ISEE Upper Reading Comprehension Review Course


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The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) for the upper levels is a comprehensive academic skills test designed for students applying for admission to grades 9 through 12 at independent schools. It’s designed to provide schools with an accurate measure of the student’s ability to handle a more challenging curriculum.

Where Is the ISEE Test Offered?

The test is offered all across the United States either at the actual school your student is applying to or at a nearby ISEE office. Students can choose from a number of different options depending on what is most convenient and most comfortable for them.

For example, students can choose from large-group testing sessions, small-group testing sessions, or individual testing sessions depending on which one will allow them to perform their best on the exam.

How Long Will Students Need to Complete the ISEE?

The entire ISEE will last two hours and forty minutes. Students will have 35 minutes to read all six passages and answer all 36 questions about those passages in the reading comprehension section.

In addition to the exam itself, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early to check in and figure out where to go. You will also want to add about 10 or 15 minutes after the test in case there are any questions or concerns your student wants to talk with the test administrator about.

So, altogether, expect your student to spend about three and a half hours at the testing location.

What Will Students Need to Know for the ISEE Upper Level Reading Comprehension Section?

The reading comprehension portion of the ISEE upper level test will be composed of six reading passages, each of which will be followed by six questions about the passage. The texts will be pulled from a range of subjects and genres including history, literature, science, and contemporary life.

While the student doesn’t need any specialized knowledge about any of these subjects, it’s important that they have a fundamental understanding of the vocabulary and style that are characteristic of each one. This understanding will allow them to understand the meaning and information of the text as well as draw conclusions and inferences beyond it.

As your student prepares for this test, make sure that their reading choices (see the preparation tips below) include texts that come from all of these subjects and genres.

What Is the Minimum Score Needed on the ISEE?

No minimum score is required because this is not a pass/fail exam. It’s simply used as a measure of your student’s academic skills. That means that the better they do on the test, the more likely a school is to feel confident that the student can succeed in their classes. However, this is not the only criteria schools use when making admissions decisions. So make sure you devote as much effort to the rest of the application as you do to this test.

How Can I Help My Student Prepare for the ISEE Upper Level Reading Comprehension Section?

In order to excel on the reading comprehension section of the ISEE, they will need to use a variety of preparation methods, including reading practice, comprehension practice, and ISEE specific test-taking practice.

For the first two, have your student start reading on their own time. They should read a variety of different texts including literature, newspapers, and informational nonfiction. However, they should also choose texts that they are actually interested in. Help them create a daily reading schedule. Then, after they have finished reading for the day, ask them comprehension questions about what they read. Questions include:

  • Can you summarize what you just read?
  • What was author’s purpose for writing this?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Why is this information important? Who will it affect and how?
  • What other texts that you’ve read did this text remind you of? Why?
  • What was the tone (mood) of the writing?
  • Were there any words or phrases that you didn’t quite understand or thought should have been written differently?
  • What motivates the characters in the story to say and do what they are doing?

For the second two methods, your student will need the Mometrix Study Guide which has been tailored to meet the exact requirements of the ISEE upper level test. It will provide sample reading passages that are extremely similar to the ones your student will see on the actual test. Then it will provide useful strategies for approaching and interpreting those passages.

The guide should be combined with Mometrix Flashcards for the best results. These flashcards include additional practice questions and will help your student improve their speed and accuracy when it comes to answering questions so that they can get through the test within the time limit.

Upgrade your studying with our ISEE Upper Level study guide and flashcards:
ISEE Upper Level Study Guide
ISEE Upper Level Flashcards
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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: January 14, 2021