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About the ISEE Essay

On this section of the ISEE Test, you will be required to write a short essay in response to an ISEE Essay prompt. The prompt is selected at random for each test date. ISEE Essay prompts consist of topics that are of interest to students (at each specific grade level) and provide students with a chance to tell about themselves. The ISEE Essay section allows you to demonstrate to the schools to which you are applying how you organize and express your thoughts in writing.

On the ISEE Test, you will be provided with a sheet of paper to write notes. The ISEE Essay is to be written in ink (erasable ink is permitted) on two pre-lined pages. Additionally, you must rewrite the prompt at the top of the first page. You will have 30 minutes to complete the ISEE Essay. During this time, you should organize your thoughts, make a short outline, and write the final copy.

ISEE Essays are to be written either in print or cursive, with a blue or black ink ballpoint pen, directly on the pre-lined pages.

ISEE Essay Prompts

Admissions officers are interested not only in the applicant's ability to describe ideas, make personal reflections, and organize thoughts, but also in learning personal aspects about the applicant. ISEE Essay prompts generally ask applicants to describe a place, experience, event, ambition, idea, object, person, or animal. For example, you might be asked:

  • Who is your favorite relative and why? 
  • Which historic figure would you like to get to know and why?
  • What place would you like to visit most in the whole world and why?

ISEE Essay Practice Tips

  • Read the essay prompt carefully. While taking the test, you may be tempted to complete a question as quickly as possible. While keeping an eye on the clock is a good tactic, rushing through questions is not. Make sure to fully understand the essay prompt before proceeding to answer it. A wrong answer is an immediate zero, no matter how well-written or insightful it is.
  • Read previous ISEE essays. This will give you an idea of what essay graders are expecting of you. It can also give you a chance to see what not to do.
  • Practice with sample prompts. Though you may not get the same exact prompt as the one you practiced with, you may very likely get a similar one. Understanding the format of a typical prompt will help you defamiliarize yourself with the appropriate writing style, and give you a more hands-on idea od the writing process that will be involved.
  • Set a timer. To replicate the testing conditions as much as possible it is highly recommended to set a timer. This will get you used to the time constraints and help you feel less pressured during the actual test.

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