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Need focused SSAT advice for verbal disaster

CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 188 replies10 threads Junior Member
The good news: November SSAT scores were finally released for DD.

The bad news: disaster on verbal. Disaster. 31st %-ile.

(86 math and 76 reading — not stellar but not a full disaster either.)

What I think happened — she didn’t take the studying seriously and phoned it in like she is accustomed to doing at her LPS. We don’t know a soul from our area taking the SSATs or applying to BS so she (and I) had no idea that this kind of score was remotely a possibility for a top student.

But yep we get it. SSAT is not the same crowd as regular standardized testing. We knew that intellectually but I guess now we really know it in our bones.

What to do?

She now has TEN DAYS until the next SSAT.

I can’t imagine that just throwing her into memorizing a 1000-word list is the right move. Is it?

Does anyone have any targeted advice that might be helpful here?

Also: yes — clearly she should have studied more diligently but I feel horrible for her — she went from feeling super excited about her top choices to feeling like they are not even remotely in reach right now. I’ll repeat my advice I’ve given elsewhere for any newcomers — fall in love with some less competitive schools at the start of the journey (during visits!!), rather than racking them on at the end just before apps are due.




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Replies to: Need focused SSAT advice for verbal disaster

  • mondaydevilmondaydevil 170 replies9 threads Junior Member
    I've seen that if you just find a Quizlet and do it everyday for 30 minutes in the car and after you finish your homework, you'll see incredible results. And for the other two, just take lots of practice tests. As many as possible to get used to the test.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6144 replies10 threads Senior Member
    While her focus for the next week is the SSAT, I think your advice at the end of your post, about falling in love with schools that are less selective, is spot on. Less selective doesn't mean less academic for a top student but it may mean more options/supports for a more average one.
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  • PrepDad2018PrepDad2018 112 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2019
    @Calliemomofgirls How many Qs were skipped? One thing most test takers don't realize is you are gathering points, not a % correct. Even if you were to blind guess at 1/4 point penalty it would be a wash playing the odds. Narrow the guess by eliminating a single response and it is all gravy. I have seen a student jump from 50th percentile to 75th just by tackling all responses.

    I have also seen my own son's right/wrong percentages equal to a friend's yet his score was 90th vs 70th. As parents (family friend) we studied both test results closely to figure it out (we were expecting the friend to score higher TBH). The other child was WAY too cautious and left far too many points on the table mistakenly aiming for a high percentage of right vs wrong. My son just went for it and truly did better than expected, which was lucky, because we did not understand points vs percentages at the time.
    edited December 2019
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 558 replies13 threads Member
    My kids both used the SSAT online study materials. My son jumped his verbal percentage by a lot from the first to second test just by doing tons of the analogies online. Quizlets were less useful because they typically give you the primary definition of a word. What I noticed on the verbal ssat is that they often use the secondary definition (which I think is totally stupid) for the analogies.

    Prepdad2018 also has solid advice regarding strategy.
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 188 replies10 threads Junior Member
    @PrepDad2018 she did follow the advice to skip if you can’t eliminate one. Argh.
    @one1ofeach – Thx. You mean the online practice from SSAT folks correct? I confess the words are hard and she simply doesn’t know a lot of them so it was a lot of guessing. I confess I had a hard time with the words too (and I did very well on GMATs and LSATs in my day).

    @gardenstategal yes agree. I wish I could re-do that part of the journey. If nothing else it would reduce the pressure on her now because now the whole dream is at stake. No question in my mind that she is smart enough to keep up if admitted. But she needs to learn how to jump through the hoops to get admitted, before it’s too late. She is competing with kids who take test prep or hire consultants or have BS in their social circles. Not all, but many. We didn’t fully understand the process, and were naive (foolish?) about how far “being smart” would take her on the exam.
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  • southernboyal34southernboyal34 40 replies3 threads Junior Member
    This is all very solid advice. I did not focus on verbal at all and got 96th percentile. My best advice is reading higher level articles or books and finding out the definition of words in that context.
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  • swparentingswparenting 27 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @Calliemomofgirls It’s complicated. Although @PrepDad2018 probably has a viable strategy, at least based on his anecdotes, our child skipped the questions they didn’t know and scored quite well (high 90’s). It’s tough to know what the right approach is for each student. Your daughter is competing with all kind of students, including expensively prepped kids, for sure. But also kids that take the test once, with no prep, consultants, etc. Our kiddo didn’t do any prep or practice tests, just spent the fall doing normal school academics and reading (attends a LPS, in a state not known for great education), and took the test just once.

    If we’ve learned one thing reading this forum it’s that there are no guarantees, or perfect formulas. Don’t give yourself too hard of a time for what you did or didn’t do.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6144 replies10 threads Senior Member
    But right now, the OP has about a week and wants to use it wisely. What is the best way to improve a verbal score in a week- not enough time to change reading habits?

    Look at the scoring -- if a blank answer and a wrong answer have the same impact, guess. It does seem that a little sleuthing on this could yield a better strategy.

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  • dramakid2dramakid2 245 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I don’t have any useful test prep advice, I’m just chiming in to say that your daughters scores are similar to the scores my son had 2 years ago. He struggled on the verbal section since his vocabulary was weak. It dragged down his overall score and we did not discover any good strategy. He’s a smart kid, and we spent thousands on K-8 private school, so the results were shocking to us.

    In the end, his scores did not keep him out of the schools he wanted to attend. He applied to 3 schools, was admitted to his top 2 choices, and is thriving at Mercersburg. Our school list did not include any ‘acronym’ schools that are constantly mentioned on CC. We focused on hidden gems - great schools with higher admission rates and strong academics. It’s not too late to do Skype interviews and add other schools you mentioned on a previous thread. Many hidden gems take students with a wide variety of scores. My son’s performance in school far outweighs his mediocre scores. They are only one measure.
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  • swparentingswparenting 27 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @gardenstategal But a skipped answer and a wrong answer do not in fact have the same impact. That’s one of the complicated parts. There is a deduction for wrong answers, but not for skipped answers. The strategy with guessing is banking on the statistical probability of getting the right answer enough of the time, to offset the points lost when guessing the wrong answer.

    And unfortunately there is no way to declare over CC the “best way” to improve a verbal score in a week; every student is so different in their foundational knowledge and their learning style.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6144 replies10 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Thanks, @swparenting -- it was unclear to me from the posts above if the scoring methodology had changed from when my kid took it. Then it was +1 for each right answer and -1/4 for each wrong one. In most cases though, a guess is probably a good idea if you can eliminate an option or two. But as you note, you are playing the odds.

    And no, we don't know this kid enough to suggest a best way. There are some good ideas for a week, some great encouragement, and then some stuff that can't happen in a week. Just trying to get all the good minds and helpful folks to focus on realistic solutions because it feels like this family is working hard at giving this a good shot.
    edited December 2019
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 188 replies10 threads Junior Member
    I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the ideas, experiences and support.
    Trying to give DD a day of being super discouraged and then helping her rally for next steps. In a little over a week she can’t go crazy and cram. But she will do some online Verbal quizzes from SSAT. Maybe a quick refresh of her other sections and then just do her best a week from Saturday. I considered getting her a tutor to help for a few hours over FaceTime (we don’t have any locals) but I wonder if throwing that in a week before test time would make it worse?
    What even worse is I’m out of town for work until Friday so I wasn’t even home for this news.
    Anyway thanks all. I so appreciate you.
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  • southernboyal34southernboyal34 40 replies3 threads Junior Member
    @GoatMama I did not mean it like that at all. I was trying to say how effective reading was for me and that it could help others too.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 558 replies13 threads Member
    @Calliemomofgirls I hear you on feeling behind. It seems like some kids have been tutoring all summer for the ssat but tbh I don’t think it does that much. From what I’ve been told by a good friend whose kid tutored all spring and summer before fall ssat they focus mostly on strategy. That kid, btw, got a 30% in math so....maybe not worth the tutoring money?

    My solid suggestions:
    Do vocab quizlets in the car, if you drive as much as we did there was a lot of wasted time that we could use to study vocab.

    Use the ssat online study quizzes. I did them with my son and we talked about all the ones he got wrong or didn’t know. I think talking it out with someone helps.

    I’m sorry this feels like such a disaster. I have been told many times that the ssat is harder than other tests so it can be a bit shocking. For my son it was his math score that shocked him. He couldn’t understand how he didn’t get a much higher score since math is his best and favorite subject. These tests are a bit of a black hole and the pressure is immense. Can you plan on having her take it in January as well? I *think* many schools will accept those scores even though they are “late.”

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  • GoatMamaGoatMama 1288 replies12 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    @Calliemomofgirls, here is another thought. If the December scores are not where you need them to be (and your kid is not burned out of testing yet) you may consider scheduling a flex test in early January. The results will be out in time for submissions. The difference is that your kid will take the test by herself rather than in a group setting, and may feel more comfortable and less stressed as a result. Search for educational consultants in your area that are certified to administer Flex SSAT. It will cost a couple of hundred though. Again, just a thought.

    Edited to add: You can schedule Flex tests on any date that works for you and the consultant. You don't need to do it on one of the official SSAT testing dates.
    edited December 2019
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  • Prep2prepPrep2prep 8 replies1 threads New Member
    Your approach sounds very reasonable and healthy. I’m sure having some familiarity with the test, testing center, etc will be beneficial the second time around. Best of luck to her!

    My DD did not perform as well as she’d hoped in November so she’ll test again next week. She’s an A-student with great ECs, as well as being very personable and mature. We hope all of that shines through regardless of “imperfect” test scores.

    Namaste. 🙏🏻
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  • carpoolingmacarpoolingma 748 replies8 threads Member
    Quizlet! A bit every day will help a lot. A few cram sessions when the urge strikes will not.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 558 replies13 threads Member
    I also wanted to validate to you that your daughter is smart, regardless of her ssat score. I think people (kids especially) on CC put a lot of emphasis on the test scores.

    Firstly, there is absolutely luck involved! Both my kids took it twice, both thought parts were much easier on one vs the other. Your daughter may have gotten a harder one. And yes, I know, the company is supposed to use averages, scores, etc to even it all out but we all know things like that do not work perfectly.

    Secondly, from my son's own experience, the perfect score kids are not always more capable students. He was kept out of honors geometry (I have a million posts about it because I was so annoyed ;) after digging deeper, plus a parent teacher conference, it turns out that basically only the 99% math SSAT kids got honors. Now, after the fall semester exam, my son is being moved up and half of those kids are being moved down.

    So your daughter could very well be able to do the work at a top school - the test is not everything! Good luck. 3/4 of the battle is the mental anguish all this creates.
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  • 417WHB417WHB 125 replies4 threads Junior Member
    With 10 days left, I would focus on doing some practice questions. We did Test innovators online prep, and it helped some. Unfortunately, the verbal part of the test is the hardest to study for, because it really is dependent on your vocabulary. My daughter was an avid reader and also did great on every verbal test without studying at all. My son, who reads a lot less, has not performed nearly as well and had to cram the verbal part. Doing practice sections daily will likely bring the score up and you may luck out with an easier version, though I would not expect miracles. I do not think the scores are end all be all and if your daughter nailed the interviews she still has a very good chance to land somewhere she'll be happy.
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