Frequently-asked questions and additional resources
Why are character skills important?
There is a plethora of literature that suggests character skills are important for success in school, work, and life. It is one goal of independent schools to foster these skills in their students. Learn more about character and assessment on this NAIS page authored by David Holmes.
What is The Character Skills Snapshot?
The Character Skills Snapshot is a noncognitive assessment tool that measures character skills (initiative, intellectual engagement, open-mindedness, resilience, self-control, social awareness, and teamwork).
How was it developed?
The Enrollment Management Association collaborated with admission directors, heads of schools, and teachers from more than 56 independent schools to develop The Character Skills Snapshot. Assessment development experts from the Educational Testing Service wrote some of the questions, and others were written by teachers and admission professionals from independent schools. It has been through rigorous pilot testing with approximately 12,000 students enrolled in or applying to independent schools across the country. Listen to a podcast with Dr. David Holmes, cofounder and codirector of the Institute on Character and Admission, and Meghan Brenneman, Ed.D., Director of Character Assessment Programs for The Enrollment Management Association, at the bottom of this page.
How were the skills selected?
After comprehensive deliberation and a series of surveys, focus groups, and meetings, admission directors, heads of schools, and administrators selected the character skills they thought were most important to consider in an admission context.
For what age groups is it intended?
The Character Skills Snapshot is intended for students seeing application to independent schools in grades 6 through 12. The Snapshot was pilot tested with students in grades 5 through 11. The measurement properties of The Snapshot are stable across these grade levels.
How do you know students are answering honestly?
The Character Skills Snapshot is meant to capture a student’s perceptions of themselves in relation to the character skills. They should answer the questions on their own with no help from parent, guardian, or peers. In the unlikely event that students do attempt to fake their answers, they should find it extremely difficult to fake the forced-choice portion. Given that the situational judgment test portion (section 2) is knowledge-based, there is no real threat of faking.
Is it the same as the SSAT?
It is not the same thing as the SSAT. The Character Skills Snapshot was designed to complement standardized cognitive testing measures like the SSAT to provide a richer, more well-rounded picture of an individual applicant. It is taken separately from the SSAT. Schools can choose whether and how to utilize The Snapshot in their admission processes.
How is The Snapshot administered?
The Character Skills Snapshot is administered online in a student's home or other location with internet service. It is not available on mobile devices and is not given at schools.
What is the cost of The Character Skills Snapshot?
There is no cost for The Character Skills Snapshot if a student registers to take the SSAT; registration will be available through the student's SSAT account. If a student does not register to take the SSAT, the cost is $35.00.
What if a family is having trouble accessing The Snapshot?
Parents/guardians must create both parent and student SSAT accounts to take The Snapshot.
The Parent Account
- Provides parent/guardian and student information; creates a parent account
- Creates a student account with username and password
- Gives consent and signs an integrity statement
- Once the parent/guardian has provided consent and submits integrity statement, student signs in to his/her account.
- A "Take the Snapshot" icon will appear on student account
- Student submits integrity statement
- Student takes The Snapshot
- The Snapshot can only be taken on the student account, not the parent account. The student must be logged in to see Snapshot access.
Are fee waivers available for students who are not SSAT test takers, but need assistance to take The Character Skills Snapshot?
Yes. Participating member schools can issue fee waivers to those in financial need from their member access portals (MAPs). We'll automatically generate an email that will be sent to families which will include the fee waiver code that families can use in order to gain access to The Snapshot. Directions for utilizing fee waivers for The Snapshot can be found here.
Can a student stop and start the assessment, or does it have to be taken in one sitting?
The Character Skills Snapshot must be taken in one sitting. In our pretesting, it took students an average of 30 minutes to complete.
Can a student retake The Character Skills Snapshot?
Students may take The Character Skills Snapshot one time per testing year (August 1 - July 15th) The Character Skills Snapshot is intended to capture a snapshot of the student at the moment when they apply and results are valid for one year. Reports are accessible via your portal for one year.
Can a school that accepts the ISEE or another standardized test receive Snapshot reports?
A school must be a member of The Enrollment Management Association in order to receive Character Skills Snapshot reports. Member schools that use the ISEE or another admission test must let students know they use The Snapshot so that families can sign up to access it.
How can schools sign up to participate?
Are results sent directly to schools?
Member schools utilizing The Character Skills Snapshot will receive reports from those parents/guardians who select them as report recipients, similar to SSAT score reporting. A parent/guardian must choose to send Snapshot reports to a school. Those reports will then appear on a school's Member Access Portal (MAP), just as SSAT scores do. Scores are released to parent/guardian accounts approximately 2 weeks following Snapshot completion.
When do we get reports?
When a school is selected as a score recipient following the reciept of results by the parent/guardian, the school will receive results in real time.
How should the results be used to impact an admission decision?
Admission offices should use the information provided from The Character Skills Snapshot to complement other information required as a part of the application process, including SSAT test scores, interviews, grades, letters of recommendation, and other information. The Character Skills Snapshot is not intended and should not be used alone to make an admission decision. Schools are required to sign a fair use agreement prior to agreeing to accept Snapshot reports.
Can Character Skills Snapshot reports change over time?
Yes, a student’s character skills are expected to change over time. There is a lot of research about the malleability of character skills.