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Transcripts, applications, teacher recommendations...applying to boarding schools is a lot, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier when we tell you there is also a required entrance exam. And, to top it off, the entrance exam comes in the form of a standardized test.

Are you still reading? Good! The purpose of this post is to put your mind at ease and give you some tips and things to keep in mind when it comes time to start thinking about the standardized test.

1. One size doesn’t fit all...but it fits most

It is almost guaranteed that all of the schools you apply to will require some form of standardized testing. There are a few different tests out there, but the one you will probably see the most is the SSAT. Be sure you check with the admission office at each of your schools to ask what they require. Some are strict in that they only accept the SSAT, while others may consider a score from another test like the ISEE. When in doubt, just ask!

2. Ask us about test scores

One of the most common questions we get is, “what is your minimum SSAT score?” to which I reply, “that depends...your SSAT score is really just one piece of the puzzle.” This statement is true. Most schools take a very holistic approach to the application review process, putting equal weight into SSAT scores, transcripts, the interview, recommendations, etc.


If you find your admission officer giving you this answer, try following up by asking them what the average SSAT score of an accepted student is. Most admission officers will know that number, and it will give you a good idea of how you may stack up against their average accepted student. 

3. Study, but don’t stress

The SSAT is an important piece of the process, and we ask that you try your best. The SSAT website provides some great resources that include practice tests, instructional videos, tips and strategies, and much more. Take advantage of these––they are free!

That being said, a single 3-hour test is not going to capture the full picture of your academic ability, and we keep that in mind when reviewing your score. This is why we also put a lot of consideration into your transcripts and teacher recommendations––sometimes these can balance out a bad day at the testing center. 

4. Try again!

Not satisfied with your score? The great thing about the SSAT and many other tests is that you can take them again! Many schools will take your additional scores and average them together to create what’s called a “superscore.” There is no limit on how many times you are allowed to take the test, but be careful not to burn yourself out, and remember rule #3. At the end of the day, it’s just a test, and we are most interested in getting to know who you are as a person.

Jake Kennedy Associate Director of Admission Mercersburg Academy