St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School Blog

Decoding the SSAT and other Spooky Private School Tales!

Posted by Jon Kunz on Oct 31, 2017 12:13:51 PM
Jon Kunz

If you are reading this information, chances are you have either registered your child to take the SSAT or are in the consideration stage. Regardless, the information below will serve to answer some of your questions regarding the SSAT directly from an admission officer’s point of view. Read on and begin the decoding process!

24811971328_2946fa1c33_k.jpgI have heard that the SSAT is a “common measure”.  What about the SSAT is “common”?

When you hear an admission officer summon the phrase “common measure,” he or she is simply confirming that the SSAT (or other admission tests like the ISEE) provides schools the ability to measure student abilities outside of subjective components of the admission process (i.e. teacher recommendations, interview, and grades...sort of). In other words, it’s the best way for them to get an “apples to apples” comparison among students applying to their school. The SSAT is actually not common at all.  Only about 1% of school-age students in the US take the SSAT. Now THAT is spooky!

True or False: Scoring below a 60% on a section of the SSAT means you have failed that section.  

False. If your answer to this question was True, you are not alone. Understanding the SSAT’s intent, and even more importantly, a private school’s intent when it comes to using SSAT scores, can be confusing, unnerving and, dare I say, downright scary.  Yes, the SSAT is an important component to a student’s admission file, but there is no such thing “failing” the SSAT.  

If scoring below 60% on a section of the SSAT is not failing, what are middle schools and high schools looking for in terms of a percentage or norm?  

I’m afraid this is a question only the school’s admission officer can answer for you. In most cases, a school is not looking for a specific score. Admission officers, and the members of the admission committee review team, are looking within the score to determine a student’s ability to be successful within their curriculum. Every curriculum is different. And every school has a different answer to this question.  

What if my child does not perform well on the SSAT? Should I withdraw them from the admission process?

No. You might want to contact the admission office to see if they can provide you with possible insight, but unless they tell you to withdraw the application for you child, forge ahead.  

Ok. I am forging ahead. But how much does a school weigh the SSAT?

What you need to remember about the SSAT is that it is only one component of the admission process for the vast majority of private / independent schools. Most schools like to use the SSAT and other standardized tests as barometer readings. In other words, what is this student’s likelihood of experiencing success at our school? If a student does not perform as well as they hoped on the SSAT, other components of the admission process can overshadow the low score(s). If a student has superior grades, great teacher recommendations, and a strong interview, a lower set of SSAT scores will not hold as much weight. Also, admission officers’ artwork comes by the way of the student body composition. They want to build classes composed of students with many different skills, interests, and talents, so merely focusing on students who score over 90% on their SSAT does not necessarily help them to meet the goal of creating a well-rounded class. And finally, an admission committee worth its salt will strive to look at the complete picture of the student.  

If my child does not do well on the SSAT, should I have them take it a second time?

This one really depends on some circumstances. Did your child take the SSAT without prep early in the fall? Did your child mention they felt “off”? Was your child sick heading into the test? Did your child mention they could do better? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be worth your time having your child take the SSAT a second time. The good news is that you can take the SSAT as many times as you like. I would not go overboard though - that will just spook out the admission office.

Do schools “superscore” the test results if my child takes the SSAT more than once?

This is another question you will need to ask your admission office. Many admission committees will note the fact that a student performed better the second time on a particular section while maybe not performing better overall. This might help alleviate concern relative to that student experiencing success in a specific area of academia.  

So there you have it. The SSAT decoded. The most important thing to remember as the parent of a child getting ready to take the SSAT is to not stress him or her out with your anxiety. If you have a handle on the relative impact of the SSAT and other standardized testing, your knowledge and understanding will ease the mind of your child.  

And remember, check back often as we help to debunk the myths and unravel the mysteries of private school admission.

Visit SSAT website for more information about the SSAT or to register for a test date. St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School will be hosting the SSAT on the following dates:

  • November 10, 2018 (last day to register is November 7, 2018)
  • December 8, 2018
  • January 5, 2019

Topics: School search, Looking at private schools, choosing a school

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