10 Things to Understand for the SSAT (for Admissions)

ssatWhile we believe there are many more than just 10 important points about the SSAT, these are what Admission.org, the SSATB (the Secondary School Admission Test Board or the folks who administer the SSAT) believe Admissions Officers need to know about the exam for US Boarding Schools (and many other independent schools).  We’ll share the first 5  here and you can click to the website for the remaining 5:

5 of the 10 Things Every Admission Committee Member Needs to Know About the SSAT

  1. Standardized is a good thing. While “standardized testing” has garnered more than its fair share of negative media attention in the last few years, it is important to remember what “standardized” actually means. In the case of the SSAT and other standardized tests, it simply means that it is given under “standard conditions,” i.e., has uniform procedures for administration and scoring, regardless of testing date or center. The goal of standardization is to minimize as much variability as possible, so that the test is uniformly fair for all students across all administrations.
  2. All tests are not created equal. First and foremost, it is imperative that any assessment tool in any educational context be used and understood for the purpose for which it was designed and developed. This sounds like a no-brainer, but often, in- house placement tests and/or achievement tests—designed to assess mastery of specific curricular content—are used in the admission process to make decisions. As an admission test, the SSAT was specifically designed (with a deep research base behind it) for the sole purpose of providing a common measure across disparate educational contexts and for predicting first-year academic success in an independent school.
  3. You cannot use SSAT and ISEE scores interchangeablyThe Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is used by many fine independent schools. Like the SSAT, the ISEE is an admission test. However, while they are used for the same purpose, it is critical to remember that the tests are designed and scored differently. A 90th percentile on the ISEE is not the same as a 90th percentile on the SSAT. The two tests should be understood and interpreted independently as part of your school’s admission decision-making process.
  4. The bell curve gets a bad rap. We all rail against the idea of forced distributions— particularly when it comes to performance-based pay systems! But remember that admission tests, in order to fulfill the purpose for which they are designed, must create necessary differentiation within the applicant pool. Admission test questions are hard— they are designed to be answered correctly only about half of the time. The reality is that if all students performed equally well on the SSAT, it would fail to be useful when making selection decisions between and among applicants.
  5. The SSAT is a norm-referenced test. A norm-referenced test is different than a criterion-referenced test, because it makes test scores meaningful by indicating the test taker’s position relative to a norm group rather than a fixed standard. The SSAT norm group consists of all the test-takers (same grade/same gender), who have taken the test for the first time on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in the U.S. and Canada over the last three years. It’s important to note that students taking the test are applying to college preparatory independent schools, so the SSAT has a highly-competitive norm group.

For the remaining 5, feel free to click here to see what the SSATB believes you should know about the exam.

For more articles relevant to the SSAT:

Common Sense Talk about the SSAT

SSAT vs. the ISEE – Which one should you take?

Boarding Schools with the Highest SSAT Scores

What GPA and SSAT Scores are necessary to get into Top Boarding Schools?

One other bonus: Interesting SSAT Statistics by Ethnicity of Students at Mercerburg Academy (a boarding school in Pennsylvania)

SSAT statistics per ethnicity


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