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Have questions about the SSAT and ISEE tests? Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked ones, but be sure to read our other articles about these tests, learn about our free practice SSAT and ISEE tests, and download your free copy of our Independent School Admissions Testing Guide.

And as always, we are here to discuss any of your questions.

What is the SSAT?

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is used for applying to private or independent schools, similar to taking the SAT or ACT for college applications. The SSAT is a unique and challenging test, and preparing for it will require every possible advantage, including extensive practice and personalized instruction, in order to achieve a competitive score.

The SSAT is not the only factor in the application process, and not necessarily the most important factor. Each school has its own views on the importance of this test and what scores are competitive, so it is important to talk to prospective schools’ admissions offices as you plan to prepare for the SSAT.

How is the SSAT different from typical school exams? 

The SSAT is designed to be more difficult than typical school exams. Many hardworking students are disappointed if they do not get 90%+ of the SSAT questions correct, but this is normal. Almost all students will encounter several problems on the SSAT that are too difficult for them to solve.

The SSAT is not designed to reflect student’s scores on school exams or grades. Regular schoolwork does not adequately prepare students for the SSAT; good preparation requires specialized training. Because the SSAT is standardized and because it can be taken more than once, preparation will help students to raise their scores over time.

How is the SSAT scored? 

The SSAT uses a complex system to best represent each student’s standing within the very competitive group of SSAT students. Each question is worth one “raw” point, and each incorrect answer deducts ¼ point. The total is given a scaled score, and this scale is designed so that most students get middling scores. Finally, based on the scaled score, the student is given a percentile rank. Student scores are only compared to students of the same grade level and gender. Read our detailed article about scaled versus percentile scores.

The Upper-Level SSAT is given to students in grades 8-11 (applying to grades 9-12)
The Middle-Level SSAT is given to students in grades 5-7 (applying to grades 6-8)

What are SSAT Percentiles? 

The SSAT Percentile rank is the most important test information for school applications. This rank represents the percent of students who have scored at or below the student’s scaled score. Some parents are surprised by their students’ SSAT Percentile because it may seem quite low. This is because the student’s score is being compared only to other SSAT students, a very competitive and well-educated group.

When is the SSAT offered?

The SSAT is administered nationally 8 times per admission year, typically from autumn to spring. The SSAT also allows “flex” administrations, which are offered as needed at member sites. Read more about the advantages of flex testing.

What is the ISEE?

The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is created by the Educational Records Bureau and is used for applying to private or independent schools. The ISEE shares many similarities with the SSAT, much like the SAT and ACT have similarities.

Which test is recommended?

While some students are better suited for the ISEE and some for the SSAT, the choice of tests is often decided by schools’ admissions policies. Typically, schools with grades 9-12 will prefer the SSAT and lower grades will prefer the ISEE.

Keep in mind that even if a school requires a certain test for applications, students may still be able to include a different test. For example, for a school that requires ISEE scores, a student may also include SSAT scores. This can be a good idea if a student has much higher scores on one test. Admissions officers are generally looking for reasons to accept students, rather than to reject students, so you should look for any opportunity to strengthen your applications.

How is the ISEE scored? 

Each question is worth one “raw” point, and there is no penalty for incorrect answers. The total is given a scaled score, and this scale is designed so that most students get middling scores. Based on the scaled score, the student is given a percentile rank, similar to the SSAT. The ISEE further complicates its scoring process with stanines, which are groupings of percentile scores. ISEE stanines range from 1-9.

When is the ISEE offered?

Students can take the ISEE three times per test year. There are three 4-month testing windows, and students can take the ISEE once per testing window.

Unlike the SSAT, the ISEE does not have national test dates. Availability is based on what is offered by different testing providers in the area. Visit the ERB website to view ISEE test dates and locations.

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