The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) essay presents a pivotal opportunity for students to distinguish themselves in the competitive landscape of independent school admissions. While the essay is not scored, it plays an indispensable role, offering admissions committees a glimpse into the student’s writing capability, creativity, and personality.

The ISEE essay is a critical aspect of the examination, enabling students to demonstrate their individuality beyond quantitative scores. It’s an avenue for students to articulate their thoughts, experiences, and perspectives in a coherent and reflective manner. Excelling in this essay can significantly bolster a student’s application, highlighting their readiness for the academic and social environment of competitive independent schools.

Understanding the ISEE Essay

What to Expect

The essay section presents a prompt that requires a response in the form of a well-structured essay. Students have 30 minutes to plan, write, and review their essay, making time management a key skill. The prompts are designed to be accessible to students at all levels of the ISEE, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to express their ideas.

The Essay’s Purpose

The essay allows admissions officers to evaluate a student’s writing skills, including grammar, vocabulary, and the ability to construct a coherent argument. It also serves as a tool to assess the student’s potential fit within the school’s community, looking for qualities such as empathy, curiosity, and resilience.

Preparing for the Essay

Knowing Your Audience

It’s important to remember that your essay will be read by educators who are looking for genuine insight into your character. They appreciate essays that are clear, concise, and reflective of the student’s true self. Demonstrating your understanding of the school’s values through your writing can further align your essay with the admissions committee’s expectations.

Choosing the Right Topic

Selecting a topic that resonates with your personal experiences or beliefs is key. It should be something you are passionate about, as this passion will come through in your writing. Avoid common topics that many students might choose; instead, opt for something that can showcase your unique perspective and experiences.

Writing Tips for a Stellar Essay

Crafting a Strong Introduction

An engaging introduction is crucial for making a good first impression. Begin with an anecdote, a quote, or a provocative statement to pique the reader’s interest. Clearly state your thesis to give your essay a clear direction from the outset.

Developing the Body

The body of your essay should expand on the thesis, using specific examples and experiences to illustrate your points. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea, with clear and logical progression from one idea to the next. Using varied sentence structures and a rich vocabulary can also enhance the readability and impact of your essay.

Polishing Your Conclusion

The conclusion is your opportunity to reinforce your thesis and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Reflect on the broader implications of your argument, and consider ending with a call to action or a rhetorical question to give your essay a sense of closure and thoughtfulness.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overlooking the Basics

Simple errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation can significantly detract from the quality of your essay. Avoid using slang or colloquial language, and ensure your essay maintains a formal tone appropriate for an academic audience.

Ignoring Structure and Flow

A coherent structure is vital for guiding the reader through your essay. Make sure your ideas are organized logically, and use transition words to ensure a smooth flow from one paragraph to the next. A disorganized essay can confuse the reader and weaken your argument.

Being Too Generic

Essays that feel generic or written to a formula lack the personal touch that admissions officers value. Your essay should reflect your individual voice and experiences, offering insights into who you are as a person. Avoid clichés and strive for originality in your examples and expressions.

Finalizing Your Essay

Revision Strategies

Revision is not just about correcting errors; it’s also about refining your ideas and expressions. Read your essay aloud to catch awkward phrasing or inconsistencies. Seek feedback from teachers, peers, or an isee tutoring professional to gain different perspectives on your work.

Time Management

Practicing your essay under timed conditions can help you become more comfortable with the time constraints of the actual test. Allocate time for brainstorming, drafting, and revising to ensure your final essay is well-thought-out and polished.


The ISEE essay is more than just a writing exercise; it’s an opportunity to make your application stand out. By understanding the expectations, choosing a meaningful topic, and following these writing tips, you can craft an essay that truly reflects your abilities and character. Remember, this is your chance to communicate directly with the admissions committee and make a memorable impact.

For further preparation, a variety of resources are available, including writing guides, practice prompts, and sample essays. Engaging with an ISEE tutoring professional can provide personalized feedback and strategies, enhancing your writing skills and boosting your confidence as you prepare for the ISEE essay.