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As an educator, I’m often encountered by a question from parents and tutors – How are the SSAT & ISEE different? or from students Which exam should I take, the SSAT ot ISEE?

SSAT and ISEE are admission tests to independent schools. Over 900 private and independent schools in the United States, Canada, and worldwide consider SSAT student scores for admissions. The ISEE is an admission test developed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) for its member schools as part of their admission process.

Both measure the basic verbal, quantitative, and reading skills students develop over time—skills that are needed for successful performance in independent schools and hence in the future. These tests do not measure other characteristics, such as motivation, persistence, or creativity that may contribute to your success in school.

This brings us back to the question, ‘Which assessment should be taken for applying to schools?’ The answer actually lies with the schools themselves. Students should be very clear on the admission process of the individual schools before taking any test.

Some online research and discussion with students, parents and tutors has helped me come up with a comparison table between the SSAT and the ISEE.

 

No

SSAT

ISEE

1. Grade levels are:Elementary (applying for grades 4 & 5),Middle Level (applying for grades 6 – 8) andUpper Level (applying for grades 9-12) Grade levels are:Lower Level (applying for grades 5 & 6),Middle Level (applying for grades 7 & 8) andUpper Level (applying for grades 9-12)
2. Wrong answers are penalized by subtracting  one-quarter of a point for each incorrect answers. No points are subtracted for unanswered questions Students cannot take the risk of guessing answers. No penalty for incorrect or unanswered questions. Students can take the risk of guessing answers.
3. All questions have 5 answer options to choose from. All questions have only 4 answer options to choose from.
4. The SSAT is offered on eight designated Saturdays during the academic year between October and June. Limited Testing (only once) is offered to students who cannot take the test on Saturdays due to religious observance. Students may send to schools only scores of tests that they are confident of doing well. Connect to http://www.ssat.org/test/registration/fees-deadlines#calendar for the dates calendar 2014-2015. Though the ISEE is offered several times a year between November and May, the ISEE may be taken only when a formal application to a school(s) is being made. You can take the ISEE only once per admission season, and cannot take the ISEE for practice.
5. The SSAT gives scores between 440 and 710 for Middle level and 500 and 800 for Upper level on verbal, reading, and math. ISEE gives scores between 760 and 940 on verbal, reading, quantitative reasoning, and math achievement
6. The SSAT has two verbal and one quantitative test, while. Students who feel stronger with language are inclined toward the SSAT. However the final decision between the two exams depends on what scores does the school you applying to considers. The ISEE score is made up of half verbal and half math scores. Students who feel stronger in math tend to take the ISEE. However the final decision between the two exams depends on what scores does the school you applying to considers.
7. All questions on the SSAT are ‘multiple choice’ with 5 choices on each question. Some questions on the ISEE are of the ‘Column A/Column B’ type which test your ability to compare quantities.
8. The verbal section comprises of synonyms and analogies. The verbal section comprises of synonyms and sentence completions…no analogies!
9. Earlier on the writing section, SSAT used to give an argumentative essay topic to the Middle and Upper Level students. Students had to write about their interpretation, understanding & opinion (for or against or related questions)  for that saying. However, now Middle Level students are given a choice of two creative prompts from which they should write one. The Upper Level students have to choose between a persuasive essay prompt or a creative essay prompt. Elementary level test usually has a picture as an essay/story prompt. The ISEE essay prompt (for all leves) is usually a question that asks students to describe a person, animal, place, object, experience, idea or a ambition. Writing about an idea or ambition is usually for the Upper Level students.
 10. It has been observed that the SSAT is more about complex wording and logical reasoning than mastery of the material. So if you   good at solving puzzles and dealing with complex concepts, then you could consider taking the SSAT…provided SSAT scores are accepted by the schools you are applying to. However if you have a good mastery of the material and are not so comfortable with strangely worded questions, then you could take the ISEE. The ISEE is observed to be a more straight forward exam demanding good math, writing, and reading skills rather than logical reasoning. Again, the choice is valid if ISEE scores are accepted by the schools you are applying to.