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Public school ssat scores

sum1005sum1005 1 replies1 threads New Member
We just received my daughter’s 6th grade SSAT scores and she was in the 58% pretty much across the board. I’ll be honest, we were a little shocked. She is very high achieving, straight A student, in all extended groups and has always scored upper 90 to 99th percentiles in state testing. Is this kind of SSAT score typical for public school kids?? It makes me feel like a child such as my daughter (so eager to learn, bright, self motivated) is just not being challenged at all at school! This is part of the reason why we were thinking of making the switch to a private school with more rigor. Unfortunately, I think she’ll now be waitlisted and stuck in her “teach to the middle” public school.

Is it common for public school kids to test this low?? Also, she went into the test blind. The only advice we gave was to skip questions she didn’t know.

Any advice is appreciated. THANK YOU!
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Replies to: Public school ssat scores

  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 449 replies6 threads Member
    Sorry to hear about the scores. As a parent if a former public school kid, I totally get where you are coming from. But don’t get discouraged!

    My theory would be that it is two things: (1) there is a very small subset of students who take the ssat, most high-achieving. So a high performing kid compared to the regular population in public school (or private) is not necessarily going to be a top scorer compared only to other high performers. (2) On top of that, lots of those other high performers have spent a lot of time preparing. In that context, your daughter’s score, taking the test blind-cold, is very respectable.

    Have her take some practice tests and tackle some of her weak spots. She can do this! Also, she doesn’t need to be in the 90th percentile to get into great schools.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 896 replies17 threads Member
    I don't think it has much to do with public schools, as @CateCAParent mentioned only the most motivated take the SSAT. A's in middle school are somewhat like candy, handed out almost universally. The range of kids in our kids public middle school who got A's was pretty funny, clearly not all working at the same level. So basing how your kid will do on grades can be a bit challenging.

    The SSAT is a strange test. No prep is a hard way to take it.

    Have her prep and take it again.
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  • enpassant2019enpassant2019 61 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited February 20
    6th grade SSAT must be real tough - for a number of reasons.

    1. SSAT itself is taken by only those applying to enter private schools. However, most of them are 8th graders trying to enter the 9th. The group of kids that take SSAT as early as 6th grade must be a select group among the already select. I would say "determined select".

    2. 6th grader SSAT population must be pretty small - subject to wild swing and precipitous fall if your kid happens to fall in the populated segment.

    If you thought 6th grader should be easier than 8th grader scorewise, you are in for a big, harsh surprise.

    The good news is that there is not such a big difference between a high score and low score.

    For instance, for the verbal section, even if you miss the same 10 questions out of 50, if you pick all 10 wrong answers, your score may be 88%, whereas if you pick 3 wrong answers and leave 7 blank, your score may be 97%. 9% difference for the way you missed them! So simply not answering those your kid cannot eliminate at least 2 or 3 choices should catapult her out of the most dreaded, populated segment already.

    Avoid at all cost not to fall into the populated (middle) segment. There, 1 point deduction taxes your kid much more heavily than in less populated segments.

    If she is only in her 6th grade and took the SSAT, she is so much ahead of most everyone. My son took it for the first time in the month he decided to go boarding ("Dad, I think I would want to go boarding." - in November of his 8th grade year!). I am sure she will achieve very close to ideal score by the time she applies to schools. Don't worry!
    edited February 20
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  • sum1005sum1005 1 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you for the replies. Yes, it is, in fact, a different test for grades 5-7. The percentile rank is averaged against other first time 6th grade test takers from over the past 3 years. We have always been told that our daughter is among, if not the strongest academic student in her class so I was very surprised to see the 58%-62% scores. Like I said, I just wonder if it’s a correlation to not being given enough opportunity in public school??
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  • enpassant2019enpassant2019 61 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited February 20
    Yes I know it is a different test (called middle-level) but the basic logic does not change at all because it is taken by far smaller population designed with tighter range in scaled score (710-440=270 middle vs 800-500=300 upper), meaning the fluctuation in % per incremental raw score change for middle-level will be much bigger.

    According to the 2011-2012 Interpretive Guide to the SSAT, from August 2008 to July 2011, the specific numbers of students taking the SSAT per grade were:

    Grade 11: 2,546
    Grade 10: 10,232
    Grade 9: 23,481
    Grade 8: 99,080
    Grade 7: 17,342
    Grade 6: 14,603
    Grade 5: 13,005

    Notice the big jump in 8th graders' taking the SSAT. Also notice how small (and select) these groups are (cumulative numbers for 3 years!).

    If you get 14 questions wrong out of 60 in verbal for middle, you would get around 73%, but if you get 15 questions wrong out of 60 in verbal for upper, you will still get around 84%. Of course, the middle-level questions are easier but your child is younger too. The percentile drop or gain is greater - each mistake will be more punishing and each correct answer more rewarding for middle-level. So it is not to be taken lightly at all, simply because it is "only" middle - mistakes could do greater harm.

    BTW, it is exactly same number of questions, format and time between middle and upper (only elementary level is significantly different); the only differences are difficulty level and writing prompts. So she could actually do much better at upper after some practice and strategy. And 58% is an impressive score for testing cold turkey - it means she can hold her own against the most select group.

    As I said, where you are on the scoring scale, a small difference in raw scores can result in a large difference in % 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% points by getting only 5 more correct answers.  For middle-level, if you leave 10 blank 97%, if you write wrong answers to 14, it drops to 73%. Only 4 more wrongs plus penalties result in such a big difference in percentile. So the important things are "guess management" and taking the test multiple times.
    edited February 20
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  • stalecookiesstalecookies 100 replies6 threads Junior Member
    sum1005 wrote: »
    Like I said, I just wonder if it’s a correlation to not being given enough opportunity in public school??

    Rather, I think it's more a function of not being used to that specific test format.

    One AO volunteered that they would consider such a score more of a red flag for a student who had gone to a private school with test prep for the SSAT.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 2076 replies34 threads Senior Member
    edited February 20
    REALITY CHECK: A score in the 58th percentile means she scored BETTER than 58 percent of the kids taking the SSAT, the vast majority of whom already attend private school! She is already scoring better than most, even though they've had access to more resources and test prep.

    BTW - There are lots of amazing kids who just don't test well, too. That's why more and more colleges-- including sought-after ones like Bowdoin, Wesleyan, and University of Chicago -- are now test optional.

    edited February 20
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  • 417WHB417WHB 236 replies4 threads Junior Member
    The issue is not public school but complete lack of prep. Most families do some prep before testing for school admissions. I bet with a couple practice tests and work on her weak areas her score will go up significantly.
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  • enpassant2019enpassant2019 61 replies0 threads Junior Member
    A simpler way to look at SSAT is that the percentile among same-grade test takers is accurate no matter what (the test makers make sure of this result), whereas the test-taking population varies per grade, especially for the 8th grade (about 5 times greater population than in other grades).

    That means, if we assume 5% of entire 8th graders take the SSAT, only 1% of entire 6th graders take it.

    Now assume only "top portion" of each grade takes it ("top portion" meaning not IQ or talent but sheer "test-taking skill" which I think is a reasonable assumption among 6th, 7th, 8th graders - for whom SSAT is considered the most used and thus important standardized yardstick. (ISEE is another, distant second.)

    That means, if we assume top 5% of entire 8th graders take the SSAT, only top 1% of entire 6th graders take it.

    Being top 1% (ie 99th percentile on score report) among top 1% of 6th graders would be (ie 0.01%) theoretically 5 times tougher than being top 1% among top 5% of 8th graders (ie 0.05%).

    The difficulty of obtaining a high percentile score entirely depends on how other test takers in your grade do, and how others do is, by our assumption, the dictate of the size of the test-taking population in your grade, at least among 6th, 7th and 8th graders - the grades in which SSAT reigns supreme authority.
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  • kid9999kid9999 10 replies0 threads New Member
    Correct. There were approx. 3.6 millions 8th graders in 2011 and the number is slightly more in 2019 to 3.8. So there is less than 3% of 8th graders taking SSAT. No surprise if one scores low in the SSAT but high on standard MS test.
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  • boudersbouders 2563 replies177 threads Senior Member
    Many non-American schools use the SSAT for admission. Many international students take the SSAT to apply to American schools. So, you're not just getting a comparison with the 3.8 million American high school students, but the top students across the globe.
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  • Mumof3BoyzMumof3Boyz 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @sum1005

    If there is a commitment to higher test results, and a plan put in place, then things should work out.

    We have 2 kids in BS, and another one applying. They all did or are doing a fair amount of SSAT Prep. They have scored very well, but when they did their tests "cold" as assessment tests to see what they needed to work on, their scores were lower. We are talking 10-15 minutes a day, several days a week, from March-August. It's not just about learning math concepts or word lists, it's also about how to take the test in a compressed period of time. Practice truly helps.

    Some parents here on CC will tell you their kid did extremely well without any practice or studying at all. I am sure that is true. However, in our experience, every single kid we know has prepped for the SSAT. This includes practice tests and studying. It helps with time management, test taking "tricks", seeing the same type of question in practice, stress management. It also helps with vocabulary building. Yes, some kids have well developed vocabularies, but there is nothing wrong with adding a bunch of new words, or understanding the secondary meaning of various words, by reviewing word lists.

    Many (most?) private schools provide SSAT preparation as part of their program. Our school preps 7th grade kids from Feb-June, and in the summer as well. Kids applying from Asia, who can represent 5-20% of BS classes, are known to do extensive test prep. Can be courses, tutors, or books, or online, or a combo.

    It's just not a level playing field unless you do some test prep. Don't worry yet, kids can literally add 20-40 percentile points with preparation, and hours per day for months isn't required. 10-15 minutes a day, several days a week, working on a few math problems, word lists, reading passages can really help.

    Best of luck.

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  • sgopal2sgopal2 3669 replies51 threads Senior Member
    SSAT, and other standardized tests are nothing like the tests given in public schools. These tests don't measure intelligence. Instead they are designed to have a high ceiling, so many of the questions are tricky.

    It only takes some practice to improve. Get a private tutor if you can. Otherwise there are plenty of books on Amazon that will help her improve.
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  • kid9999kid9999 10 replies0 threads New Member
    Correction, according to the latest Interprep guide, there were 33,000 8th graders taking upper SSAT for period Aug 2015 to July 2018, only 11,000 per year out of 3.8 millions 8th graders. Very small number indeed.
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  • LeeLeeBLeeLeeB 118 replies9 threads Junior Member
    I though I read somewhere that the percentiles for test results did not include international students (and I think I read that such a policy had not been there for decades, but was on the recent side?). But I may be remembering that wrong (or I got wrong info at some point. Can any of you CC experts verify?
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  • amumof2amumof2 87 replies3 threads Junior Member
    DD (an A student) took the SSAT with no prep in 5th grade when applying to private MS (from public) and shockingly scored in the high 30s she did much better with IEEE so we submitted that. Fast forward several years to DD applying to HS ... after 2 months with a SSAT prep tutor she scored low 80s.
    IMHO SSAT is a strange animal and one needs prep on how to deal with said animal.
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  • DroidsLookingForDroidsLookingFor 66 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @sum1005 I'll answer by saying that both things can be true. Your daughter's score may be reflective of a lack of preparation, and, your daughter's score my be reflective of the quality of your current public middle school. For me it'd boil down to whether some focused work on the former would make up for the latter.

    I concur BTW with the advice above that 10-15 minutes of prep/day, a few days/week, for a couple of months prior to the test may be plenty. I'd start with the official book and go from there. Have her take the test again to see what kind of traction a little prep gets her. If not enough, maybe ramp the prep to include more time or even a tutor if you can swing it.

    That said, you may find that the prep isn't enough and face the decision to switch schools sooner rather than later if possible. Here's another wrinkle: the additional prep may get her the score you/she wants, BUT! you may still want to move her prior to high school into an independent MS with greater academic rigor. If there really are issues with your PS district's quality, she'll be better prepared academically for a top BS elsewhere. Again, all assuming you can swing it.

    Good luck regardless. Take it slow, and remember you are already way ahead of the game by having her take the test in 6th grade...
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  • MAandMEmomMAandMEmom 1736 replies10 threads Senior Member
    At least in our state (Massachusetts), it seems like many families send their kids to at least a day school beginning in 7th grade if BS is on the possible horizon. This was not the case for us and D20 was at public school through 8th grade and is a four year senior now. She was likely at the top of her grade in suburbia and scored about a 90th percentile on the SSAT with some home prep. The test is a different beast than most state testing and definitely unlike the MCAS here.
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  • snapchatsnapchat 226 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Most people who take the SSAT from public school usually get disappointing scores. I, for one, did not get a good score the first time I took it (around the 50-60% percentile). I always scored above 90 percentile in my state standardized testing (NJ). I come from a low income town and my scores were being competed against kids who had private tuition their entire life and their parents bankrolling their elite education with tutors, prep centers, etc. Trust me, boarding schools know and holistic admissions alleviates this fairly well.


    But, I do recommend studying for the SSAT. It usually is just a different learning style that you can easily master. I was able to bring my scores to the ~80s and 90s just by grinding an SSAT book I got for 10 bucks and quizlets for vocab.
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