ISEE Prep: Bromances, Frenemies, Stanines, and squishy terms.

Sporting a manpurse

When I first heard “stanine” I thought: “Oh, that poor lady. Did they name her after some guy named Stan?” It turns out it’s not a person, but a system for standardizing test scores. This makes more sense and is less upsetting than thinking some woman has gone through life saying “No, not Janine, Stanine.”

But turns out it’s actually pronounced “Stay-Nine” since it squishes the original title of the process called Standard Nine into one word (like romance and brother make bromance, murse = man + purse, friend and enemy make frenemy, giant + enormous = ginormous). Stanine is a way to explain test scores using just a single number from 1 to 9. The important part to keep in mind is that this isn’t the actual score, as in how many questions you got right or wrong, but instead it’s a way to see how your test score compares with everyone else who took the test.

How does it work? So, let’s say 100 people take a certain test. 4 out of the 100, or 4% of the test-takers, will be assigned a 9, 7. 7% will be assigned an 8, 12% will receive a 7, 17% will receive a 6, 20% will receive a 5 (which is the median of the range), 12% will receive a 3, 7% will receive a 2, and 4% will receive a 1. The percentages are standard regardless of how many people took the test. If 10, 100, or 1,000 people took the test, 4% of test-takers will receive a 9.7, 7.7% will receive an 8, and so on.

 Stanines help you and admissions officers make sense of all the scales, percentages, and raw test scores by giving you one number which you can use to figure out where you are in relation to the group.

A Sample ISEE Test Report

So you have your stanine number, but what does it mean? This is where it gets kind of cool, because it really breaks down to be pretty easy to understand: 1-2-3 are below average, 4-5-6 are average, and 7-8-9 are above average That’s it. Simple, right? Keep in mind that scaled scores that seem to differ by quite a range, like a 410 and 522, may end up being in the same stanine. It’s all relative.  If you’re in the 1-2-3, you have some work to do!


We hope this helps you get a grasp on your ISEE report. If you have questions, please comment below or join us at a free informational session.

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