Just when you thought there couldn’t be yet another standardized test, there is — the SSAT has become the subject of many queries. SSAT is an acronym for Secondary School Admissions Test. The SSAT is sometimes confused for the SAT 2, but in reality the two are extremely different. Where the SAT 2, along with the SAT and ACT, is required by certain colleges and universities for admission, the SSAT doesn’t generally have a place on a college application. Rather, the function of the SSAT is to test students’ knowledge and aptitude for admission to independent schools—that is, private elementary, middle, and high schools.
The SSAT is intended, as the ACT and SAT, to be a potential indicator of student performance, in this case in a private school setting. The ACT and SAT are available through the College Board, but the SSAT is offered by a different organization altogether. While the College Board tests are mainstays of the admissions process for students entering college, the first SSAT was only recently offered in 2011. The format of the SSAT, however, is not dissimilar to the ACT and/or SAT.
The SSAT test is made up of multiple choice questions in Quantitative Reasoning (mathematics included), Verbal Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension. Like the SAT, the SSAT also requires an essay. In this case, though, the essay is not included in the calculation of score; rather, a copy of the essay is sent along with scores to the school(s) of the student’s choosing.
The SSAT is offered on three different levels: Elementary (grades three and four), Middle (grades five, six, and seven), and upper (grades eight and beyond). The test is also graded on three levels: Elementary on a scale of 900-1800; Middle on a scale of 1290-2124; Upper on a scale of 1500-2400. The test is offered in October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and June. Students also have the opportunity to schedule outside of these parameters with what is called a “flex test.” All scheduling can be done on the official website at www.SSAT.org.
The SSAT is scored nearly identically to the SAT. Each correct answer is worth one point, and each incorrect answer costs the student one-fourth of a point. Answers left blank, or “omitted,” are neither added nor subtracted to the final score. The idea behind this scoring method is that it makes the test “strategy-based.” Rather than blind guessing, students must rely on the ability to self-assess. Strategy-based tests can be a source of anxiety for students and parents alike, but one thing to remember about the SSAT is that scores are calculated on a curve, based on peer performance. The scaled final score will reflect the student’s aptitude in comparison to others of the same demographic.
The SSAT is offered as one private school entrance exam; the other most-frequently offered independent entrance exam is the ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Exam. Like the SAT and ACT, these tests are weighted differently by school. Some private schools only accept the ISEE and vice-versa. Unlike the SAT and ACT, most schools do not have a clear favorite (for example, most Ivy Leagues consider the SAT the more impressive of the college entrance exams). Other factors to consider—the ISEE is generally considered the more math-heavy of the two, and students with higher verbal skills may perform better on the SSAT.
The key to the SSAT, like all high pressure tests, is preparation. Parents should help students understand the format of the test, hone their individual strategy, and combat test anxiety. Parents and students should also remember that the SSAT is only one component of an application. To get help preparing for the SSAT, contact SAT Preparation Group here for information on their SSAT, SAT, ACT, and GRE course offerrings.
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