We have hit the mid-summer mark, and while most families should focus on enjoying their summer vacations, it isn’t too early to formulate an admission testing plan for the fall. For families applying to private middle- and high schools in the forthcoming school year, test planning should begin on August 1st, the day registration opens for the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE).
Because Compass primarily serves families in Northern and Southern California, information about testing sites in these areas will be covered.
About the Test
The ISEE is a standardized test utilized by independent schools to help determine admission decisions. It has four levels – Primary, Lower, Middle, and Upper – that are administered based on the grade to which a student is applying. For more specific information about the ISEE, its structure and content, how it is scored, and how it is utilized by admission directors, please see our comprehensive post on the topic.
When and Where to Register
Parents can register for the ISEE and select an administration date and site as early as August 1st. Registration can be completed online, by phone, or by mail, but online registration is most efficient. To complete the registration process, parents will need to create an account with ERB, which only takes a few minutes.
Students may take the ISEE one time in any or all of three testing seasons. The ISEE testing seasons are defined as Fall (August-November), Winter (December-March), and Spring/Summer (April-July). For Compass families, the most popular test dates are in November of the Fall season and in December and January of the Winter season; these dates will book up quickly! By taking the ISEE in close proximity to application deadlines in January and February, students will have completed the bulk of their first semester schoolwork and will be better poised to achieve peak scores.
Taking the ISEE Multiple Times
Although some directors of admission argue that testing more than once is excessive, there are certainly merits to sitting for a second official administration.
For one, given the dearth of available ISEE practice tests, taking an official ISEE during the fall testing season can provide invaluable experience to students. Second, with the knowledge that they can sit for another exam during the Winter season, fall test-takers tend to feel less anxious and may perform above expectations. Thirdly, when viewing the results of multiple exams, many admission officers will pick from the highest subscores across administrations (we call this superscoring in the world of college admission).
Ultimately the decision to take the ISEE more than once is a private one that involves multiple factors: a student’s availability and well-being, the advising of admission professionals, and the opinions of parents. Should you decide to register your student for multiple test dates, you will need to complete the registration wizard for each administration.
Unless a student has good reason, we seldom recommend signing up for a third ISEE. Usually, the Spring/Summer testing season is occupied by those who have missed traditional application deadlines and are applying to schools under special circumstances. This also helps explain why there are so few Spring/Summer testing options.
Other Registration Concerns
Small Group Testing
Various testing offices (not schools) across the country offer small group and/or individual testing for a higher fee: $180 for small group, $210 for individual testing. Small group testing offices will populate during the online registration process; however, families may also contact the offices directly to secure a space. I’ve pasted all small group testing offices and locations below. Please note that there are none listed in California:
ERB does a terrific job articulating the eligibility requirements for accommodations on its website. If a student is hoping to obtain accommodations, the family must submit an online accommodations request first, wait for an approval email from ERB, and then register at a testing site that can support the student’s specific needs.
It may take up to three weeks to receive word of approval/denial after a request is filed. To secure a desirable testing site with accommodations, we recommend that families submit their requests within at least 5 weeks of the targeted exam date.
Consortium Testing Sites
In California, the majority of testing sites are affiliated with regional school consortiums: geographic clusters of private schools that have agreed to use the ISEE as a criterion for admission. Unsurprisingly, quite a few consortium schools volunteer their campuses as testing sites.
As a rule, consortium testing sites are not allowed to be ‘better or worse’ than one another (this would violate the conditions of a standardized test); however, both parents and students tend to prefer test sites that are close to home and familiar. Anxious test-takers may be assuaged by the opportunity to take the exam at their current elementary or middle school. By registering early, parents are more likely to secure a coveted space at a local testing site.
Below, we have listed the testing sites for school consortiums most relevant to Compass clients: Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Francisco, and East Bay. NOTE: It is possible that additional testing sites will open as school administrators return in August and September. Begin by registering at one of the pre-existing testing sites (below), but you may periodically refresh the registration wizard in the fall to uncover additional testing sites.
- 9/16/17: Vistamar School (El Segundo)
- 10/21/17: Pacific Hills School (West Hollywood)
- 11/4/17: Chadwick School (Palos Verdes)
- 11/18/17: Vistamar School (El Segundo)
- 11/18/17: Berkeley Hall School (Los Angeles)
- 11/18/17: Pacific Hills School (West Hollywood)
- 12/2/17: Vistamar School (El Segundo)
- 12/2/17: Berkeley Hall School (Los Angeles)
- 12/2/17: Campbell Hall (North Hollywood)
- 12/9/17: Marymount High School (West Los Angeles)
- 12/9/17: Rolling Hills Preparatory (San Pedro)
- 12/9/17: Marlborough School (Hancock Park)
- 12/9/17: Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth)
- 12/9/17: Viewpoint School (Calabasas)
- 12/9/17: Windward School (West Los Angeles)
- 12/10/17: Milken Community School (Los Angeles)
- 12/10/17: Oakwood School (North Hollywood)
- 1/6/18: Chadwick School (Palos Verdes)
- 1/6/18: Rolling Hills Preparatory (Palos Verdes)
- 1/6/18: Marlborough School (Hancock Park)
- 1/13/18: Vistamar School (El Segundo)
- 1/20/18: Berkeley Hall School (Los Angeles)
- 1/20/18: Crossroads School (Santa Monica)
- 1/20/18: Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth)
- 1/27/18: The Buckley School (Sherman Oaks)
- 1/27/18: The Wesley School (North Hollywood)
- 1/27/18: Viewpoint School (Calabasas)
- 2/3/18: Vistamar School (El Segundo)
- 2/24/18: The Wesley School (North Hollywood)
- 4/21/18: Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro)
- 10/28/17: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 11/11/17: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 11/18/17: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 12/2/17: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 12/2/17: Mayfield Junior School (Pasadena)
- 12/9/17: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 12/9/17: Flintridge Preparatory (La Canada)
- 12/9/17: Polytechnic School (Pasadena)
- 12/9/17: The Chandler School (Pasadena)
- 1/13/18: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 1/20/18: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 1/20/18: Polytechnic School (Pasadena)
- 1/27/18: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 2/3/18: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 2/10/18: Maranatha High School (Pasadena)
- 12/2/17: Sage Hill School (Newport Coast)
- 12/9/17: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (San Juan Capistrano)
- 1/6/18: Sage Hill School (Newport Coast)
- 1/20/18: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (San Juan Capistrano)
- 1/27/18: Sage Hill School (Newport Coast)
- 2/3/18: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (San Juan Capistrano)
- 2/10/18: Harbor Day School (Corona Del Mar)
- 2/10/18: Sage Hill School (Newport Coast)
- 4/14/18: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (San Juan Capistrano)
- 10/21/17: San Francisco Day School (San Francisco)
- 11/18/17: Alma Heights Christian Schools (Pacifica)
- 12/2/17: Castilleja School (Palo Alto)
- 12/9/17: Crystal Spring Uplands School (Hillsborough)
- 12/9/17: Woodside Priory (Portola Valley)
- 1/6/18: Alma Heights Christian School (Pacifica)
- 1/6/18: Castilleja School (Palo Alto)
- 1/7/18: Marin Preparatory School (San Francisco)
- 3/3/18: Alma Heights Christian Schools (Pacifica)
- 5/19/18: Alma Heights Christian Schools (Pacifica)
- 11/4/17: The Seven Hills School (Walnut Creek)
- 12/2/17: Head-Royce School (Oakland)
- 12/2/17: Saklan School (Moraga)
- 12/2/17: The Seven Hills School (Walnut Creek)
- 12/9/17: The Athenian School (Danville)
- 1/6/18: Head-Royce School (Oakland)
- 1/13/18: Prospect Sierra School (El Cerrito)
- 1/20/18: The Quarry Lane School (Dublin)
- 1/20/18: The Athenian School (Danville)
- 1/20/18: The Dorris-Eaton School (San Ramon)
- 1/28/18: The Seven Hills School (Walnut Creek)
- 2/3/18: Saklan School (Moraga)
- 2/10/18: The Quarry Lane School (Dublin)
Students may also register for online testing at a Prometric office, but we advise against this option for a number of reasons. First, Prometric provides a range of educational testing to adults, so it is likely that ISEE-takers will sit beside adults on test day. Additionally, parents are required to be present at the office for the entire duration of the exam (nearly 3 hours). Finally, the greatest hindrance of online testing is a student’s lack of familiarity with the interface. There are no computer-based practice tests for the ISEE and nearly all preparation material is printed on paper.
The fee for Prometric testing is $185.
Fee waivers for both school-based testing and Prometric testing may be obtained by families. All fee waiver inquiries should be addressed to the school(s) to which a student is applying, not to the ISEE Operations office or ERB. Typically, the Director of Admission or one of his/her associates is responsible for granting fee waivers.
Submitting Results to Schools
After selecting your testing site, you are given the option to have your student’s scores automatically submitted to the schools of your choice. Once the test occurs, all schools on your recipient list will receive a score report; you cannot retroactively ‘remove’ a school from the recipient list and make your result ‘disappear’ from the school’s records. At Compass, we recommend that our students opt out of building their recipient list during the registration process. The schools to which our families apply may change, and perhaps more importantly, students who take the ISEE more than once may choose a specific test administration to submit. As it was mentioned earlier, unless otherwise specified by schools’ admission policies, not all test results need to be reported in applications.
Although registering for testings costs a hefty fee, submitting results to schools costs nothing and can occur any time after the exam. Just make sure that your results are sent by application deadlines.
Registration is just just one small piece of the admission testing puzzle. For more specific information about the ISEE, please check out our comprehensive guide for parents: ISEE Fact and Fiction – What Every Parent Should Know. You may also connect with one of our knowledgeable directors for a complimentary consultation.