Over my last twenty years of practice, I have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of students writing the SSAT. When I first began my private teaching practice, I might have received one or two calls a year from parents whose children were preparing for the test. Now, most new inquiries at Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space during the late summer and early fall come from those wanting SSAT preparation.
What is the SSAT?
For those wondering, SSAT stands for Secondary School Admission Test, and is part of the admissions process for most private schools. It is a multiple choice test that evaluates a student’s math, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills. There is also an essay writing component. Students in grades 5 or 6 write the Lower Level SSAT to gain entrance into grade 7, while students in grades 8 through 11 write the Upper Level test to gain entrance into high school programs.
The SSAT and Acceptance to Private Schools
Acceptance to most private schools is based on a student’s SSAT score, their past report cards, and a personal interview. A high SSAT score is important, as it can often be the deciding factor for acceptance.
The SSAT Format
The SSAT is a formal, standardized test, the likes of which many students have never experienced before. Approximately three hours in length, the test demands an enormous amount of sustained mental energy. The breadth of knowledge required is vast and the marking scheme is rigid. For most students in the grade 5 to 8 range, the thought of sitting through 3 hours of testing while answering questions that are 2 to 3, or more, years above their academic level can be daunting.
The SSAT Scores
Another little known fact about the SSAT is that a child’s score is placed in a percentile comparison with test takers of the previous three years. Children are not compared to a fixed norm, but one that fluctuates depending on recent scores. If your child happens to write the SSAT at a time when most of the other test takers have prepared extensively, then your child will be compared to that highly trained group. A high SSAT score and high percentile placement can greatly improve your child’s chances of acceptance into the private school of their choice.
That means ample preparation will more than likely give your child an advantage. This is an issue which I will address in my next blog.