If you’re studying for the ISEE Upper Level exam, timed practice tests should be at the core of your preparation. Use these tests to learn what ISEE questions are like, how to best approach them, how to manage your time, and what your weaknesses are. If you identify a weakness in a learnable skill, such as a mathematics formula, brush up on that skill with targeted lessons, review and practice problems. By targeting your weaknesses and working with actual ISEE questions, you should begin to improve your scores.
Unfortunately, the ISEE has only released one official Upper Level practice test. Unlike some other standardized tests out there, the ISEE is very guarded with their questions. That said, there is enough quality material available to work with if you know where to look.
Here are the very best practice tests for the ISEE Upper Level.
The Very Best: Official Tests
Start with the official ISEE Upper Level practice test, available for free online here. Note that this test is slightly abbreviated (it leaves out the “experimental” questions you’ll see on test day that don’t count toward your score), so it will be a little shorter than the actual exam. That said, this is the best ISEE test out there—the questions are authentic ones, written by the test makers themselves.
Once you’ve worked through the Upper Level test and completely understood why you missed the questions you did, there is one other official ISEE test you can take: the Middle Level official test. Even though this is “Middle Level” (for students entering grades 7 and 8), it is remarkably similar to the Upper Level exam. Some of the advanced math topics that appear on the Upper Level exam are missing, but otherwise the test is extremely close to the Upper Level in terms of difficulty and question types.
After finishing these two official tests, you still have more official ISEE questions you can study. They can be found in the “Sample Test Questions” sections of the What To Expect On the ISEE Middle Level and Upper Level booklets that I link to above (these booklets contain both the official tests and the practice questions). Make sure to work through and understand these problems before moving on to additional practice tests.
The Best Unofficial Practice Tests
When it comes to unofficial practice tests, there are a number of high quality tests out there that match the question types and difficulty level of the real exam very well. That said, there are more bad practice tests than good ones, so it’s important to choose your tests wisely.
As a general rule, practice tests written by experienced individuals who tutor and understand the ISEE well tend to be of higher quality than tests written by the large prep companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.). They can also be more expensive, however. While some of these books might cost $20 or $30, I believe they’re worth their price. There are individuals and companies selling ISEE books for hundreds of dollars apiece, but I have chosen to leave these books off this list. It’s not that their tests aren’t high quality—it’s just that you can find just as high quality tests for significantly less money elsewhere.
The following three books all offer extremely well written, high quality practice tests that match the question types and difficulty level of the real thing:
Five Practice Tests For the Upper Level ISEE, by Chad Mills – This is my absolute favorite of these three books. While all three are fantastic, these tests are the closest to the real thing that I’ve seen. The author acknowledges that he’s studied both the released ISEE questions and the official National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards off of which the ISEE is based, and it shows in the variety and quality of his questions. This book also has five tests, which is three more than the other two books.
The Best Unofficial Practice Tests For the Upper Level ISEE, by Christa B. Abbott – Two high quality tests written by another experience ISEE tutor.
Ivy Global ISEE Upper Level Tests, by Ivy Global – This book also features two excellent practice tests.
Can Be Helpful But Not Always Great Practice Tests
This section is reserved for practice tests written by the giant prep companies. Some are better than others, but none are anywhere near as faithful to the actual ISEE Upper Level as the exams mentioned above.
These tests might still be a good option if you’ve already exhausted all the above practice tests and don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for the exorbitantly priced tests that are out there. Here they are, in order of best to worst:
The Princeton Review: Cracking the SSAT & ISEE – This book features one Upper Level ISEE test, and it’s actually pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as the tests I’ve already mentioned, but it’s still pretty on target and worth taking.
Barron’s SSAT/ISEE – This book features two ISEE practice tests. They’re not classified as “Upper Level,” but they generally match the Upper Level test in difficulty. While the Barron’s features some challenging questions, which is a plus (given the ISEE does as well), some of the questions require calculations that are nearly impossible to do in a timely fashion without a calculator. This is different than on the actual ISEE, where any arithmetic can usually be simplified so that lengthy calculations are unnecessary.
Peterson’s Master The SSAT & ISEE – This book has two Upper Level tests. The tests are a little uneven: some of the questions approximate ISEE difficulty well, whereas others don’t. Some of the math sections are almost entirely made up of word problems, unlike on the actual ISEE where there are a number of geometric figures and visual presentations of data.
Kaplan SSAT & ISEE – Please avoid these practice tests. There are two, both of which are written as hybrids of the Middle and Upper Level versions. The questions fall far below actual ISEE difficulty level and do not reflect the range and variety of ISEE question types.
Make sure that ISEE practice tests form the core of your prep plan. There are a lot of ISEE Upper Level practice tests out there, but it’s important that you work with the best of them. Always work through the official tests and questions first. Once you’ve finished those and learned from your wrong answers, use this guide to help select the best unofficial practice tests. Remember, practice makes perfect!