Perhaps you’re considering applying to a private high, middle, or elementary school. In that case, most places require you to take the SSAT first. You might have several questions running through your mind, like “How do I get a score that gets me into the school of my dreams?” or “What is a good SSAT score?”. While there’s no clear cutoff for an SSAT acceptable score, keep reading as we remove some uncertainty by addressing how the SSAT is scored and what counts as a good score.
What is SSAT?
The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a mandatory entrance exam for various independent schools throughout America. Administered and created by Princeton’s Secondary School Admission Test Board, it is a multiple-choice test consisting of Quantitative (Math), Reading Comprehension, and Verbal sections. You can also respond to a topic sentence by opting to write a sample that isn’t graded.
However, it is submitted to your applied schools with the multiple-choice score report. Additionally, the Upper and Middle-Level exams have a section of experimental problems that are not scored. The SSAT can be taken at three levels:
- Upper Level (for current students in grades 11-8)
- Middle Level (for current students in grades 7-5)
- Elementary Level (for current students in grades 4-3)
The Elementary Level test has five sections, with one quantitative section, while the Upper and Middle level-based tests are divided into six sections. These sections include a verbal section, a reading section, two quantitative sections, one experimental section, and a writing sample to test your knowledge using new questions. The Elementary Level one is around two hours long, and the upper level tests are about three hours.
How is the SSAT Scored?
Let’s take a look at the scoring on SSAT and what you can expect:
What is a Raw Score?
A raw score on the SSAT refers to the number of questions you answer correctly on a section minus 1 ⁄ 4 of a point for every wrong answer. A scaled score is then obtained from this raw score, which ranges from 800 to 500.
What is the SSAT Score Range?
You might think that only your scaled scores will appear on your SSAT score report, but that’s not true. Depending on your performance on the SSAT Reading, Math, and Verbal, you will also obtain a percentile ranking on each section’s score and your total SSAT score. The percentile ranking is the percentage of first-time test takers in the same grade who’ve taken the exam on a standard test date in America/Canada within the past three years.
This group of test-takers is called the ‘norm group’, which is unique for each SSAT test-makers’ score. Like the raw score, your scaled score is converted into a percentile from 99 to 1. The median score of the norm group typically falls in the 50th percentile. If you score in the 70th percentile overall, you’ve performed better than 70% of the norm group test takers.
What Do Percentiles Mean?
Keep in mind that your percentile isn’t equivalent to the percentage of questions answered correctly, and neither does it compare your score to that of other students who took the SSAT on the same day. The percentile ranking merely compares your performance and that of other students in a designated norm group made by utilizing both your scaled and raw score.
What is Average SSAT Score?
While there are different numbers of questions in each SSAT section, every question is worth the same number of points. Here are the average SSAT scores according to the section:
The Quantitative Score
The Quantitative score comprises your performance on two separate sections having 25 questions each which are then scored together for 50 questions. The lowest SSAT Quantitative score is 500, and the highest falls around 800, with an average in between.
The Verbal Score
Based on how you perform on the SSAT Verbal section, this section’s score is determined from 60 questions. 30 of these are Analogy questions, and 30 are Synonym questions. The average SSAT score is somewhere in the middle of 500 to 800.
The Writing Sample
You won’t receive a score for the SSAT writing sample, but your response will still be submitted to the admissions team. With an option between a non-creative and creative prompt, you’ll have 25 minutes to respond and write a captivating essay to boost your chances of getting into your dream school.
The Reading Score
The reading score results from your performance on the section’s 40 questions, testing your knowledge using a single reading section. As with the other sections, the highest you can score is 800, and the lowest earned SSAT reading score is 500.
As for what is a good SSAT score depends on the school you’re applying to. Many schools don’t disclose their score range or the cutoff score you need to get in. Although they state that there is no minimum score for securing admission, low scores indicate future difficulties, and you’re unlikely to get in. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to aim for a high score that puts you in the 80th-90th percentile.
How to Achieve a Good SSAT Score: 7 Tips
Since preparing for and taking the SSAT can be stressful and overwhelming, we will now delve into some strategies you can adopt to do well on the exam:
Learn the SSAT Scoring System
Remember that every right answer on the Upper and Middle-Level SSAT versions earns you a point, and an incorrect response loses you a quarter point. There is also no penalty if you skip a question. You can form a guessing strategy when you get a grip on the SSAT scoring structure.
For instance, if you cannot eliminate some of the wrong choices and know there’s only a 20% possibility of getting it right, we recommend skipping the question altogether. However, in the case you are able to confidently eliminate at least three answers, take an educated guess because the odds of getting it right are more favorable.
Guessing is all about confidence, and what better way to learn to trust your gut and avoid overreaching than by familiarizing yourself with the practice tests and various sections?
Make a Study Plan
Let’s be honest; you can’t study for everything that could appear on the test because the SSAT is a comprehensive standardized exam. It tests students’ reading, quantitative math, writing, and verbal abilities. Instead, try to focus on areas where you need improvement and make a study plan on the material you intend to cover every day.
First, take a free 30-minute SSAT practice test online because this mini version by the actual SSAT creator covers essential aspects of the test and generates a report instantly that tells you what to study.
Use the official SSAT study materials, such as the printed guidebooks, to learn and sharpen your skills once you’ve determined your weak study areas. These guidebooks not only have online quizzes and tests, but are also filled with exercises, tips, and practice questions.
Solve Multiple Practice Tests
If you’re struggling with performing on the SSAT, fear not because standardized test performance is something most students get better at with time. When you hone your test-taking abilities, you can significantly improve your SSAT score and get a taste of what taking the SAT for college admissions will be like.
Various full-length SSAT practice tests are available online with an excellent interface resembling the computer-based SSAT, helping you get familiar with the exam pattern and questions. Additionally, there’s significant room for improvement since the online tests indicate which answers are incorrect and why. Even for the paper-based SSAT, these practice tests help students to build on their knowledge and replicate the testing experience.
Most private schools’ application deadlines are usually in mid-January, meaning that many students try to squeeze in taking the SSAT and studying for their end-of-term school work together. There’s also sports, recitals, winter concerts, and holiday festivities to cater to, making this time of the year stressful and overwhelming.
For this reason, the earlier you start preparing for the SSAT, the better. Start in the previous spring, so you have around a year to achieve an excellent result. For example, if you plan on applying in the ninth grade, take the Upper-Level SSAT in the spring of the seventh grade. You will likely do better on your second assessment if you retake the test.
Don’t Forget the Writing Prompt
Sure, the SSAT writing portion isn’t scored, but that doesn’t mean the private school admissions teams won’t review and compare your essay to another applicant’s. We recommend practicing essay writing before the test and focusing on structuring your story with a conclusion, body, and introduction.
Since you only have 25 minutes to complete this portion, it’s in your best interest to practice handwriting for the paper-based test or typing for the computerized test.
Adopt Healthy Habits
One way to fuel intellectual and mental activity is by eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting a good night’s sleep. So, go outside occasionally to get some activity and fresh air, put all devices away before bedtime, and skip fast food. When you adopt healthy habits into your daily lifestyle, you’re bound to see a positive impact on your performance, and it’s much more fruitful than adjusting your routine a night before the SSAT.
To enjoy a low-stress, healthy approach to SSAT preparation, establish a study plan that spreads out the course material over time. Don’t try to start cramming a few days before the exam because that’s surely a recipe for disaster.
Don’t Stress About Time
While every section of the SSAT is time, this allotment is intentional so that most students have adequate time to finish the test. If you have any disabilities that prevent you from completing in the allocated time, you can request accommodation for additional time during registration.
Not everyone works well under pressure, so even if you reassure yourself that you have enough time, it might not be enough. Instead, take practice tests because they are the best simulation and provide the experience you need to feel confident about taking the actual test.
And the best thing to do is strategize. As there’s no penalty for leaving questions unanswered, you should skip questions you have trouble answering and return to them only when you’ve answered the questions you know. Ensure you mark the questions you’re skipping on the answer sheet during the SSAT so you don’t accidentally put an answer to the next question in the previous row.
Wrapping Things Up: What is a Good SSAT Score?
Navigating the SSAT can be challenging, especially if you’re a first-time test-taker. You might be consumed by stress and jitters, impacting your ability to achieve the best result. The good news, however, is that you can plan beforehand and adhere to the tips mentioned above to achieve a good SSAT score. An excellent SSAT is bound to help you secure admission to your dream school, and you should aim to score in the 70th percentile at least to improve your chances of getting into schools.