How to Prepare for the ISEE in a Week or Less

  • Posted By: Hannah Grandine
  • December 27, 2017
A person holding a small analog stand-up clock, likely considering the amount of time they have left to take the ISEE.

We’ll start off by saying this: we do not endorse postponing your preparation to the last minute if you have the option to start earlier. At Test Innovators, we recommend starting your preparation at least six to eight months prior to your test date. This gives you ample time to become familiar with the content and structure of the test well ahead of your test date, and to figure out what specifically you may need to work on to improve your scores.

That said, we also realize that life happens! Sometimes you don’t even know you need to take the test until a week before school deadlines (or even later). So, if you’re in this less-than-ideal situation, all is not lost! Here’s what you can do to prepare before test day:

1 Week Before the Test:

Take a full-length practice test. Taking a practice test is the most important thing you can do to prepare – not only will it help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses, it will also help you to familiarize yourself with the content and structure of the exam so you won’t see too many surprises on test day.

The Lower Level ISEE is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and the Middle and Upper Levels are 2 hours and 40 minutes long, so be sure to set aside enough time to take the entire test.

Pro tip: Schedule a free tutoring consultation with an ISEE expert. The tutor consultation is a 20-minute, parent-focused chat to evaluate your initial practice test results and discuss the best ways to prepare based on those results. The tutor can also offer additional tutoring if that is something you're interested in. Try to get this scheduled for as soon as you can.

6 Days Before the Test:

Evaluate the results of your practice test in-depth and figure out what you need to improve on.

Things to look at:
  • Scoring analysis and target scores for schools you're applying to. Are there certain areas that you are weak in? If you're already doing well in some sections, do not spend time improving scores in those sections. Since you have limited time, it's critical to focus only on the areas that will see the most improvement through preparation.
  • Time management. Did you spend too long on any one question? Did you run out of time on any of the sections or have to rush at the end?
  • Question types per section. Analyze each individual section to figure out which question types would benefit the most from additional attention (e.g. algebra questions or sentence completions). It may help to focus on subjects that are familiar but just need a bit of review.

Determine one to three areas of improvement to work on before test day – these will be unique for each student depending on how you did on the initial practice test. For example, these areas of improvement could be a specific question subtype, a category like vocabulary, or overall time management.

5, 4, 3, and 2 Days Before the Test:

Practice daily – be dedicated!

Work on your specific areas of improvement by homing in on applicable practice exercises, watching targeted videos, or taking practice test sections.

And don’t forget to spend some time on the essay section!

Pro tip: Sign up for an ISEE Crash Course or one-on-one tutoring session. Crash courses are three-hour group classes that cover tips and strategies for all of the sections on the ISEE. If you aren't able to attend a Crash Course or if you prefer to work with a specialist one-on-one, you can schedule a one-on-one tutoring session, which is tailored to whatever you'd like to work on.

The Day Before the Test:

The day before the test , it's important to relax. If it helps ease anxiety, review a few last-minute concepts, but DO NOT cram or stay up late. Be sure to gather everything you'll need on test day and get a good night's sleep.

Test Day:

On the day of the test, wake up on time, eat a good breakfast, grab everything you need, and head to the test center early. It’ll be just like what you've practiced, and you're going to do great. Best of luck!

Start preparing for the ISEE today!