Like all standardized tests, the ISEE offers opportunities to leverage partial knowledge and test-taking strategies in order to raise your score. While older students may find it easier to adopt sophisticated techniques, there are good techniques that younger students can learn, too. Students preparing for the ISEE Lower Level test (given in grades 4 and 5) can practice these smart steps to get more points on the test.
PREPARING FOR THE TEST
– Practice is imperative! Students must do full, timed practice tests, using the official bubble sheets and essay pages, taking the tests in one sitting to replicate real test conditions as much as possible. There is only one official practice test for the ISEE LL, published by erblearn.org and available for purchase here or free download here. This test is a slightly abbreviated version of the real one, but close enough to get an idea of where the student stands.
– After students take the official diagnostic practice test, they should go over their results, learn new vocabulary and math that they missed and continue studying the material tested. Books by Ivy Global, Summit and Test Prep Works contain material designed specifically for the Lower Level. Textbooks by The Princeton Review, Barron’s and Kaplan are good for some fundamentals, but the material tends to be much easier than the real test. Peterson’s, Arco and McGraw Hill are not representative enough of this test to be useful.
– Find additional practice tests from Ivy Global (a book with two practice tests or Ivy Global’s free practice test to download here) and Test Prep Works. Use practice tests from the other publishers noted above just for practice in basics; they are much easier than the real thing.
TAKING THE TEST
– Do not leave any answers blank! If you can’t answer a question, just choose “A”. If you think you might have time to go back to the question later, put a big circle around the question in the test booklet so you can find it later, but fill in the bubble sheet now. Color it in lightly if you think you might have time to go back to that question later.
If you have a strong feeling that one or more of the answer choices are WRONG, cross out the letter of the wrong answers in the test booklet so you’ll have a head start if you go back to the question later. Choose one of the remaining choices at random on the bubble sheet and lightly fill it in.
Be sure to go back over your bubble sheet near the end of the time allotted for the section to darken any bubbles you filled in lightly on first pass. You MUST PRACTICE this during practice tests so you learn to manage your time on the real test.
By taking timed practice tests and practice test sections, you should have a good idea before test day whether you are likely to have time to go back and review questions that you didn’t get to on the first pass. If you didn’t have time on the practice test, you won’t have time on the real one, so get into the habit of filling in your guessed answers strong and dark on the first pass.
TECHNIQUES BY SECTION
The ISEE has 4 sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and Math Achievement, plus an unscored Essay. In the next posts, learn key techniques to gain points in each of the scored sections and how to maximize the power of the essay.
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About the author: Karen Berlin Ishii, a graduate of Brown University, has 25+ years of experience as a teacher and test prep tutor. Karen teaches students in New York and internationally via Skype for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, ISEE, SSAT, SHSAT, IELTS, TOEFL and GRE, and also offers tutoring in reading, writing and math. Learn more about Karen at karenberlinishii.com.