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 11 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.
What is the Purpose of the SSAT?
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 schools. 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. A classroom math test, for example, is an achievement test: the teacher specifically designed it to evaluate how much students know about what has been covered in class. The SSAT, on the other hand, is designed to measure the verbal, quantitative, and reading skills acquired, instead of focusing on 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.
How is the SSAT Designed?
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 SSAT is constructed to be of middle difficulty for those who take the test. In other words, about 50% of the examinees will get the average test question correct. The distribution of question difficulties is set so that the test will effectively differentiate among test takers, who vary in their level of skills.
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.
Is the SSAT 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 group for the Middle and Upper Level test consists of all the test takers (same grade/gender), who have taken the test for the first time on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in the USA 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 6th grade, and your percentile rank on the March 2013 verbal section is 90%, it means that 90% of all the other 6th grade boys’ (who have taken the test for the first time on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in the USA 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 other tests in the same testing year 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/gender) who are taking this test for admission into independent schools— some of which can be the most selective schools 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 administered, the SSAT is administered and scored in a consistent or standard manner. The reported scores or scale scores are comparable and can be used interchangeably, regardless of which test form students take. A scale score of 500 on the June 2013 Middle Level verbal section, for example, has the same meaning as the scale score of 500 from the December 2012 Middle Level verbal section, although the forms are different. The 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.