Students can take the test multiple times, but what do admissions directors advise?

By Valerie Lev
Valerie LevFor the first time since the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) was administered, in 1989, the ISEE Board is now allowing students to take the test more than once. For students planning to take the test this fall, the following two times will be offered:

One time in either August, September, October, or November and one time in either December, January, February, or March. The February and March options are mute points because most schools require that an applicant’s file be completed by mid to late January. More information, including specific test dates and locations will be posted on the official ISEE website: in early August.

Does that mean, then, that students should take the test twice? Not necessarily, and, in fact, most middle and high school admissions directors advise that students take the test one time only.

At Learning Encounters, we recommend that students choose one of the following options:

1. Take the test in late November, after the student has had plenty of time to practice and prepare. Students will also have the benefit of being in school for three months, which can make a big difference in building their math skills. Then, if for any reason, they have a bad day, or didn’t do as well as they had hoped, they can practice a little more – hitting their weak spots – and retake the test in December or January.

Scores are suppressed until parents decide to release/submit them, so this is a safe way to go. For some students, just knowing they can take it again if they want to, helps put them at ease.

2. Take the test in early to mid-December, getting in as much practice as possible, knowing that there won’t be another time. There’s a strong argument for this approach. Students applying to secondary schools (as opposed to college or grad school programs) are young. This is a rough process for most of them. Just balancing their schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, and school applications, visits, and interviews can be overwhelming. Whatever we can do as adults to lighten their load is welcomed!

There is no right or wrong approach. Every family and every child is different, and each decision is personal. The best advice we can give to parents is to remember the following:

Your child is a person with a whole story to tell. An applicant’s performance in the classroom, an applicant’s interests, hobbies, and activities, an applicant’s background experience and personal qualities are more important to schools than a test score. Most, if not all, admissions directors will tell you that the one piece of information that is most important to them is the teacher recommendations, not the ISEE scores.

So, keep the ISEE in perspective, and do everything you can as a parent to help your child get through this fall with grace, dignity, and confidence!

Valerie Lev, M.A. Ed, is the founder of and director of Learning Encounters Inc. a tutoring center that teaches children through small group workshops.