The ISEE in Alamo is an entrance examination for students who wish to study in private middle schools and high schools across the United States. If you want to study at these elite schools then this is the test you’ll need to do well on.

Here are some things that you should expect when taking the ISEE in Alamo:

All test-takers from the Lower level (5th and 6th grade), the Middle level (7th and 8th grade), and the Upper level (9th to 12th grade) are required to answer all five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and a 30-minute un-scored essay. The Lower Level is just a bit shorter while the Upper Level is only a little longer. The big difference is, of course, the coverage of the tests and the level of difficulty, specifically geared for test-takers of different ages.

Here is a peek first at the Middle Level test’s structure and timing for each section:

Verbal Reasoning – 40 questions, 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning – 37 questions, 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension – 36 questions, 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement – 47 questions, 40 minutes
Essay – un-scored, 30 minutes.

The biggest challenge is the length of the test, considering the number of questions. The test-takers will be in for some pressure especially if they didn’t prepare well enough for the exam.

Unlike other tests, the ISEE doesn’t give a single, aggregate score. Instead, it provides four scores, one for each section of the test except the essay part. Although the scores are different, almost all schools will consider each and every score on its own as well as the average of the four scores. For example, if you have a low score on Verbal Reasoning, that will be compensated by a higher score on Mathematics Achievement.

Similar to other standardized tests, the ISEE considers the number of correct answers as your raw score, which is then converted into a scaled score. Since there is no penalty for the wrong answers, guessing is perfectly fine, and the number of correct answers will always be equivalent to the raw score.

Scaled scores for every section range from 760-940 — which is rather odd. The scaled scores are accompanied by percentile ranks, which indicate how a student fared on the exam compared to the other students. Based on the number of questions that the student answers correctly, each student is designated with a percentile rank from 1 to 99. For example, if the test-taker has a percentile rank of 70% it doesn’t mean that she is 70% correct on the test. Rather, the 70% means that they performed as well as or better than the 70% of the test-takers at the same grade level. Most of the percentiles will remain the same over time, although they may differ only slightly.

Learn about the more complicated part of the scoring. Every percentile rank is converted into “stanines” or scores that range from 1 to 9; 1 is the lowest and 9 is the highest. Below 5 is “below average” while above 5 is “above average”; 50% of the students score a 5 on any section. For example, the same student having the percentile rank of 70% has a stanine score of “6,” making the student “above average.”

To make it clear, here’s the example of ISEE’s percentile-to-stanine conversion:

Percentile Stanine

1-3 1
4-10 2
11-22 3
23-39 4
40-59 5
60-76 6
77-88 7
89-95 8
96-99 9

The stanine scores are the most important for admissions and not the scaled scores or the percentile ranks. That’s why these scores are the ones you should be focusing on.

Here are a few tips on how to do well on the ISEE in Alamo:

1. Answer each and every question – There is no penalty for wrong answers so take a guess when necessary. Also, remember there is a limited amount of time to answer the questions but it’s best to answer every single question and never leave each of them unanswered.

2. The ISEE is not like the regular exams you take in your school, where you are expected to know all or most of the questions because they have been taught. The ISEE does not merely test the knowledge that has been currently taught to you. Instead, the ISEE is a more difficult test — please be reminded that for example, the Upper Level is geared for 9th to 12th graders, so expect to encounter some questions that are made for older students.

Knowing that, you should set realistic expectations. Don’t compare ISEE to your regular school exam where you could get an “A” grade. On the ISEE, you may get many answers wrong but still manage to perform well because your scores will be compared to those of the other students only at your grade level. So do not feel discouraged.

3. Learn the strategies of answering the ISEE questions. You can practice that with someone in your family, some of your classmates, or a tutor. Take time to research on the Internet for some helpful tips on how to do well on each section. Prepare and practice for at least two months before the test day.

4. It is recommended that you should stop practicing two days before the test day, especially if you have prepared well enough for the test. So two days before the exam, rest and sleep well, eat a good breakfast, avoid caffeine and just relax! Remember that the ISEE also requires a lot of stamina as you will encounter some challenging questions. It is definitely better to come to the exam not only fully prepared, but also relaxed and energetic.

Among the standardized tests, the ISEE in Alamo has probably the most complicated scoring and structure. But once you understand what is expected, it will help you prepare to score very well on this test.