Each year, more than 4,000 students in Canada and 50,000 across North America
write the exam known as the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test). The SSAT
is the required entrance exam to some of the finest secondary schools in the
world, and a number of private and independent schools use it as an integral
part of their admissions evaluation.
See below for answers to some of the frequently asked questions regarding
Why the SSAT?
More than 50 years ago, ten independent admission officers tackled the imminent
need for a universal admission test that would determine student academic
ability, as well as evaluate their ability to think logically and solve problems
systematically. Because of the wide variance of academic programs and standards
among elementary and pre-secondary schools, it was problematic to compare
academic ability based on grades and other independent performance measures.
In an attempt to resolve the inconsistencies, the Secondary School Admission
Test Board (SSATB) was formed, which developed the Secondary School Admission
How are SSATs developed?
SSATs are developed by the combined efforts of high school and college teachers,
and test specialists who write SSAT test questions. The process is extensive
in developing new editions of the SSAT, involving the following: review, pre-test,
analysis of results, and verification of each question and reading selection
to ensure specifications are met. Careful measures are taken to also eliminate
any material that reflect stereotype, bias or other inappropriate nuances
that may negatively affect test-takers. The questions that pass this final
analysis become accepted into a pool of questions from which new editions
of SSAT tests are constructed.
What are the SSAT test dates?
The SSAT is offered eight times an academic year. You can find the complete
list of SSAT test dates at http://www.ssat.org.
How do I register?
The easiest and fastest way to register is to complete the online application.
Please register for the exam at http://www.ssat.org.
The other alternative is to mail/ fax a completed form to SSAT by the regular
**Important Note: Please make sure to print off and keep the Admission Ticket
that is obtainable only after SSAT has received and processed your registration
and payment. This ticket both serves as a confirmation for your test registration,
and includes important details of your pending test: date, location of scheduled
test, specific instructions regarding taking the SSAT, list of schools/ consultants
chosen to receive your SSAT scores.
How many times can I take the test?
You may register for only one
SSAT test per academic year. Any subsequent attempts to write the exam will
be considered invalid and will not be reported to schools.
Do I qualify to write the Elementary, Middle or Upper Level SSAT?
The Secondary School Admission Test Board offers three versions of the SSAT.
• The Elementary Level SSAT is for students in grades 3 through 4.
• The Middle Level SSAT is for students in grades 5 through 7.
• The Upper Level SSAT is for students in grades 8 through 11.
What is the difference between the Middle Level and Upper Level SSAT
Both the Middle Level and Upper Level exam contain sections that test the
following: Math, Reading Comprehension, Synonyms and Analogies and Essay Writing.
The Upper Level SSAT Math sections include more word problems and more algebra
than the Middle Level. The Upper Level also involves more two-step problems,
or questions involving multiple skills.
The Upper Level SSAT Reading Comprehension passages tend to be longer and
more complicated than the Middle Level, but follow the same format.
The Upper Level SSAT Synonyms and Analogies test more difficult vocabulary.
What is the breakdown of question types in the Math sections of the
All of the questions in the Math sections on the official SSAT practice tests
fall into the categories of
• Arithmetic (roughly 50% of questions asked)
• Algebra (roughly 30% of questions asked)
• Geometry (roughly 20% of questions asked)
• Word Problems (roughly 30% of questions asked (LL); roughly 40%
of questions asked (UL))
Note that some SSAT test questions require you to use more than one skill!
Do I need to know the American systems of measurement for the SSAT?
In the SSAT official practice tests, students have been required to convert
between inches and feet, and between feet and yards. Students are also expected
to recognize terms of the Imperial system of measurement and their Metric
• cups, pints, quarts, gallons;
• inches, feet, yards, miles;
• pounds, tons
• Centimetres, metres, kilometres
• Grams, kilograms, tonnes
Are there vocabulary wordlists for the SSAT?
Although vocabulary is one of the most important and difficult sections tested
on the SSAT exams, the SSATB does not publish an official wordlist. Nonetheless,
various resources exist for SSAT students wishing to develop their vocabularies.
The Kaplan and Princeton Review study guides both contain wordlists and there
are a number of resources online.
What are the most important things to remember while taking the exam?
1. Read the questions carefully. Are there words like ‘EXCEPT’
or ‘OPPOSITE’? Underline the key words in each question.
2. Pace yourself. No question on the SSAT should take more than two or three
minutes to answer, so don’t spend too long agonizing over one question
unless you’ve already answered the easier ones.
3. Make educated guesses rather than random guesses. Use the process of elimination
wherever you can to eliminate answer choices that are definitely not what
you want. In the case of the Math questions, try guesstimating* what the answer
is probably close to.
4. If you have extra time, go back and check that you’ve bubbled in
your answers correctly and noticed all the words like EXCEPT, and try taking
a stab at questions you’ve left blank in that section.
What are the best things to do the week before the exam?
1. Write a practice essay each day and have a parent or teacher read it.
Go over the essay together and incorporate these comments into your next attempts.
2. Break the test down into the different sections you need to know. Study
those different sections in depth. If you have trouble with percentages, read
the percentage section of your study guide and do all the practice questions.
Check to see if you’re getting the right answers.
3. Each day, do timed practice sections of the SSAT, mark yourself, and then
go back to look at the questions you got wrong. What types of question were
they? What skills did they require? Go back and study those sections.
4. As breaks from the rest of your studying, make flashcards of vocabulary
(and use them.)
5. Eat well, exercise, and sleep!
What are the best things to do the night before the exam?
1. Study only lightly on the night before your exam. Make a list of your three
biggest fears and work on them, but don’t try to learn anything new.
2. Pick out what you’re going to wear to the exam (wearing layers is
recommended). Organize everything you need to bring. Know where the test centre
is and how long it will take to get there.
3. Get a good supper, a good sleep, and then a good breakfast. Congratulations!