Educators - Blog

SSAT vs. ISEE — A Cheat Sheet

Students and parents are often given a choice between the SSAT and ISEE, which can be confusing.  To help families who are facing this choice (and the professionals working with those families), Test Prep Works has developed a cheat sheet with the major differences between the tests and the important considerations that a family should understand when deciding which test to take.

Does the student want the opportunity to take the test multiple times?

The ISEE can only be taken once in a six-month period.  The SSAT can be taken more frequently and also allows score choice.  For some students it is a relief to take the ISEE once and be done, while for other students that is very stressful.  (One important caveat is that the SSAT can only be taken in a consultant’s office once a year.  However, a student can take a group administration in the same year if they have already taken it in a consultant’s office.)

Oil is to water as some students are to analogies

The SSAT verbal section has analogies, while the ISEE has sentence completions.  Some students can be really thrown by analogies.  The sentence completions on the ISEE may give those students more context to work with, which could boost the confidence and performance of those students on the test.

Types of math questions

The SSAT tends to include more questions that can be reasoned through, while the ISEE features much more specific terminology.  The ISEE is more likely to have math questions that are similar to what a student has seen in school.  Both tests have fairly predictable problem types that are highlighted in Test Prep Works materials.

Reading sections tend to be similar

We have not seen appreciable differences between the reading sections of the SSAT and the ISEE.

Options for test administration

The ISEE can be taken in large group setting, on a computer (at Prometric sites), and at a very limited number of consultant offices (and the ERB offices in New York).  The SSAT can be taken in a large group setting or at a consultant’s office.  The SSATB is working on computer testing as well, but hasn’t yet rolled out that option to the general public.

How incorrect answers are scored

To score the ISEE, only the number of questions answered correctly is added up.  No points are deducted for questions answered incorrectly, so students should answer everything.  On the SSAT, a quarter point is subtracted for each question a student answers incorrectly.  For some students (frequently younger ones), it can be very stressful trying to weigh whether or not to answer a question when they know that guessing could lower their score.

Geographical trends

While test preference varies widely geographically, we have frequently seen schools in the same region prefer to the SSAT for older students and the ISEE for younger students.