A Guide to the SSAT and ISEE

June 16, 2022

While researching independent schools, you have likely come across the terms SSAT and ISEE and are wondering what’s in these standardized tests and how to prepare for them. For decades we have been working with families to help prepare young students for these tests, using our own evidence-based curriculum, and have built a deep understanding of the independent school admission process.

In this Guide to the SSAT and ISEE, we want to share a collection of informational resources on the key topics. Hopefully, it will answer many of your questions about how to plan and prepare for the admission process. If ever you have questions, please feel free to contact one of our Program Directors (with no obligation) as they are experienced testing professionals and will be able to provide additional guidance and counsel.

Today’s independent school admission process is a holistic one. Your SSAT or ISEE scores are only one aspect of a multi-faceted application. School grades, rigor of curriculum, and teacher recommendations are usually the more important factors when deciding whether to admit a student.

Having said this, we realize that the tests are a consideration in the application process and are also a cause of stress and concern for families. At Summit, we want to help students achieve their full potential when it comes to these tests while minimizing the associated angst.

Our best advice is to become familiar with the process and then plan and prepare. With a test plan in hand, you can avoid unwelcome surprises, and rest assured that you know what is coming. Learn more about how Summit can help you prepare for the SSAT and ISEE.


High schools often have a preference for the SSAT, and middle schools often prefer the ISEE, but some schools have no preference and will accept either test. You’ll need to visit each school’s website to determine which test is required.


We traditionally recommend that students plan on taking their first SSAT or ISEE test in late fall, leaving the option open for taking a second test before school applications are due in winter. However, there can be circumstances where testing earlier in the fall makes sense for a particular student.

Start by taking a practice test to serve as a diagnostic for test preparation. Once you have a baseline score, you can work with a Program Director to determine the ideal testing and preparation timeline for your student. The score report from the practice test will also inform your tutor about focus areas for improvement and give the student an early exposure to the test-taking experience. Summit offers free, proctored practice SSAT and ISEE tests each week.

The Advantages of the SSAT Flex Test

It can be challenging to align your student’s schedule with the available standard test dates. The Flex Test can provide greater flexibility as you can schedule the SSAT or ISEE test on a date that works for you with an independent educational consultant. Taking the SSAT or ISEE as a flex test also offers the added advantage that students can take the test in a private or smaller group setting. We explain the SSAT Standard versus Flex Test and describe some advantages of the Flex Test in a recent blog post. 


Both the SSAT and ISEE report scaled scores. However, admissions offices historically have relied more on percentile ranks than raw or scaled scores. Each school determines its own standards for what are considered strong SSAT or ISEE scores.


Here is a resource that will give you a deeper dive into what’s on each of the tests and how they are structured. 


The Character Skills Snapshot was developed by the Enrollment Management Association (makers of the SSAT) as a supplemental online tool for schools to assess the character of their applicants.

Check the school’s website to determine whether or not the Snapshot is required or recommended as part of the application.


  • The SSAT is administered by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA). Visit SSAT website to locate a test center and to register for the test.
  • The ISEE is administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB). Visit ERB website to locate a test center and to register for the ISEE.