Test - About the SSAT

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Welcome to the SSAT!

The SSAT is the required admission test at many of the best independent schools in the world.  This test is one important step on the path to an independent school education.  Your SSAT score is one part of your complete application to an independent school; and while it is important, it is not the only criteria for admission. 

The SSAT is designed for students in grades 3 through PG and is administered on three levels (Elementary, Middle, and Upper​​).  There are two types of SSAT test administrations: the Standard administration, which is given on eight designated Saturdays during the academic year at test sites around the world, and the Flex administration, which is an individual or group test administered on any date other than the eight Standard dates.

The SSAT is a Test for Admission

The SSAT is designed for students who are seeking entrance to independent schools worldwide. The purpose of the SSAT is to measure the basic verbal, quantitative, and reading skills students develop over time—skills that are needed for successful performance in independent s​chools. The SSAT provides independent school admission professionals with meaningful information about the possible academic success of potential students like you at their institutions, regardless of students’ background or experience.  The SSAT is not an achievement test. Your most recent classroom math test, for example, was probably an achievement test: Your teacher specifically designed it to evaluate how much you know about what has been covered in class. The SSAT, on the other hand, is designed to measure the verbal, quantitative, and reading skills you have acquired, instead of focusing on your mastery of particular course materials. Further, SSAT tests are not designed to measure other characteristics, such as motivation, persistence, or creativity, that may contribute to your success in school.

The SSAT is Written by Teachers and Test Experts

The SSAT measures three constructs: verbal, quantitative, and reading skills that students develop over time, both in and out of school.  It emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for academic success.  The overall difficulty level of the Middle and Upper Level SSATs is built to be at 50%. The distribution of question difficulties is set so that the test will effectively differentiate among test takers who vary in their level of abilities.  In developing the SSAT, the SSATB convenes review committees composed of content experts and independent school teachers. The committees reach consensus regarding the appropriateness of the questions. Questions judged to be acceptable after the committee review are then pretested and analyzed. Questions that are statistically sound are ready to be selected and assembled into test forms.

The SSAT is Reliable

The SSAT is highly reliable. The scaled score reliability is higher than .90 for both the verbal and quantitative sections and is approaching .90 for the reading section, which is considered quite high in the educational field.  

The SSAT is a Norm-Referenced Test 

The SSAT is a norm-referenced test. A norm-referenced test interprets an individual test-taker’s score relative to the distribution of scores for a comparison group, referred to as the norm group. The SSAT norm groups consist of all the test takers (same grade/same grade & gender) who have taken the test for the first time on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in the United States and Canada over the past three years. The SSAT reports percentile ranks which are referenced to the performance of the norm group. For example, if you are a boy in the 8th grade, and your percentile rank on the March 2013 verbal section is 90%, it means that 90% of all the other 8th grade boys’ (who have taken the test for the first time on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in the United States and Canada between 2009 and 2012) scores fall below your scaled score. 

The same scaled score on the SSAT may have a different percentile rank from year to year, and the SSAT percentile ranks should not be compared to those of other standardized tests because each test is taken by a different group of students.  In contrast, a criterion-referenced test interprets a test taker’s performance without reference to the performance of other test takers. For example, your percent correct from a classroom math test is 90% because you answered 90% of the questions correctly. Your score is not referenced to the performance of anyone else in your class.  

It is important to remember that the SSAT norm group is a highly competitive group. You are being compared to all the other students (same grade/same grade & gender) who are taking this test for admission into independent schools—some of which are the most selective in the country. Most important to remember is that the SSAT is just one piece of information considered by schools when making admission decisions, and for the vast majority of schools, students with a wide range of SSAT scores are admitted.

The SSAT is a Standardized Test

Although each year several different SSAT forms are utilized, the SSAT is administered and scored in a consistent (or standard) manner. The reported scores or scaled scores are comparable and can be used interchangeably, regardless of which test form students take. A scaled score of 500 on the June 2014 Upper Level verbal section, for example, has the same meaning as the scaled score of 500 from the December 2013 Upper Level verbal section, although the forms are different. This score interchangeability is achieved through a statistical procedure referred to as score equating. Score equating is used to adjust for minor form difficulty differences, so that the resulting scores can be compared directly.  

Standard also refers to the way in which tests are developed and how tests are administered. Regarding test development, a standard process for writing, testing, and analyzing questions—before they ever appear on a live test—is used. Further, SSATB provides precise instructions to be followed by qualified and experienced test administrators from the moment you are admitted to the test center until the time of dismissal. Any deviations from the uniform testing conditions are reported by the test administrator in writing to SSATB. Of course, a student with a disability may apply for special testing accommodations, but the processes and procedures for the test’s administration remain the same.​