How Does SSAT Scoring Work?
Last Updated on February 3, 2023
Taking the SSAT is an important day for a student’s future. White the SSAT is typically taken several times during a student’s life who is getting ready to enter privatized schooling, but that doesn’t make the process less nerve-wracking.
Then, once the test is taken, the scores will be sent out. If it’s a student’s first time taking the SSAT, these results can seem overwhelming or even confusing. Let’s break down how SSAT scoring works so students can go over their results and learn what they can do better on with the next SSAT test.
What Is The SSAT Test?
While everyone knows what the SAT is, the test that helps students get into colleges, the SSAT isn’t as widely known even though it is commonly taken. While the SAT is for getting into college, the SSAT is for getting into private schools.
SSAT stands for Secondary School Admission Test. This test has been around since 1957 and is primarily used in the United States to see if a student is ready to enter a private school. Many private schools will have an SSAT scoring range that they will want students to fall in, much like how colleges have a wanted scoring range for the SAT.
Students looking to gain admission into a private school can begin taking the SSAT test as early as 3rd grade until 11th grade. These students are assessed on their verbal, math, and reading skills. On the test, they will get specific scores under each of those topics, which we will delve more into below.
The SSAT can be taken in three different ways:
- At a paper test center where students take the SSAT on paper and pencil
- Digitally at a Prometric testing center
- At home
Students will decide which way they will want to take the SSAT. They can sit the test between August 1st and July 31st, giving students plenty of time to prepare.
SSAT Scoring Basics
The SSAT follows a specific structure each year so that test results can be consistent throughout different age groups and that students can apply what they’ve learned from mistakes on future tests.
As mentioned above, the SSAT is scored in three different categories. Students get tested and then scored on their:
- Verbal skills
- Quantitative (math) skills
- Reading skills
There will also be a writing sample that requires students to write a quick essay that will be analyzed by the test scorers instead of scoring on a typical range.
On most SSAT tests, there will also be an experimental section for students to fill out that doesn’t get scored but is instead used for data-gathering purposes.
The SSAT is broken down into three levels for different age groups of students. These are:
- Elementary level – The elementary level is for students in grades 3-4, where students begin to learn how the test works
- Middle level – The middle level is for students in grades 5-7
- Upper level – The upper level is for students in grades 8-11
When a student takes the upper SSAT level, their score will be based on how they do in each section, and that score will be added together to give the student their total score for the SSAT.
For students trying to get into private high schools, the SSAT matters at the middle level. However, students trying to get into private high schools can continue to get higher scores by taking upper-level tests and transferring to a private high school.
How Are Points Earned?
When taking the SSAT test, you earn a single point for each question answered correctly. This is the same, no matter what level a student is taking. Also, unanswered questions never get awarded points or have points taken away, no matter what level a student is taking.
The difference between levels shows how incorrect answers are handled.
- For the elementary level SSAT test, it is encouraged for students to answer all questions even if a student doesn’t know the answer. This is because an incorrect answer doesn’t result in negative points for the students. An incorrect answer will lead to no points awarded.
- For middle and upper level SSAT testing, there is a consequence for getting a question wrong that forces students to think carefully and critically about each question.
- For each question wrong, the student will receive a -1/4 point. This consequence isn’t huge but can make an impact on the student’s score if the student answers too many questions wrong.
The Score Range For Each Level
Earlier, we went over the total score range for the upper level SSAT test. Each level has a different total range that reflects the overall difficulty and length of the test.
Elementary Level Test
Each section on the elementary level SSAT test has a score range of 300 – 600. The highest score that an elementary leveled tester can receive is 1800, and the lowest score they can receive is 900.
Middle Level Test
As the student advances onto different levels of the test, the scores they can receive increases as well. The elementary level test has the lowest score ranges, and the upper level test has the highest possible scoring.
For the middle level SSAT test, each section has a score range of 440 – 710. This leads to the lowest possible score of 1320 and a highest possible score of 2130.
Upper Level Test
Each section on the upper level SSAT test is scored on a range of 500 – 800. The lowest score an upper level tester can receive is 1500, and the highest is 2400.
At the upper SSAT level, SSAT scoring is broken down in this manner:
- SSAT Verbal Skills: 500 – 800
- SSAT Quantitative Skills: 500 – 800
- SSAT Reading Skills: 500 – 800
- SSAT Total Score: 1500 – 2400. This is the total score from all the previous scores added together.
When trying to test in a private middle or high school, the institution will look at the score that the student received based on the level they took it and what grade they took it in, as those factors will change how a student would score overall.
SSAT Percentile Rating
As a student gets their overall SSAT score after they have completed the test, they will also be placed onto a percentile that compares their score to all the other testers in that level. Each section will be put in a percentile rating along with the student’s total score.
Each percentile is only taken by testers in the same grade for the past three years. A student tester in 10th grade won’t be put on the same percentile as a student in 9th grade.
A percentile covers a scale from the 1st percentile to the 99th percentile. This rating doesn’t show how many questions a student got right. Instead, it compares a student’s score to the other testers in the grade. A student who scores on the 50th percentile means that they scored the same or higher than 50% of the student testers.
Scoring in the 99th percentile means that the student has one of the highest scores.
Private institutions may have a percentile rating that they want their prospective students to achieve. Check in with your goal institution’s requirements to see what percentile and score range you/your child should be aiming for while taking the SSAT.
Personal Score Ratings
Personal score ratings only apply to middle and upper level SSAT testing. These are the spectrums of measurement for each subject area a student tests upon.
A student’s score will fall in the center of their personal score range, which shows both how a student has grown from the previous tests they have taken and gives an estimate of where they will score if they were to take the test again.
Instead of being compared to other students in the percentile ranking, the personal score rating compares a student’s score to themselves. Even if a student doesn’t score as well as an institution requires, this personal score rating can show the institution if the student is estimated to score high enough for the requirements in the future.
What The SSAT Test Looks Like by Section
While each section on the SSAT will fall into the same score range depending on which level of the test the student is taking, the number of questions in each section is different.
Verbal Skills Score
The verbal section is the first section that a student will take when taking the SSAT. This section has 60 total questions, which is the greatest number of questions the student will answer in any section.
The 60 questions are then broken up into two other sections. Thirty questions are synonym questions, and the other 30 questions are analogy questions. Students taking the verbal skills section will have to have strong synonym and analogy skills.
This section has the shortest amount of time for the volume of questions students have to answer. The verbal skills section is 30 minutes long.
Quantitative Skills Score
The quantitative math section is typically the hardest and lengthiest section for students to take. There are 50 questions total for this section which is once again broken down into two subsections.
Students will answer two sets of math questions for the Quantitative 1 section and the Quantitative 2 section. Each section is comprised of 25 questions, and the content depends on the age and SSAT level that the student is taking.
The first quantitative section is taken after the writing sample section, while the quantitative 2 section is taken after the verbal skills section. This gives students a break in between all the math they will have to do. Students have 30 minutes per section to answer the given questions, and they will not have access to a calculator.
Reading Skills Score
This section has the lowest number of questions in the entire test. The reading skills section has 40 questions based on seven passages that students will have to read.
A variety of genres will be covered with the different sections, and the questions will test the student’s comprehension of each section along with encouraging students to practice deep and critical thinking with the content they are reading.
This reading section is 40 minutes long, so students are encouraged to answer questions quickly while going through the material.
The Writing Portion
Again, the writing section is not scored like the previous sections are. Students have 25 minutes to respond to a creative or non-creative prompt in essay format.
These essays are submitted to admission departments, where they will be looked over and analyzed. Some departments say that there is a lot to learn about a student depending on how they wrote the writing portion.
This section doesn’t have a score that goes to the students’ overall SSAT score, but it is still very important to complete.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know If My SSAT Score Is Good?
We recommend that you check the requirements for the school you are aiming to get into. Each school will have a range of SSAT scores, and percentile ranges that they are looking for from prospective students.
If you have any questions about the requirements for a specific school, call their admissions office to speak with an advisor who can help you determine whether your score will be good enough for the school.
If My Score is Below the Required Score, Should I Bother Applying?
If your score isn’t too far below the required score, you can still apply! Many times, a school may take on a student even if their SSAT score isn’t enough to meet the requirements because they see other strong qualities in the student.
If you are worried that your score is too low, call the admissions office to see what else you can do to stand out in your application. For further information on the SSAT score, head to Test Prep Online.