Basic SSAT questions

I’m frustrated to have to start a new thread to ask this here, because it should be easier to figure out. But I’m not finding answers on old threads or anywhere else.

Who, What, and Why I have covered.


It appears that I have to pay for a SSAT test before I can see available dates for Prometric. I’m guessing it isn’t a big problem, but does anyone know if it is difficult to get a date or location? If the nearest location that will give the SSAT is 300 miles away and doesn’t have openings until February I kind of want to know before I sign her up.

I’m wondering about opinions on the test at home version. That is new this year, correct? I don’t know if having a more familiar environment would be better or worse. I’m pretty seriously considering signing her up for at home but doing it at the library (which is allowed). I think I can get a private room reserved, and it might be a bit less intimidating than a Prometric center. Plus the bathroom is much closer to the testing room. I’d love to hear thoughts good and bad.


As far as when to test, early November maybe so then a chance to redo once or God forbid twice if necessary? I have no idea when people do this usually. She has done zero prep, and probably needs to do some because her school is 100% unknown so a good score would be helpful. So she needs a bit of prep time and isn’t ready yet. I just need to find out when she needs to be ready. Which leads to the last point.

How (test prep):

Testinnovators? It seems like the 3 test program where they have 3 actual tests you can use, and then get feedback on what to study would be good. Not sure if that would need to be supplemented by anything else. Also not sure if the deluxe package ($400) is worth it. More than 3 practice tests is probably tough to squeeze in, and I just don’t know if paying extra for all of the lessons is worth it. I would love opinions on how to prep and if testinnovators is worthwhile.

Thanks for any guidance you can provide to a BS newbie.

@dadof4kids I feel like at this point I should just give you my text number because we are on such parallel paths! And since I just went through all of this last year, it’s really fresh in my mind. So if you don’t mind hearing my voice once again, let me see if I can help.

Most of this is new this year, as you rightly pointed out so your questions won’t likely be answered in last cycle’s posts.

But yes you are correct that you need to pay before you can see the dates, and this is absolutely 100% new this year! I went to sign up DD3 this year and I was sure I was misunderstanding, but nope – that is exactly the case. Weird, but true.

In order to take a Prometric test, you’ll need to make sure that the Prometric center offers that test, AND that they have availability that works for you.

I happen to know that the Prometric near us could NOT accommodate us last year, so we drove 3 hours away for DD2 to take the Prometric SSAT. So, I was a little nervous about signing up DD3 for a Prometric test only to find out we had to drive far, either because Prometric office doesn’t offer the SSAT, or doesn’t have any avails. WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR THOUGH: last year the electronic (computer-based) SSAT was only a pilot, so it was NOT offered widely at Prometric offices. So my best guess is that there will be widely available Prometric SSAT options this year. then you are only dealing with availability of slots. Slots seem to be fairly easy to find, if you are flexible on exact dates, which at this point, you probably are since you have months ahead of you.

Test at home: yes, this is brand new this year and is a result of Covid. This is what I selected when I bought, and at least for now, there were a lot of slots open. So I think you can feel comfortable paying and knowing that you’ll have availability. (As availability fills up, I am thinking they will have a ton of families who pay and then need refunds because there isn’t a slot that works for them. But once again – no one asked me to run the world so I suppose I’m just along for the ride here.)

Which test and how many to take?
DD2 ended up taking it 3 times, so don’t worry – it really isn’t a “god-forbid” scenario – November, December and January. We didn’t decide she was for sure going to apply until mid-October, so this was the earliest we could do. Our plan was November and then December as a “backup.” HAHAHA. We were quite surprised by her (low) scores in November. And, we got those scores, if I recall, a little over a week before the December test, so she went into that test feeling pretty defeated. (paper-based test – and her locations’ scores were extra delayed; but know that electronic scores are faster). December scores were a bit better but also too low for the schools she was hoping for. January scores were better, but honestly not anything she had hoped for. (I want to say scores went from high 60’s to 80/82 from November to January).

(note: Schools only see the scores you send them. They DO see if kid has taken the SSAT “more than once.” But if you take it twice or take if 5 times, they don’t know that, unless you send them multiple scores. Which I would only do if you had some major superscoring advantage.

And while we are on the topic of SSATS, the “character snapshot” – DD2 took it, but had results that didn’t seem helpful so she did not submit it to anyone, even the schools that “highly recommended” it and it did not seem to affect her admissions at all.

Anyway, I would probably think about an October date if she isn’t prepping in a way that allows you to predict her scores at least a little bit. We were totally floored by 68 in November, and it did feel a bit rushed and stressful to scramble and add schools to her list. (Note: it was not unsurmountable though, as she heads out to her top choice school next week.). If you are prepping and doing some reliable practice tests with scores, then November might be perfect.

Test prep suggestions: We only bought the extra practice tests through SSAT (the 70$) option. And to be very frank, it showed in her results. But, ask me if I’m paying for test prep for DD3 and the answer is also no. We have the Princeton review book we bought for 18$ on amazon and that’s all the prep she is doing. I am planning on her taking the test 3 times and picking the best of the 3 and moving on. I am sure that she could spend months memorizing vocabulary words but I am fundamentally against the craziness of the whole system. (Caveat: I used to run an entire branch of Stanley Kaplan so I recognize the irony of me now fighting the system. But I just find the whole test prep world has become so out of proportion and elitist and systemically yucky that what has started out as reasonable preparation for an important test has become a whole other obsession; a whole THING, and I’m just not here for it.)

Test Innovators – lots has been posted about them if you run a search. I have no experience with them, but overall from others’ posts, it sounds like a reasonable option that isn’t crazy expensive.

Oh I’ll add: I actually DO think there is a way to check availability of Prometric slots somehow either before paying or after paying but before selecting “at home” or “Prometric.” Because as I sit here, I know for a fact that I saw slots for Prometric and I paid for “at home.” Sorry that is not helpful. Did I go directly to a Prometric site maybe? Or did I go into SSAT site WITHOUT LOGGING IN (don’t ask – but there are some things you can see only when you aren’t logged in)? Hmmm. what did I do? I tried a million things but I DID see Prometric slots (and then decided against it). it may have been after I paid though? (which also doesn’t sound right because I believe I had to select “at home” before paying?).

If you’re near one of the Flex Test Consultants, you could use the flex test option:

You can only do it once, but if you’re near one of the consultants you can pick any date you like assuming the consultant is open that day. We did this and it made our lives much easier.

Be careful what you offer, @Calliemomofgirls I might take you up on it!

As always, this is a super helpful post. And super long might be annoying for someone who knows almost everything except for one simple question. That’s not me.

I know nothing except for the answers to one or 2 simple questions. So if yiou take 10 paragraphs to answer my question, you probably just saved me from asking 3 more questions and us going back and forth all afternoon.

I feel a bit less concerned about the “at home” version now that I’ve read a bit on it and that at least someone else who knows what they are doing is willing to give it a try. At first it seemed a bit scary, based on how I know at home AP tests, plus a few of my older kid’s college tests went this spring. But I’m assuming this is a better thought out plan.

Sidenote - You probably aren’t following the college stuff closely yet so you haven’t seen my opinion on testing, mostly on the class of 2021 thread but other places too. Let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every time I have said both IRL and on here that I hate ACT and College Board or have complained about the standardized tests at my kids schools, I wouldn’t need to apply for financial aid. Seriously, just a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

I think the intent is good. Give a kid from a random LPS a chance to show that he is just as smart as his counterpart from Andover. But that’s not the way it works. What is shows is that just like his school is underfunded and lacking, so is his test prep. The corelation between home zip code and SAT/ACT is striking. If you plugged that into the formula instead it would give roughly the same results. All things being equal the kid from the Upper East Side is going to significantly outperform his counterpart who lives 2 miles north but has a mom working 2 jobs just to pay rent, let alone pay for test prep.

I benefited from standardized testing, although that was long enough ago I don’t think they were prepped for like now. I know they weren’t by me, I did zero prep for the ACT and literally bought an LSAT book a week before the test. I did study pretty hard that weekend, but that was pretty much it. Today that doesn’t fly.

I really started hating on testing when I realized just how much of my kid’s educational time in elementary school was being lost to testing and preparing for testing. It is the only issue I have ever gone rounds with an administrator over in the 15 years my kids have been in school. I lost, although I have made it clear that my family does not care and is not doing any special prep for them. D is very aware of my stance, which I think is why she said she was falling asleep during the 7th grade spring test last year. She knows I don’t care, so I think treats it as a morning off when she just needs to bubble something in to make the teachers happy. That attitude is why I think if she actually tries then her scores should increase a decent amount.

@DroidsLookingFor I’m pretty sure you don’t live near me. I can say that with some confidence because I searched and it is literally a 10 hour drive to get to the closest one.

Did I mention that no one around here sends their kids to BS? LOL. I couldn’t even find one in a surrounding state, I had to go all the way to Chicago, and I am not near Chicago.

Probably that’s good advice for others reading, but not helpful for me unfortunately.

I do appreciate the advice though. IIRC you were one who suggested I started a new thread, and it has been beyond helpful.

I was going to suggest trying some of the test books from the library, but if really are that remote, your network might not even have them through interlibrary loan. That way you get to look through and see if it’s worth buying first.

(I used interlibrary loan for my DD. My local library doesn’t carry such things, as there is no demand. )

My DD didn’t follow my advice and take a self timed test. (I have found that doing so is effective, as it gives you a better idea of which subjects you need to most desperately work on, and which areas you just need to familiarize yourself with.)

@stalecookies starting to make sense why my daughter is interested in leaving? :smile:

I’m not quite as remote as it sounds. Although I will say that cows outnumber people around here, and it isn’t close. I just checked to make sure I was right. Cattle outnumber people in my county 3:1.

Chicago really was my best choice though. I think they must be mostly on the coasts, with no one in the middle.

Can one decide where to send the SSAT results after taking the test and receiving the results, or must one choose the schools before taking the test?

@ameridad I think yes. I’m hoping that it doesn’t cost extra to do it that way (it does for SAT and ACT).

@ameridad you can decide after and it is still free. We decided on like January 12th because we needed January results first.

Not to throw monkey wrenches left and right but know that if SSAT doesn’t go well, you could also try ISEE which may be a better fit depending on your student. (Lots of easily google able info on that but long story short math kids often do better on ISEE). Most schools accept the ISEE (even if it’s not in their website) but not all.

I won’t touch the validity of testing issue at all just in the interest of keeping my longwindedness in check. (But agree.)

And another discussion entirely which I am planning to post about if someone hasn’t — SSAT required schools are dropping like flies this past week or two.

I’m sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes people don’t realize that the SSAT percentiles don’t correlate with, say, SAT percentiles. Before I knew, I figured I had a smart kid and he’d do fine. I do have a smart kid, and he didn’t do that fine :slight_smile: (I’m smiling, b/c it was many years ago).

As I say, everyone may know this but the scores are based on the kids taking the test, and those kids are not representative of the population at large. They are a group of kids intending to apply to selective private schools, so they are pretty much all smart kids.

So, getting a score in the 70th percentile is not a bad score! And (I’m making this up) it probably correlates to an SAT score in the 90th percentile.

By your standards, I’m not close to remote.

But still, if I listed even a fraction of my gripes with the LPS, it’d be really easy to pinpoint my community. It’s just a-w-e-f-u-l. Just since dropping my DD at BS Saturday there have been 2 more jaw dropping news items. And that’s not counting whatever the BOE did at this week’s meeting, or the bizarre reopening plan.

The up side for you not being in a NE/Mid Atlantic state is that you’re geographically interesting. :slight_smile:

I actually think our school is handling the pandemic well. Requiring masks was a last minute and unpopular decision, but they are sticking to it. Some other non-pandemic things are a mixed bag, but overall I think it’s a good school. Just not a great fit for D.

I’m hoping for an admission officer looking at her app and saying something along the lines of “we haven’t had anyone from there since I started working here. If we take this girl, that’s a state we get to claim for the next 4 years.”

My youngest took the test at Prometric. Was the only center available for that date. Don’t wait too late. You’ll end up paying a ton for fees. It’s expensive. I think I paid over $200.

SSAT scores are generally lower than some parents expect. I don’t know about the mid scores but a kid who gets high 90’s on the SSAT can get high 90’s on the SAT. I wouldn’t pay for a deluxe package. I’d have my kid test, then make a plan to improve the score ( if needed). Why do work if you don’t have to? Some kids score very well and don’t need to spend time practicing.

There are lots of long running discussions on CC regarding high impact testing. Some like it some don’t. Some think it correlates to income, some don’t. Some spend $ and kids prepare for a year memorizing words and math problems. Some kids just take the test. There isnt’ a right answer. It’s just one stat of many. You probably can’t get into some of the highest level schools without strong scores if you live in NE/Mid Atlantic where there are lots of kids who take the test and lots who score well. But if you come from outside the normal band of where kids apply from, you are likely in another bucket and it will count less. Kids we know who got into top 20 schools seemed to be fine if they scored 80% or better ( helped if they were legacy or athletes).
You will be geographically interesting!!!

With the SSAT “optional” this year, I think it may be a free call option for your daughter. If she scores, say, 70th percentile or above in October, she may well be able to score higher in December with just a little more prep and practice. If she scores low in October, you may want to just take schools at face value - it’s optional, so forget about it, which frees up time for applications and interview prep.

I think @Happytimes2001 makes an interesting point - the SSAT may be less important when you are applying from outside the NE/Mid Atlantic region to “top 20” schools. I had never thought about this before, but HT2001 may be on to something, in particular when an applicant is from an underrepresented area, and especially in this supposedly “test-optional” year.

With DS, we were over 300 miles from the nearest testing site and there were no other options but FLEX, which was another 600 miles.

So, when I looked for DD this time, I chose Prometric. Went all of the way in until I got to the locations- only to find there are none within 300 miles that offer the SSAT (we have a center in town but I guess not enough demand for that test).

So, the site kicked me back to the home option. I only paid once. You can also go to the Prometric site and find a location. Once you select, you can see what tests are offered there, it’ll offer a list or you can search. That way you don’t have to be worried about being stuck paying for an SSAT if the center is not in an ideal location for you.

Also, once you register for the at home test, it will say a government issued ID of the tester is required. It’s not. When you print out the ticket, there’s some fine print about that. They will be taking a photo during the test, though, to verify that the kid who took the test is the one applying. ( @Calliemomofgirls maybe the twins can use this to their advantage but the rest of us are stuck ?).

So DD is now scheduled for October. Hope my experience is somewhat helpful for those who haven’t been through it yet.

I just started a 3rd thread in 24 hours about testing. Which as a person who really hates these tests saddens me.

When I posted this one I didn’t realize how many schools had changed their stance on testing in the last 2 weeks. I think I will still have D do the test, probably at home and do the mid level prep. But it takes some of the pressure off, that’s for sure.

Thanks for the info everyone. @buuzn03 I see that your comment about what TO really means got deleted on the thread about which schools went TO. I started a new one so we have a place to discuss the points you mentioned, which I think are important.

Thanks @dadof4kids I didn’t think I was that off topic, but I can totally see how my comment could have lead to a derailing of the original question.

Anyway, although numerous of us have done this before, it’s an evolving process, especially this year.

I’m hoping my recent SSAT scheduling experience helps someone because it was definitely confusing at first.

We liked the test prep on the SSAT website - all online and cheaper. It was probably the most useful for my second kid.