character skills

Independent School Admissions – The Character Skills Snapshot

December 14, 2022

While the Character Skills Snapshot is generally optional at most schools, it has definitely gained traction. Until more schools require the Snapshot from all applicants, there will continue to be some inconsistencies in how the Snapshot is used. For some schools, the Snapshot is being used as a review piece in the admissions process. Other schools are using the Snapshot as a tool in the onboarding process – either to match roommates or to determine which advising groups a student might work best in.

Your student’s Snapshot report is generally available within about two weeks of testing. The website lists the official calendar of dates when Character Skills Snapshot results are released.

What is the Character Skills Snapshot?

The Character Skills Snapshot was developed by EMA (the makers of the SSAT) to provide a standardized online tool to measure the character skills and situational judgment skills widely valued by independent schools. It is intended for students applying to independent schools for grades 6 through 12. The Snapshot does not replace other pieces of the application process, such as the interview or recommendation letters. It is a supplement designed to enable a more holistic view of the student.

The Snapshot is not designed to be challenging, like the SSAT or ISEE. Instead, it simply requires your honest personal feedback.

Which schools require the Snapshot?

Many independent schools have added the Character Skills Snapshot as either a required or recommended component of their application. Until EMA publishes a master list of these schools, you will have to check the specific admissions pages of the schools you are applying to (or contact the admissions offices directly) in order to determine if it will be required in their application process.

What skills are tested?

The Snapshot tests 7 key skill areas within 3 different categories:

  • Intellectual–Intellectual Engagement, and Open-Mindedness
  • Intrapersonal–Initiative, Resilience, and Self-Control
  • Interpersonal–Social Awareness and Teamwork

Scores are placed into three categories: Emerging, Developing, and Demonstrating. You can view a sample score report here.

What is on the Character Skills test?

The test is comprised of 2 sections and is designed to take approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Forced-Choice Questions: In this section, students are presented 3 statements and asked to choose which are most or least representative of their personal judgments. Depending on the test form used, the Snapshot contains anywhere from 20 to 30 Forced-Choice items.

For example, a Forced-Choice question may provide the statements “I enjoy being challenged,” “I always have a backup plan,” and “I get overwhelmed when I have many options,” and asks students to choose one that is most like them and one that is least like them.

Situational Judgments: This section contains 10–15 scenarios, each with 4 different responses. Students must rate the appropriateness of each response.

For example, a question may describe a team project with a friend who is not contributing, provide 4 ways to address the issue, and asks the student to rate each solution on a scale between “Not Appropriate” and “Very Appropriate.”

For a look at sample questions, visit:

How do I take the Character Skills Snapshot?

  • The parent/guardian creates an online SSAT account for both the parent/guardian and the student. The Snapshot can only be taken on the student account.
  • The test can be taken on your home computer or at a location of choice. School Admissions Offices are not permitted to administer the test, as the test is designed to be completed in a low-stress environment.
  • The test is untimed, but must be completed in one sitting. You cannot save your answers and revisit it. On average, students took between 20-30 minutes to complete the test.
    Students are permitted to take the test only once during the testing year.
  • The Snapshot is $25 for students who have taken or are registered to take the SSAT. For students who are not planning on taking the SSAT, the fee for the Snapshot is $50.
  • Students who are SSAT testers can log into the Snapshot through their SSAT account.
  • For non-SSAT test takers, the school they are applying to will send them a link to complete the Snapshot.