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What’s the average SSAT Score for test takers?

In an effort to give prospective SSAT takers (and their parents) a better idea of how most students perform on the competitive exam, we will break down past data and simplify it as best as possible.  Please note, we are starting with a very general question and will illustrate how it is better asked when being more specific.  We will attempt to answer the aforementioned question in the title as efficiently as possible along with addressing more specific versions of it in our explanation today.

First off, we need to define a few terms: 

  • raw scores
  • scaled scores
  • percentile ranks

It would be easy to simply say that overall, the average SSAT score is 50% out of 100%.  However, the questions that should be be immediately asked are:

  • which level of the exam?  elementary (3rd or 4th?)? middle? upper? 
  • what section?  or for the overall exam?  
  • for boys? for girls?  

The administrators have spent more than 50 years perfecting and improving this exam to try and provide the best metric for schools who use it for their admissions’ teams.  So, the information is close guarded.  For all of us who are curious, there is not a ton of information that is publicly available.  Fortunately, we were able obtain the most comprehensive data available by the Secondary School Admission Test Board in recent memory.

Key Definitions for SSAT Scores

Raw Scores

The nominal points that are accrued on each section of the exam are the raw scores for the SSAT.  For example, for the Upper Level SSAT, there are 60 questions on the verbal, 50 on the math (quantitative) and 40 in the reading section.  A student could frankly obtain anywhere from a raw score of 150 points for getting all questions correct to as low as -37.5 because the test also penalizes for incorrect answers.

In the score report that is delivered after the exam, usually the scores are broken up in the “Question Breakdown” section identifying the “Right” And “Wrong” answers along with the “Not Answered” questions like this:

Raw Questions Broken Down

Scaled Scores

(the board explains it well)

“Because the various editions of the SSAT contain different questions, the tests range slightly in difficulty.  To be fair to students taking different editions of the test, a formula for translating the number of right and wrong answers into a score must compensate for those differences in difficulty.  These translated SSAT scores, called scaled scores, do not look like the raw scores, which are computed by simply counting the number of right answers and subtracting a fraction of the number of wrong answers.  The formula for computing scaled scores on each edition of the test is determined statistically to make any given scaled score represent (as nearly as possible) the same level of ability on every edition of the test.  

The SSAT score report provides a three-digit scaled score for each section.  The choice of scales themselves (440-710 on the [Middle] Level test and 500-800 on the Upper Level test) is arbitrary.  As with all standardized tests, the scaled score has a small degree of error (Standard Error of Measurement).  To reflect this measurement error, each score includes a score range, within which there is a very high probability that the student’s true score falls. 

Test scores, raw or scaled, are simply the result of measurement; by themselves, they have no meaning.  It is only when test scores are expressed in relation to some criterion that they take on meaning…

…direct comparisons of scaled scores for the various sections of a test can be misleading.  For example, while a verbal score of 587 is less than a quantitative score of 618, the difference of 31 points may not mean that the student has significantly “better” math aptitude than verbal aptitude.” 

…which brings us to:

(Norms and) Percentile Ranks

“The term norms refers to information about the test scores of one or more groups of students…

The SSAT percentile rank is a value on a scale of one hundred percent.  The precentile rank indicates the percentage of students of the same gender and grade level who scored at or below the corresponding scaled score.  For example, if a student’s percentile rank is 58 for the Verbal Section, this indicates a score better than 58 percent of the VErbal scores on all SSAT takers of the same grade level and of the same gender who have taken the SSAT in the past three years…”

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