One of the biggest sources of confusion regarding the SSAT involves how scores are reported. While both scaled scores and percentiles are reported, independent school admission offices have historically relied more on percentile ranks. To help make sense of this, we have put together the following overview of SSAT scoring. Please note that SSAT essays are not scored. Copies of your essay are sent to schools along with your score report. The importance of your essay in admissions decisions varies from school to school, but it is generally much less important than your percentile rank. If you are interested in receiving a complimentary copy of our annual Independent School Testing Guide, you can find it here.
Every question on the SSAT is worth one raw point. The easiest question is worth just as much as the most difficult question. There are no points for skipped questions. Each incorrect answer results in a ¼ point penalty. The total number of correct answers, minus the total penalty for incorrect answers, is the raw score.
Your raw score is converted to a scaled score. Each SSAT has a slightly different scale to account for any small differences between tests. As a result, no test date is easier or harder than any other. A 600 on one test indicates the same level of performance as a 600 on another test. You receive a scaled score in each of the three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Reading. Your scaled scores are added to create a total scaled score.
Your section scaled scores and total scaled score are given percentile ranks, indicating how well you scored compared to other test-takers of the same grade and gender. For example, a 60th percentile score indicates that you performed the same as or better than 60% of test-takers. Your percentile rank is based on scores from all students in your grade who have taken the test over the past three years.
Percentile Ranks in Perspective
Sometimes, students will find that their SSAT percentile scores are lower than their percentile grades in school. We usually caution them not to be concerned since their SSAT percentile score is compared to the scores of a smaller, academically strong cohort of students. The good news is, depending on where you are on the scoring scale, a small difference in raw scores can result in a large difference in percentile ranking. For example, a student who gets a raw score of 25 (out of 60) on the Verbal section of the Upper-Level SSAT will increase by nearly 20 percentile points by getting only 5 more correct answers.
Having an effective plan of attack, building skills, and learning test-taking strategies can bring a large improvement to your SSAT percentile rank.
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