Study Tips from an Orange County ISEE Tutor


The ISEE stands for Independent School Entrance Examination. The test consists of five sections: Verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement and an essay. Children who wish to attend an independent school will likely need to take this examination prior to acceptance. There are three different variations of the exam depending on the child’s age and grade level – book your Irvine ISEE tutor today. So what can you expect from each section?

Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section is broken into two parts- synonyms and sentence completions- and it is 20 minutes long.

If your child is not yet well versed in vocabulary and synonyms, now is the time to start working on it. I recommend doing a word of the day for younger children and using study tools such as flash cards for older children. A review of punctuation and sentence editing is also recommended (READ: “The Student’s Guide to Study Breaks“).

Quantitative Reasoning

This section is basically a math section but it uses word problems. Students need to use basic logic to solve word problems and determine what information is important and which information is misleading. Topics such as geometry, algebra, and problem solving will be covered in the quantitative reasoning section. It is 35 minutes long.

If your child is currently lacking (or has simply forgotten) any basic math skills such as numbers and calculations or needs a concept review for geometry or algebra, they should complete this prior to attempting the test. I suggest arranging for a short term test prep or math concepts tutor who can help your child with this review (READ: “Best Libraries in South Orange County to Study“).

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section is 25-35 minutes long depending on the level. During this part of the examination, students will read a passage and answer questions about the main idea, supporting details and vocabulary as well as other topics related to tone and flow.

The best way to comprehend what a passage means is simply to read, and read a lot. If your child doesn’t like to read for fun or if the exam date is nearing then I suggest that your child take a few practice exams using a test prep book for the ISEE. These books can be found on

Mathematics Achievement

This section is 30-40 minutes long depending on the level. This part of the exam is based on NCTM standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).

I recommend reviewing all of the math concepts that are appropriate for your child’s grade level. You can also visit the NCTM website to look further into the most up to date standards.

The Essay

This section is 30 minutes long. This essay is not scored but it is sent to the schools that the student is applying to as a way of providing a writing sample.

Even if a score is not given it is important that your child be able to express themselves well in writing (READ: “Ask a Nerd! How should I start my college admissions essay?“). They should have appropriate flow and transitions in their essay. Any argument should be supported with details and examples when appropriate and the main idea, topic or thesis should be clear and properly supported throughout the essay. The essay should also utilize proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Use a test prep book or a test prep tutor to help out with this section.

National Council for Teachers of mathematics

ISEE Information

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