The difference between the ISEE and SSAT is similar to that of the SAT and ACT. Here are a few similarities to note:
- Both tests are about the same length and consist of five comparable sections in verbal skills, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, math achievement and writing.
- Each test's verbal test contains out-of-context vocabulary questions for the first half. The second half of the ISEE is in-context vocabulary, while the SSAT instead tests analogies.
- Neither test scores its writing sample, but instead sends the the essays directly to the schools to which the student applies.
- The ISEE is the more literal, straightforward test, focusing more on the depth of its content (especially in mathematics) than on the creative, abstract presentation of its questions.
- The SSAT subtracts one-quarter of a point for each incorrect answer. Therefore, students must be more strategic about their guessing.
- The SSAT is more inferential, requiring the student think more creatively. It utilizes unconventional word problems, analogies, and various types of passages from nonfiction, fiction, and poetry (the ISEE’s reading passages are comprised of nonfiction only).
- The SSAT may be retaken multiple times, while the ISEE may be taken only once in each admissions cycle.
- The SSAT scores students between 440 and 710 for lower and 500 and 800 for upper on verbal, reading, and math.
- The ISEE scores scores between 760 and 940 on verbal, reading, quantitative reasoning, and math achievement.
Which one is right for me?
Even though you have the potential to score high on either test, the formats of the ISEE and SSAT do provide different test taking experiences.
- Literal thinkers who perform better at math
- Take the ISEE. Literal thinkers are perfectionists to a fault, often causing their decision making process to be more difficult. You will be more comfortable with a test consisting of fewer answer options (a-d instead of a-e) and also do not have to worry about deductions for wrong answers. The ISEE is also a more literal test that has a larger emphasis on math. The math is more complex and higher in volume.
- Abstract, creative thinkers who prefer reading/language arts
- Take the SSAT. As an abstract thinker, you are more inferential. You are better able to see the big picture in context, making your decision making process more defined. Because of this, the detail needed to perform well in math may be lacking. The SSAT is a more inferential test that has less of an emphasis on math.
Whether you are a literal or abstract thinker, stronger or weaker at math, or have any other academic strengths or weaknesses, your overall goal is to be the most well rounded test taker possible. Are you a literal thinker? Let's learn to become more abstract and a better decision maker. Are you an abstract thinker? Let's improve your detail. Learning these skills will prove valuable not only for the ISEE and SSAT, but for any area of academia.