The first thing you might notice with respect to grades is that students from other class years are taking the same test as you. Not to worry! You are graded according to your age. In other words, if you’re in 9th grade, you aren’t expected to get as many questions right as someone in 11th grade, even though you take the same test. One note of caution: You are scored according to the grade level you report on the answer sheet on Test Day. Be sure to indicate your current grade level, not the grade for which you are applying.
Given this fact, you can expect to see questions on the test that may be too hard for you. Just remember, you don’t need to get every question right to get a great score.
Scoring Well on the SSAT
Keep moving. Timing is extremely tight on the SSAT, so it’s critical that you spend your time working on questions that you know you can solve without too much difficulty. Give yourself a time limit for each question, and move on once you reach that limit, even if you haven’t answered the question.
Be flexible. You don’t have to answer the questions in the order they’re presented to you. If a particular question type is your strength, get points under your belt by tackling those questions first. For the same reason, don’t panic when you encounter a tough question. If it’s too hard, skip it. You may be able to return to it later if you reach the end of the section before time is called.
Be careful how you bubble. Don’t lose points on Test Day by bubbling in your correct answers in the wrong place! Here are some tips:
- Circle your chosen answer in the test booklet.
- Enter your answers on the grid five at a time.
- At the end of each section, check your gridded answers against the circled answers in your test booklet.
What Your SSAT Score Means
Your score report will include the following:
Your raw score, which is the number that results from a calculation of your right, wrong, and omitted answers. An easier question is worth the same as a difficult question. Don’t waste precious test time agonizing over a difficult question (that you may still not get right) when you could be answering five easier questions correctly.
For an Elementary Level SSAT, there is no penalty for wrong answers. That means that you can calculate the raw score by simply adding together the number of right answers.
For a Middle/Upper Level SSAT, though, there is a slight penalty for wrong answers– while you still get a full point for each correct answer, each wrong answer subtracts a quarter of a point from your score. Here’s the formula:
(# Correct Answers) – ¼ (# Incorrect Answers) = Raw Score
For questions left blank, no points are deducted.
Depending on the test you take, the same raw score from one test administration can be converted to different scaled scores and different corresponding percentiles.
Scaled scores, which are provided for three sections: Verbal, Quantitative (Math), and Reading.
Upper Level Score Range: 500–800
Middle Level Score Range: 440–710
Elementary Level Score Range: 300–600
In addition to scaled scores for Verbal, Math, and Reading, there is a total scaled score.
Percentile ranks for each category. These compare your scores to those of others who have taken the SSAT in the past three years. You are also provided an Estimated National Percentile, which describes how many students received a lower score than you did.
And, lastly, Personal Score Ranges, which are spectrums of measurement for each subject area. A student’s score can usually be located within the center of this range.
The SSAT Wrong Answer Penalty
Remember that this doesn’t apply to the Elementary-level SSAT. For the Upper and Middle levels of the SSAT, though, it’s worth it to really understand how the wrong answer penalty affects good SSAT strategy.
If you guess randomly, the points you lose for incorrect answers will likely cancel out the points you get for correct answers. However, if you can eliminate at least one wrong answer, your odds of guessing correctly increase.
Bottom line: If you can eliminate at least one answer choice, it is in your best interest to guess.
When should you guess? Guess when (and only when) you can eliminate at least one of the wrong answer choices. Random guessing won’t increase your score, but strategic guessing when you can eliminate wrong answer choices can be very helpful.
In the Lower and Upper Level SSAT, there will be one additional 25-minute section that will contain either critical reading, mathematics, or writing multiple-choice questions. This section does not count toward your score; however, you will not know which section is unscored. Therefore, treat every section as if it counts.This experimental section is an opportunity for the exam creators to try out new questions that function as content for future tests.
After the SSAT
Scores are mailed to you and your school two to three weeks after you take the test. Make sure you test early enough in the year that schools will receive your scores by application deadlines. If you feel that you have not tested well after you leave the test, you have the option of canceling your score. To do so, you must send your request to SSAT by mail, fax, or email. This request must be received no later than the Tuesday after Test Day. If you cancel them, your canceled scores will not be sent to any of your designated score recipients.