Needless to say, having administered the SSAT test to hundreds of students in the Northern Virginia area, I get asked about SSAT scores… a lot!
And of the questions about the SSAT I usually receive, among the most common include:
“What score does my child need to get into ____ school?”
“What should my daughter wear?”
“Do you need a copy of her birth certificate?”
“Can my son eat lunch?” …and so on.
Among these, one thing is clear: the SSAT is confusing and parents, regardless of their experience, have a lot of questions about it.
So I wanted to take the time to answer the three most frequently asked questions about the SSAT to make the confusing process a little bit easier for parents everywhere.
During the peak SSAT season (late November – early February), I am asked on a daily basis what a good SSAT score is or some variation of the question. Many times parents want to know what score is necessary to get their child into a specific school. The truth is, there isn’t a magic number and it really depends on the child’s background and schools to which he or she is applying.
Most schools want to see above the 50th percentile, but some of DC’s more competitive schools are looking for students who are above the 75th percentile. However, almost every school will tell you that they take SSAT scores with a grain of salt.
Often times, SSAT scores are used as a benchmark. Once a student has reached a certain point, he or she will be considered for admission based on other information such as GPA, teacher recommendations, and extracurricular activities.
Finding out what SSAT scores a school typically looks for can be tricky, because unlike at colleges, most private schools don’t publicize the information. You can always ask an admissions representative what their average SSAT percentiles were for their last incoming class, but some will not share that information. The best bet is to try to aim for above the 50th percentile.
The SSAT offers the following accommodations to students: 1.5 extra time (extending the test time to 4.5 hours compared to 3.25), use of different test equipment (laptop with a spelling aid, calculator, etc.), answer directly in book, the use of a reader or scribe (a non-family member who can either read the test out loud for the child or bubble in the test booklet for the child), large print, and extra breaks for students with diabetes.
The most popular accommodation is extended time. This accommodation adds half of the standard time to each section.
So, for example, the reading section is typically 40 minutes, but with extended time, it is 60 minutes. It is important to note that students who receive this accommodation are still given the standard 5 and 10 minute breaks.
One of the most confusing parts of the accommodation process for parents is determining if their child will qualify. The general rule of thumb to follow is if the student receives the accommodation in school, then he or she will likely be approved for it on the SSAT. The SSAT typically mirrors accommodations granted on students’ IEP or 504 reports.
For students to be given accommodations during their test, parents will need to apply for those accommodations about a month in advance. To do so, parents must select the accommodations they are applying for and provide documentation, including a contact at the school who can verify the student requires these accommodations, and wait for the SSAT to either approve or deny these accommodations.
Some testing sites offer the SSAT on a national date for students with accommodations, but many students with accommodations prefer to take a flex test because of the smaller and more intimate atmosphere.
The SSAT has a statement on its website discouraging students from preparing for the test. However, the reality is, if your child does not prep for the SSAT, he or she will be at a disadvantage, especially in the Washington DC area, where test prep is the norm for the SSAT.
Working with an experienced SSAT tutor has a few advantages. First, students are able to take a practice test. For most students, one of the most challenging parts of the SSAT is the stamina required. Taking a practice tests allows students to get a feel for the length of the test and also the types of questions they will be asked.
Second, tutors teach content that students may not have covered in the classroom. Because the tests range in grades they cover (5th-7th graders take the Middle Level test and 8th-11th graders take the Upper Level test), there is a wide range of content covered on the SSAT. Additionally, the SSAT tends to be a logic-based test requiring more than just rote memorization. For many students, especially those on the younger side, this can prove difficult.
Finally, if your child is moving from a public school and only has experience with standardized state tests (such as the SOLs), where he or she is encouraged to answer every question, the SSAT is completely different. On the SSAT, students are actually penalized for guessing incorrectly. In fact, for every answer a student gets correct he or she gains a point, for every question he or she gets incorrect a quarter-point is deducted, and should a student omit a question, no points are deducted.
Even for students who have straight A’s and a firm grasp on the content, a few sessions with a tutor to learn strategies for the test often benefits them.
So if you think your child may benefit, you can request a free diagnostic test from us here, which will get you started off on the right foot. We’ve also outlined a typical timeline for the application process, which you can find here.
Have any other questions about the SSAT or the private school application process?
Let us know below in the comments! We’d love to help.