also probably the first standardized tests your child has taken.  Choosing between these two options can be confusing, but we’re here to help.

The Similarities

First off, there has been a lot of discussion around which test is easier or which is more favorable for admission.  It is important to note that both tests are roughly the same length and have five comparable sections in verbal, reading, quant, mathematic achievement, and writing.  Both tests also have “out of context” vocabulary questions that tests the student’s knowledge of vocabulary.

You are also able to select which set(s) of scores you submit to schools on both tests.

The Differences


The most notable difference between the SSAT and ISEE is the way your child is penalized for incorrect answers.  Like the SAT, the SSAT penalizes the test taker ¼ of a point for incorrect answers while the ISEE does not penalize you.

Test Registration

The SSAT is only offered 8 times per year.  The ISEE, however, provides more test date options, but you can only take it once every 6 months – which is a serious consideration when working under deadlines.

How to Decide Between the SSAT and ISEE

What is the School Preference?

The number one consideration when making the decision between the SSAT and ISEE is what your child’s top schools require.  You should allow the school preferences to guide your decision and timeline.  If your schools have no preference and accept both tests, then it is critical for you to know the differences between the two...

Does your child do better with verbal or quant?

If your child has more of a math mind, then then the ISEE might be better for him/her.  If you child is better with verbal/writing, consider the SSAT.  The verbal section of the SSAT is more difficult than that of the ISEE, whereas the math section of the ISEE is more difficult than that of the SSAT.

Does your child struggle with test taking anxiety?

As I mentioned earlier, your family can only take the ISEE once every six months, meaning the pressure is on for the student to do well for the first take.  Unlike the ISEE, the SSAT doesn’t restrict the amount of times your child can sit for it.

Is your child well-prepared?

The most critical piece of this decision-making process is building in enough time for your child to prepare for the test.  In building in extra time, it guarantees your child has enough diagnostic data from both tests to make a concerted decision.  Further, if you are opting for the ISEE, the one-time take won’t get in the way of your child being well prepared if your child has the requisite time to prepare and sit for practice tests.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT expository writing college admissions English MD/PhD admissions GRE GMAT LSAT strategy writing chemistry math physics ACT biology language learning test anxiety graduate admissions law school admissions interview prep MBA admissions homework help AP exams creative writing MD personal statements academic advice career advice study schedules summer activities Common Application history premed philosophy test prep computer science secondary applications organic chemistry supplements economics PSAT admissions coaching grammar ESL law statistics & probability psychology SSAT covid-19 legal studies reading comprehension 1L CARS logic games USMLE dental admissions Spanish calculus engineering mathematics parents research Latin verbal reasoning DAT excel political science French Linguistics Tutoring Approaches academic integrity chinese DO MBA coursework Social Advocacy biochemistry case coaching classics diversity statement genetics geometry kinematics medical school mental health quantitative reasoning skills time management AMCAS Anki IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs PhD admissions admissions advice algebra art history artificial intelligence astrophysics athletics business business skills careers data science internships letters of recommendation mentorship science social sciences software engineering tech industry trigonometry work and activities 2L 3L Academic Interest DMD EMT English literature FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Italian MD vs PhD MMI Montessori Pythagorean Theorem Python STEM Sentence Correction Step 2 TMDSAS Zoom algorithms amino acids analysis essay architecture argumentative writing campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets cell biology central limit theorem chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience cold emails community service constitutional law cover letters curriculum dental school distance learning enrichment european history executive function finance first generation student fun facts functions gap year harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles induction information sessions institutional actions integrated reasoning intern international students investing investment banking lab reports logic mandarin chinese mba mechanical engineering medical physics meiosis mitosis music music theory neurology office hours operating systems pedagogy phrase structure rules plagiarism poetry pre-dental presentations proofs pseudocode quantum mechanics resonance resume school selection simple linear regression sociology software stem cells study abroad synthesis teaching technical interviews transfer typology units virtual interviews writing circles