SSAT Scoring: What does it all mean?

The SSAT scoring system may seem overwhelming, and… that’s because it kind of is. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood test expert is here to give you an outline of the most important things to know.

One of the first things to remember is that most levels of the SSAT have a wrong-answer penalty. Each correct answer earns you 1 point, while each incorrect answer loses you a quarter of a point; an omitted question doesn’t earn or lose any points. The Elementary Level test is the only oddball, as it doesn’t dock you points for missing questions.

After calculating your raw score, which is the number of points you earned, the SSAT converts it into a scaled score. Scaled scores are equated, which means that they’re adjusted to reflect differences in difficulty among test administrations. That way, your score can be directly compared to any other student’s score within a three-year period, even if you didn’t take the exact same test.

Your score report will show you a scaled score for each of the three SSAT sections (Verbal, Reading, and Quantitative), as well as a total scaled score (a sum of your three section scores). It also provides scaled score ranges, since the SSAT admits that your performance on one test on one day may not be perfectly representative of your abilities (shocker, right?).

If you look at your scaled scores and say, “what in the world do these numbers mean,” you’re not alone. Here’s a little context:

  • On the UL SSAT, scaled scores range from 500 to 800 in each section.
    • Your total scaled score is therefore between 1500 and 2400.
  • On the ML SSAT, scaled scores range from 440 to 710 in each section.
    • Your total scaled score is therefore between 1320 and 1725.
  • On the EL SSAT, scaled scores range from 300 to 600 in each section.
    • Your total scaled score is, you guessed it, between 900 and 1800.

A number that might be easier to understand is the percentile you achieve for each section. A percentile from 1-99 shows you how you did compared to other students taking the SSAT. For example, if you achieved the 75th percentile in a section, that means you scored as well as or better than 75% of other test-takers.

An important note about percentiles: don’t forget that you’re only being compared to other students taking the SSAT, not the general population. Since students who take the SSAT are interested in applying to independent schools, they generally perform better on academic exams than the average student. That means your percentiles may be lower than they would be on a state-wide exam such as the MCAS.

It’s also important to remember that the scaled scores and percentile scores you receive are calculated by comparing your results only to students of the same grade and gender. Because of this, an 8th grader does not need to get nearly as many questions correct on the Upper Level test as a 10th grader does in order to attain a given percentile, for example.

The SSAT itself does not superscore, or combine individual section scores from multiple test dates to obtain a maximum overall percentile; if you want to send scores from multiple test dates to schools, you have to send the entire score report from each test date. You can, however, pick and choose which test dates you send to schools through your account on the SSAT’s website.

With that being said, many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your “best” performance on the SSAT. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly.

Phew—that was a lot. Don’t forget, though: if you’d like to talk with an expert about any part of scoring on the SSAT, we’re here to help!