What’s on the Middle Level ISEE?

The Middle Level Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is for students in grades 5 through 7 who are seeking admission to private middle schools. It evaluates students in mathematics, reading, and writing, and is divided into five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and an Essay section. Here’s a table with all the basic info:

Verbal20 minutes40 questions
Quantitative35 minutes37 questions
Reading Comprehension35 minutes36 questions
Mathematics Achievement40 minutes47 questions
Essay30 minutes1 prompt

Now, let’s take a closer look at the content of the Middle Level ISEE. To begin with, the Verbal Reasoning section is composed of 20 synonym questions and 20 sentence completion questions. In other words, half of the questions will require you to identify the word that means the same as the given word, and half will require you to fill in a blank with the correct word. Each question has four possible answers.  

The Quantitative Reasoning section covers the following content areas: numbers and operations; algebra; geometry; measurement; data analysis and probability; and problem-solving. There are 37 questions that fall into two categories: word problems and quantitative comparisons. In a quantitative comparison question, you will be shown two values and given the following answer choices: 

(A) The quantity in Column A is greater.

(B) The quantity in Column B is greater.

(C) The two quantities are equal. 

(D) The relationship cannot be determined from the information given. 

Throughout the Quantitative Reasoning section, very little calculation is necessary. The focus is on reasoning, not on handling very large numbers. 

Next is the Reading Comprehension section. In this part of the Middle Level ISEE,  you will read six passages and answer six questions about each. These questions are multiple-choice, and they cover the following skills: identifying main ideas; identifying supporting ideas; making inferences; defining words in context; analyzing structure; and judging tone, style and figurative language. These topics are not covered equally, however: you will see a lot of questions about main and supporting ideas, organization, and inferences, but fewer about vocabulary, tone, and figurative language.

The Mathematics Achievement section covers the same topics as the Quantitative Reasoning section, but these 47 questions will require a bit more calculation. In this section, there tend to be more questions on data analysis and probability than on any other topics. In some questions, you will be asked to identify mathematical errors and correct them. In others, you will have to convert between units of measurement (don’t worry, the conversion factors will be given). 

In the final section of the Middle Level ISEE, you will have to compose a short essay in response to a prompt. Writing the prompt will not require any special knowledge, and most of the prompts are topics of personal interest to middle-school students. For instance, a prompt might ask you to discuss a problem in your school, or explain why social media is good or bad for middle schoolers. The important thing is to respond directly to the prompt in an organized, thoughtful style. 

And that’s it for the Middle Level ISEE! The whole thing takes a little under three hours. We wish you the best of luck on your test. Click here for our complete set of free ISEE study resources.