SSAT Truth: Inside Track From An Admission Director

Posted by Jon Kunz on Sep 14, 2020 12:41:23 PM
Jon Kunz

What you need to know about the SSAT

If you are reading this information, you are likely beginning to consider a private high school education. Whether you have already registered your child to take the SSAT or are considering registering for the SSAT, this information will serve to answer some of your questions regarding the SSAT directly from an admission officer’s point of view. 

MS2019664I have heard that the SSAT is a “common measure” of academic ability.  What about the SSAT is “common”?

When you hear an admission officer refer to “common measure,” he or she is simply stating that the SSAT provides schools the ability to measure student academic abilities in verbal, math, and reading skills which students need for successful performance in independent schools. These test results are typically used in addition to the subjective components of the admission process such as teacher recommendations, interview, and

grades...more on that in a minute. In other words, a common measure test is a good way for admission personnel to get an “apples to apples” comparison among the students applying to their school. Truth is, it's uncommon to take the SSAT as only about 1% of school-age students in the US take the SSAT. 

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

False. Understanding the SSAT’s intent, and even more importantly, a private school’s intent when it comes to using SSAT scores, can be confusing and nerve wracking. Yes, the SSAT is an important component to a student’s admission file, but there is no such as “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 in their school's 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. There is no limit to the number of Standard tests you can take in a testing year.

Contemplative student imageOk. 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 way of the student body composition at their school. 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 within a testing year (August 1—July 31). You may take the Flex test only once per testing year, in addition to the Standard test administrations.

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 16, 2019
  • December 14, 2019
  • January 4, 2020

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

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