How is the ISEE Scored?

  • Posted By: Celena Alduenda
  • December 30, 2020
  • 0 Comments

An important part of test preparation is understanding the test itself—the timing, structure, and of course, how the test is scored. For the ISEE, students receive a scaled score, percentile, and stanine score for each section of the test. Note: the Essay section is not scored. Instead, a copy of the essay is sent with the score report to the school recipient.

For the ISEE, the most commonly referenced score is the stanine score. Check out the four steps to calculating stanine scores.

Step 1: The Raw Score

The first step in scoring is calculating a raw score. This is quite simple.

Students receive one point for each correct answer and no points for incorrect answers or unanswered questions.

Tip: Because there is no score penalty for incorrect answers or unanswered questions, be sure to answer every single question! Answering all of the questions can only increase your chances of a higher score.

Step 2: The Scaled Score

Once a raw score has been calculated for each section, it is converted into a scaled score.

This conversion adjusts for the variation in difficulty between different tests. Thus, a lower raw score on a harder test could give you the same scaled score as a higher raw score on an easier test. This process is called equating.

The scaled score for each section ranges from 760 to 940.

Step 3: The Percentile Score

Next, the percentile score for each section is calculated.

Percentiles compare a student's scaled score to all other same-grade students from the past three years. This is important to understand because the ISEE is taken by students in a range of grades. The Upper Level ISEE, for instance, is taken by students applying to grades 9-12; however, the percentile score is based only on the performance of other students applying to the same grade. Thus, a student applying to 9th grade will not be compared to a student applying to 12th grade.

Here’s an example to help understand percentile scores: scoring in the 40th percentile indicates that a student scored the same or higher than 40% of students in the same grade but lower than 59% of students.

Step 4: The Stanine Score

Finally, the percentile is converted into a stanine score.

Notice that the percentile ranges for the middle stanines of 4-6 are far larger than the ranges for the extreme stanines of 1, 2, 8, or 9. This means that most students taking the ISEE achieve scores in the middle ranges. Only the top 3 percent of all test takers receive a stanine of 9 on any given section, while 20 percent of students receive a stanine of 5.


Now that you understand how the ISEE is scored, the next step is to practice so you can achieve your desired scores. Get started with your personalized ISEE prep today!