If you’re looking at applying to a private elementary, middle, or high school, there’s a good chance you’ll need to take the SSAT first. But what is a good SSAT score? How can you get the score you need to get into the school of your dreams?
Unfortunately, there's usually not a clear cutoff for what SSAT scores are acceptable. In this article, we'll try to remove some of that uncertainty by going over how scoring on the SSAT works and what counts as a good SSAT score.
How Does SSAT Scoring Work?
On their SSAT score reports, students receive scaled section scores for Verbal, Quantitative/Math, and Reading (each of which is out of the same number of points). They'll also receive a total sum score that adds together all three of their section scores. The score range of the SSAT sections and the total sum scores differs depending on whether you've taken the elementary, middle, or upper level SSAT.
|Level||Section Score Range||Sum Score Range|
SSAT scores aren’t just straight conversions that account for number of questions answered correctly, incorrectly, and skipped on the test; instead, the tests are equated, and scores are scaled so that scores can be compared across the years. For example, a 650 on Verbal from 1980 should have been roughly as difficult to get as a 650 on Verbal was in 2017.
On your score report, you'll also receive a percentile rank for each of your section scores, which is determined by how your scaled SSAT score stacks up against the scores of other students same grade/gender from US and Canada who took test for the first time in last three years. You'll also find out the range that your section scores are expected to fall in if you retook the test and your total sum score (Verbal + Quantitative + Reading). You can compare your scores to the average scores for students in your grade and, for upper level score reports, to average scores for students in your grade and of your gender.
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What Is the Average SSAT Score?
Unfortunately, information about percentiles for the middle and upper level SSAT is only available to schools who are members of the Enrollment Management Association. If you want to learn more about what score reports for the middle and upper level test look like, you'll need to watch the SSAT's webinar on understanding the middle and upper level score report.
The information for the elementary level SSAT, however, was released publicly January 2017. Below, we've pulled out the average scores for 3rd and 4th graders into one handy table:
|Average Scores||3rd Grade||4th Grade|
|Total Sum Score||1421||1426|
If you want a detailed look at the percentiles for each score for the elementary level SSAT, the full tables are available on the SSAT website.
Not that kind of table.
How Do Schools Use SSAT Scores? What Is a Good SSAT Score?
Schools use the scaled SSAT score and percentiles to compare you to other applicants and to judge if you’re likely to succeed in that school, based on how students currently enrolled there have done on the SSAT in the past.
Admissions offices don't consider your SSAT scores in a vacuum, though — often, SSAT scores are weighed against grades and other factors. High SSAT scores and low grades in school might indicate a student is underachieving or taking more rigorous courses, while low SSAT scores but high grades in school could indicate either a hard-working student or a student who’s not taking challenging classes. Schools may also use teacher recommendations to clarify which of these categories a student falls into.
So what is a good SSAT score? As the SSAT site states, what a good score is changes depending on the school you're applying to. Most schools won’t directly state specific score ranges they’re looking for. Instead, they’ll probably say something in the vein of this statement from the Riverdale admissions office: “While there is no minimum score required for entry, outlying low scores on these tests tend to be predictive of future difficulties.”
Therefore, as a test-taker, you can only deal in generalities, like knowing that getting a large percentage of questions wrong (even up to 50%) is not all that unusual, but that getting an extremely low scaled score (like 1650/2400) will make it more difficult for you to get accepted.
Ultimately, as the SSAT's own webinar on reading your score report states, “a good score is one that you feel best represents your ability and that it’s consistent with what you know to be true about your academic abilities.” If you don’t think your SSAT score shows who you are as a student, then it’s worth retaking it (with studying) to try to get a higher score.
Want to learn more about what's covered on the elementary, middle, and upper level tests? Then be sure to read our complete guide to the SSAT.
Because SSAT scores have high reliability, your score isn’t likely to change from one testing date to another unless there’s a big change in your level of preparedness. Learn the most effective ways to study for the SSAT with this article.
Looking for free materials to use for SSAT practice? We've gathered links to the best free SSAT practice tests here.
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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.