My son is a top math student but he got 77% on SSAT math help

My son is taking the SSAT for the last time this Saturday and he’s always been a top math student in all of the accelerated classes. But he got a 77th percentile on the December test and an 83rd percentile on the October test (he did not take the November test.) Does anyone have any tips as to how he can raise his grade during these last few days? The scores just came out yesterday, and we were both floored, as he’s been taking practice tests. Thank you!

What level math has he completed?

The math scores are based on everyone taking the tests. Many kids do math beyond school. Some of the international students are also a couple of years ahead. The SSAT gives you an idea of where your son would be relative to kids if he attends a BS/private school. You may be surprised that the score wasn’t higher but it’s based on top kids from every school system rather than top kids in one system.
It’s unlikely you can do anything to improve the score. Ask him to make sure that he works on any areas that he thinks might be weaker for him. And let him get a lot of rest before the test. My kids have asked that we don’t talk about tests before they take them as it makes them anxious.

It also depends on his grade level. An 8th grader taking it as part of his boarding school application will probably have had more math than a 6th grader.

I’m so sorry for the stress so late in the game! Extra stressful since your scores were so delayed. My DD’s november scores were delayed too and that pushed us against the December test date, much like you are now pushed up against January.
Anyway – some practical thoughts here, if you care to read. Ignore what sounds stressful or unhelpful at this late stage. You know your DC best.

First – my math-strong DD did worse on December over November math section too. So, at least know you aren’t alone on disappointing December math results.

Second – after doing two SSATs, I can see that there is a big luck-of-the-draw component at play, so part of the solution – especially at this late stage – might simply be “unplug and replug and try again.”

Third – if you really are thinking that some content review would be best for your DC, then I might go into the SSAT test reports and click on the details to compare October and December and see if you can get some insight there. Were too many problems skipped? Which topic areas led to the most wrong answers? (Click on the little plus sign in your SSAT score report for these details.) Then, just do a review of those topics (either in the SSAT online content, or in a review book – whichever you are already using). A caveat: I personally would be super careful about doing lots of cramming at this point. If DC is a solid math student, I might chalk it up to: hey you had an off day and just rest up and destress for the next couple of days. But, if you have some review materials, and you can identify some specific areas that need brushing up – for instance if you realize your DC needed to review pi-R-squared and two-pi-R, well then go ahead and do it.

Good luck to DC! My DD is also doing SSAT on Saturday.

@Rberke if your son is an 8th grader he is taking a test that kids ranging from 8-11th grade are taking. They are all taking the SAME test. There will be things he doesn’t know on the test unless he has been skipped ahead several years.

However, to reassure you regarding school performance: my son is also a math kid and did not do as well as he expected on the math ssat. He is not having any trouble in math at his BS.

@Rberke Did he answer every question? SSAT is about gathering points vs right and wrong. He could have been too cautious? I have seen that many, many times. A blind guess will be a wash playing the odds. There is no harm in guessing. There is a benefit as soon as one response seems unlikely.

And again I ask…what is the highest level of math this student had taken


So, a score in the 83rd percentile is a great score, just to give some perspective :slight_smile:

I’m sure you are aware, but I say it just in case, that the pool of test takers for the SSAT is not the general public, but motivated, high achieving kids intending to go to private secondary school. So, in that pool your son may be in the 77th or 83rd percentile, but if he were to test in a pool of the general public he’d probably be in the 95th percentile (or whatever, I made that number up).

Second, the Dean of Admissions at Hotchkiss pointed out to me that there is not much actual difference between a score in the 77th percentile vs in the 83rd. Or 83rd vs. 89th, if you look at the actual scores.

Just wanted to emphasize this and add that every single kid I know, who has taken the ssat more than once, has had wild score swings. Swings that indicate to me that the test is not “accurate” and that there is a lot of luck involved with the testing. A girl I know got a 23% in math and then a 55%. My own kids verbal went from 70’s to 90’s.

So while I understand the anxiety this test induced people should remember it does not define your kids and AOs know that.

For the OP, an 83 in math is fine. Probably not as good as you were expecting but if the verbal scores are also good it probably won’t keep your son out of schools. The girl I mentioned with the math scores got into a school most on the board consider a very good school and she’s doing just fine there.

My DD had the exact same results. Her biggest strength in her school is math. It was shocking to see on her ssat results it was her lowest score. She is in 8th grade. She is taking the ssat again right now. Fingers crossed for a higher score.

I don’t understand the angst if this is a test that 8th through 11 graders take. There is a vast difference in math abilities at those levels!

@MaineLonghorn , the result is expressed based on your grade. So that’s already in the mix.

I think most people also don’t fully appreciate that the pool of kids applying to BS is somewhat different than all kids in the grade.

To the point @gardenstategal made, the language below is found on the score report for the ISEE (from a few years ago), which is taken by a pool of students that is similar to those who take the SSAT.

"Students who take the ISEE typically are higher achievers than students in general. … Parents are frequently surprised when they see, for example, a 75th percentile score for a child who scored at the 95th percentile last year on a test based on state or national norms. The ISEE norm group, as noted, is much more selective. "

Also, I don’t know the schools to which your child is applying, but at least one well-known school that is often discussed on these boards lists the middle 50% SSAT numbers by subscores. For that school, the middle 50% quant scores range from 695 to 779, and I suspect the percentiles you identify are associated with scores within that range.

It’s very common for students to score low on standardized tests in subjects that they usually thrive at. Use Khan Academy for SAT prep, and/or take a prep class! Lots of the SAT revolves around reading the question, and problem-solving skills, and time-management as well (I cannot stress that enough!)

@highschoolsen20r The discussion is not about the SAT. It’s about the SSAT, a test for boarding schools and private high schools.

You will also find that when your kids land at BS, they might not be a “top” math student. My own kid had several classmates in the highest level math class Freshman year who were “the best in their town”, a couple of years above in math, never got less than A+ etc. All these kids had to drop down a level as there actually were kids who were top math kids. Some parents were very upset according to my kids tales. This has continued into Sophomore year with kids finding their niche. Not every kid is going to be in every top pool.
The pool of candidates at BS is very high. It’s likely that your kid will have to wait and see how they fare.

^^yup, many times over. There was a lot of switching down from honors and up to honors all through first semester and after the mid term. Plus there are the kids who are taking AP calculus freshman year. “Top” math student takes on a whole new meaning when some of your classmates are 4 years ahead of you in math getting As in an AP class. ?

Agree with @one1ofeach! “Advanced” takes on a whole new meaning here! My DD is in honors 10th grade math, so I thought she was “advanced” being two years ahead. Then, I came across a thread here discussing which BS would offer enough classes to challenge the (truly) advanced math student. I literally was laughing at my own naiveté – to think that my daughter was advanced enough that this thread would be even remotely applicable to us! (Oh the sweet innocent days of October…) Anyway, turns out my DD is super bright and wonderful and the perfect nugget of a daughter that I wouldn’t change one thing about. BUT. She is not in that category. And her math SSATs sub score supported that. (85 Nov and then 78 Dec).

(BTW – @Rberke not saying this also true for your DS – he actually may be one of those who benefits from that thread.)

So @Calliemomofgirls she’s in honors algebra 2? Do you think it’s possible she has a processing speed issue or something like that? A boy in my older daughters grade was a very bright kid. He was a solid honors math kid but bombed the ssat. He went to a tutor who did practice tests and said “somethings wrong here”. Anyway, I don’t know every detail but he got an accommodation which gave him extra time and he immediately scored a 99%. Do you think there’s something like that going on? No issues had ever shown up for this kid in school btw.