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Breaking Down the SSAT

The SSAT (and ISEE) scores needed for admission at different schools vary. Some schools require higher scores than others, and it’s hard to know exactly where the “cut-off” score lies (or even if a school has a specific cut-off score). It’s generally true that schools consider a wide range of factors in admission, and standardized-test scores become more important if they are very low or if schools have other reservations or considerations about the student. Sometimes, a student who has low test scores but great teacher recommendations and a mature personality will still be admitted to a competitive school, as some schools recognize that smart kids do not always test well. Let’s take a closer look as we breakdown the SSAT below.

What is the SSAT?

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a multiple-choice aptitude test for students in grades 5 to 11. The test consists of verbal, quantitative (math) and reading comprehension sections. The verbal questions test your vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and ability to relate ideas logically. The quantitative (math) questions test your ability to solve problems involving arithmetic, elementary algebra and geometry and concepts. The reading comprehension section tests your ability to understand what you read. All tests are printed in English.

In addition, the test includes a writing sample portion, which asks you to respond to a topic statement. Your essay is not graded, but a copy accompanies each SSAT score report you have sent to a school or consultant.

Reasons for Taking the SSAT

The SSAT measures student ability. It is not an achievement test; therefore, it acts as a common denominator for schools in measuring a student’s academic capabilities, regardless of his or her school record. When used for admission by independent schools, the test is only one piece of information that is considered. Schools also review the applicant’s school grades, extracurricular participation, teacher recommendations, essays and interview results. SSAT scores, however, do carry some weight in varying degrees among independent schools. Consequently, you should be as prepared to take the test as possible.

What is the National Test?

A national test is a group administration held at many sites in the USA, Canada and internationally on eight Saturdays each year. SSAT tests are typically administered eight times during a school year, from October to June.

  • You may register by mail or fax until the regular registration deadline.
  • You may register online until the test date, if space is available.
  • Additional late or standby fees apply for last-minute registrations.
  • Chinese students may take a national test up to 5 times per year in China.

Creating a New Account

The first time you register for the test, you will be asked to create a new SSAT account. This account is for a single student only and will help you manage your test registrations, school inquiries and applications for the year.

*Note: If you have already registered for a test, you will need your SSAT web login ID to access your account.

Score Information: About Your SSAT Scores

Your SSAT score report will provide detailed explanations to help you understand each of your scores. The following is an example:

a.) Scaled Scores
Verbal, Quantitative, Reading, and Total
Scale for grades 5-7: 440-710 (V/Q/R), 1320-2130 (Total)
Scale for grades 8-11: 500-800 (V/Q/R), 1500-2400 (Total)

b.) SSAT Percentile Ranks for each category
The SSAT ranks (1-99%) compare your scores to those of other students who have taken the SSAT in the past three years.

For example, if your Verbal SSAT Percentile is 65%, you scored equal or better in the Verbal section than 65% of students (of your gender and grade) who took the SSAT in the past three years.

What is a “Good” SSAT Score?

It’s also very important to keep in mind that students who take the SSAT are compared to other very high-achieving students, and therefore it’s hard to always score in the top percentiles on these tests. In other words, if a student scores at the 50th percentile on the SSAT, he or she is about at the middle of students applying to private school—a group of generally high-achieving kids. Such a score doesn’t mean that the student is average on a national level. Keeping these facts in mind can help reduce some of students’ and parents’ stress around testing.

When Will My Scores Be Reported?

Most scores are released to schools approximately two weeks after a test date. Printed reports are sent by mail, and online reports are posted to their SSAT Member Access account. Scores are released to families (by mail, FedEx and e-mail) a few days after the school score release date.

Will My Test Site Automatically Receive My Test Scores?

No. All score recipients (boarding schools) must be indicated in the Score Recipient section of the registration form using each school’s individual code.

If I Test Multiple Times during the Year, Which Scores Are Reported?

SSAT will send official score reports only to those schools you designate. However, please note that, if you test multiple times within the current test year, your official school score reports will indicate that you have multiple scores on file.