An important part of test preparation is understanding the test itself—the timing, structure, and of course, how the test is scored. For the SSAT, students receive a scaled score and a percentile for each subject of the test (Quantitative, Reading, and Verbal). Note: the Writing Sample is not scored. Instead, a copy of the writing sample is sent with the score report to the school recipient.
Check out how the scaled score and percentile are calculated.
Step 1: The Raw Score
The first step in scoring is calculating a raw score. How this is done depends on the level of the test. Elementary Level students do not lose points for incorrect answers, while Middle and Upper Level students do.
This table shows how many points are awarded for each level.
Elementary Level Tip: Because there is no score penalty for incorrect answers or unanswered questions, be sure to answer every single question! Answering all of the questions can only increase your chances of a higher score.
Middle and Upper Level Tip: When you encounter questions you don’t know, make an educated guess. Despite the ¼ point deduction for incorrect answers, the math indicates that making an educated guess has the same effect as leaving the question unanswered. Read more about the math behind the SSAT wrong answer penalty.
Note: If time is running out, don’t spend your time blindly filling in answers. Making an educated guess is different than simply filling in answers, and you’re better off spending that time on a question or two that you can potentially answer.
Step 2: The Scaled Score
Once a raw score has been calculated for each section, it is converted into a scaled score.
This conversion adjusts for the variation in difficulty between different tests. Thus, a lower raw score on a harder test could give you the same scaled score as a higher raw score on an easier test. This process is called equating.
Students receive one scaled score for each of the three subjects (Quantitative, Reading, and Verbal), as well as a total scaled score, which is the sum of the subject scaled scores. This table shows the scaled score range for each subject, as well as the total scaled score range.
Step 3: The Percentile Score
Finally, the percentile score for each section is calculated.
Percentiles compare a student's scaled score to that of all other same-grade students from the past three years. This is important to understand because the SSAT is taken by students in a range of grades. The Upper Level SSAT, for instance, is taken by students applying to grades 9-12; however, the percentile score is based only on the performance of other students applying to the same grade. Thus, a student applying to 9th grade will not be compared to a student applying to 12th grade.
Here’s an example to help understand percentile scores: scoring in the 40th percentile indicates that a student scored the same or higher than 40% of students in the same grade but lower than 59% of students.
Now that you understand how the SSAT is scored, the next step is to practice so you can achieve your desired scores. Get started with your personalized SSAT prep today!