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FAQs About the SSAT & ISEE Tests

 In ISEE, SSAT

Have questions about the SSAT and ISEE tests? Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked. You may also be interested to read our Guide to the SSAT and ISEE, 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 SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) score is often required when applying to independent schools, similar to SAT or ACT scores 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.

The SSAT comes in different forms:

The Upper-Level SSAT is given to students applying to grades 9-12

The Middle-Level SSAT is given to students applying to grades 6-8

The Elementary-Level SSAT is given to students applying to grades 4 and 5

How does the SSAT compare to 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% or more 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.

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? What is a Testing Season?

The SSAT “testing season” runs from August through July and it is administered worldwide on established dates at designated testing sites. The test can be taken with paper and pencil or online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Enrollment Management Association, maker of the SSAT, added a computer-based SSAT offering giving today’s students the option to take the SSAT online, either from home or at a Prometric test center. The SSAT also allows “Flex testing”, which are paper-based SSATs offered by appointment at member schools and approved educational consultant sites. Read more about the advantages of Flex testing.

The 2021-22 National Test Dates for the paper-based SSAT are below. Visit ssat.org for the schedule of online testing and Flex test options.

2021-22 National Test Dates for SSAT

October 16, 2021

November 13, 2021

December 11, 2021

January 8, 2022

February 26, 2022

April 23, 2022

Should My Student Take the Online or Paper Test?

Determine if your student does best with paper- or computer-based testing.  What are they used to doing in school and most comfortable with?  From there, evaluate the different ways the test will be offered and what options are closes to you.

How many times can my student take the SSAT?

Starting with the 2021-22 testing year, your student can take as many paper-based standard test dates as they want.  They are entitled to 2 Flex tests: 1 within each testing season.  In addition, they can take up to 3 digital/online tests (including at a Prometric center and At-Home.)  In our experience, most students take the test 2-3 times to take advantage of score improvements over time.

How do I find an SSAT Flex test?

Visit https://search.ssat.org/test-center-search to find available Flex testing in your area

If a student has testing accommodations, how do they register for the test?

Testing accommodations must be filed for and approved by the test maker prior to registering for a test date.  During registration, you will indicate that your student has been approved for those accommodations.

How much will the SSAT cost?

SSAT Domestic (U.S. & Canada) Testing Fees  2021-22

Middle/Upper Level 

    • Standard/Flex – $155
    • Educational Consultant – $225
    • Prometric Center – $215
    • At-Home – $235

Elementary Level 

    • Standard/Flex – $95
    • Educational Consultant – $135

SSAT International Testing Fees 2021-22

    • Middle/Upper Level – $299
    • Elementary Level – $210

 

What is the ISEE?

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

The ISEE comes in different forms:

The Upper Level ISEE is given to students applying to grades 9-12

The Middle Level ISEE is given to students applying to grades 7 and 8

The Lower Level ISEE is given to students applying to grades 5 and 6

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. While most admission offices have historically relied more on percentile ranks, there are some schools that use the stanine scores as their primary consideration for ISEE results.

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.

When is the ISEE offered? What is a Testing Window?

Unlike the SSAT, the ISEE does not have national test dates. Instead availability is based on the schedules set by individual test centers. ISEE can also be taken online from home at a time that is convenient for the student. Visit the ERB website to view ISEE test dates and locations.

Students can take the ISEE three times per test year, with a maximum of once per “testing window”. There are three 4-month testing windows: August through November, December through March, and April through July. Students can take 1 ISEE per testing window.

How much will the ISEE Cost?

ISEE Pricing 2021-22

Register Online (3 weeks prior to test date) – $140

Register by Phone (3 weeks prior to test date) – $170

Late Registration and Walk-in Registration are available for an additional fee. Visit the ISEE pricing web page.

Do you recommend the SSAT or ISEE?

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.

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