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What is the SSAT?

The SSAT, or Secondary Schools Admission Test, is a test of reasoning, language, math and writing skills which is used to help determine admission to private elementary, middle and high schools. It is designed for students in 3rd-11th grade, and administered at different levels: Elementary Level, for students in 3rd and 4th grade; Middle Level, for students in 5th-7th grade; and Upper Level, for students in 8th-11th grade.

How long is the SSAT?

The duration of the SSAT depends on which level of the test you are taking.

If you are taking the Elementary Level test, the test will take 110 minutes, or about two hours:

  • Quantitative (Math) section: 30 questions, 30 minutes.

  • Verbal section: 30 questions, 20 minutes.

  • 15 minute break: During this time you may have a snack, or leave the classroom to stretch your legs or take a bathroom break.

  • Reading section: 7 short passages, 28 questions, 30 minutes.

  • Writing sample: 1 picture prompt will be provided. You will have 15 minutes to write a short passage.

If you are taking the Middle or Upper Level tests, the test will take 170 minutes, or about three hours:

  • Writing sample: 2 prompts will be provided. You will have 25 minutes to select one prompt, and write a passage.

  • 5 minute break.

  • First Quantitative (math) section: 25 questions, 30 minutes.

  • Reading section: 40 questions, 40 minutes.

  • 10 minute break.

  • Verbal section: 60 questions, 30 minutes.

  • Second Quantitative (Math) section: 25 questions, 30 minutes.

Students with diagnosed learning disabilities may apply for additional time, or other accommodations.

How is the SSAT scored?

You will receive three types of scores on your score report: a raw score, a scaled score, and a percentile ranking.

Raw scores are determined by counting the number of incorrect answers and correct answers. Correct answers are worth one point each, and one quarter point is deducted for each incorrect answer. No points are deducted for failing to answer a question, and all questions have the same point value.

Scaled scores are derived from the raw scores. Different scales are used for the different levels of the test: students taking the SSAT Elementary Level test will receive a score on a scale of 900 to 1800 (300 to 600 per section), students taking the SSAT Middle Level test will receive a score on a scale of 1320 to 2130 (440 to 710 per section), and students taking the upper level test will receive a score on a scale of 1500 and 2400 (500 to 800 per section).

The percentile ranking represents how well you did compared to other students of the same grade and gender who have taken the SSAT in the past three years. Your rank will be between 1% and 99%, and indicates the percentage of students with a lower or equal score to your own. For example: if you receive a percentile score of 75%, that would mean that you did as well as or better than 75% of students of your grade and gender who took the test in the past three years.

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. There is an extensive process for developing new editions of the SSAT, involving deep review and analysis of the questions themselves, as well as analysis of results from actual students taking the test. In the 2012-13 SSAT, this will include an unscored experimental section on the test to broadly evaluate new questions. The questions that pass this rigorous analysis become accepted into a pool of questions from which new editions of SSAT tests are constructed. Careful measures are taken to also eliminate any material that reflect stereotype, bias or other inappropriate nuances that may negatively affect test-takers.


SSAT Administration

When and where can I take the SSAT?

There are eight standard test dates for each academic year. You can view the standard test dates on the SSAT board’s Test Dates and Deadlines Calendar.

Note that while standard test dates are on Saturdays, Sunday testing is available for students who observe a Saturday Sabbath.

To find testing locations for standard test dates, the SSATB provides search tools. You can also view testing locations in a list format.

For Sunday test dates, you may view a list of testing centers list format.

If you are unable to take the SSAT on a standard test date, regional flex testing may be available on an alternate date in your area. For more information, please check the SSAT’s page on flex dates.

You may also choose to take the SSAT with an educational consultant or organization on an alternate date.

Note that while you may register for any or all of the standard test dates, you may only register for one flex date per academic year.

What are the SSAT test dates in New York?

The SSAT is offered eight times an academic year. You can find an easy to read list of official SSAT test dates (including Sunday dates) here or use the official SSAT test center search here.

Please note that you may also be able to schedule a flex test date through an institution which administers the SSAT.

How do I register?

The easiest and fastest way to register is to complete the online application. Please register for the exam here.

You can also register by mail or fax. Download and print the SSAT Registration Form, then mail the completed form to:

SSAT Registration
CN 5339
Princeton, NJ 08543
Or fax to: 800.442.SSAT (7728)

If you observe the Sabbath, and wish to schedule a Sunday test date, you must request for special accommodations. More details is available at the special accommodations page.

Be sure to keep your admission ticket. This ticket serves as a confirmation for your test registration, and includes important details of your pending test, including the date and time, location of scheduled test, specific instructions regarding taking the SSAT, and a list of schools/consultants chosen to receive your SSAT scores.

How much does it cost to take the SSAT?

The cost of the SSAT depends on which level of the test you are taking, when you register, and whether you wish to purchase additional score reporting services. You can view a price chart here.

If you’re experiencing financial hardships, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver. Note, however, that a fee waiver covers only the standard USA or Canada test fee: it does not cover late registration fees, rescheduling fees, international test fees, or the fees for any additional score delivery options.

Organizations which are administering the SSAT may also charge an administration fee for their services.

How do I apply for an SSAT fee waiver?

In order to apply for an SSAT fee waiver, you must contact an SSAT member school to which you are applying for details and requirements.

When will I receive my SSAT score?

Most scores are released about two weeks after the test date. Your scores will be received via the online student account, or you may pay an additional fee to receive scores by mail. You will not be able to receive scores by telephone; however, you may pay an additional fee for a score report alert by text or email, to receive notice as soon as your scores are available online. You may also pay an additional fee to have a copy of your writing sample included in your report.

Can I take the SSAT more than once?

In general, yes. You may take the SSAT on any or all of the standard test dates. However, you may only take the SSAT on one FLEX test date per year. In addition, some participating schools or consortiums may have a policy of considering only one score, and may regard additional tests as invalid.


SSAT Content

Do I qualify to take the Elementary Level, Middle Level or Upper Level SSAT?

If you are in 3rd or 4th grade, then you qualify to take the Elementary level test; if you are in 5th-7th grade, you qualify to take the Middle Level test; if you are in 8th to 11th grade, you qualify to take the Upper Level test.

There are no academic prerequisites for the SSAT. You qualify if you are at an appropriate grade level. If you have a disability, you may also qualify for accommodations.

What are the differences between the Middle Level and Upper Level SSAT exams?

Both the Middle Level and Upper Level exam contain sections that test the following: Math, Reading Comprehension, Synonyms and Analogies and Essay Writing.

The Middle Level exam provides two creative writing prompts for the student to choose between while the Upper Level provides one creative prompt and one essay prompt.

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 math concepts do I need to know to take the SSAT?

The SSAT covers elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, including the following:

  • Basic arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and the order of operations

  • Units of measurement: weight, capacity, time, temperature and money

  • Rounding, place value, estimation and properties

  • Odd, even, prime, negative and positive numbers

  • Fractions, decimals, and percentages

  • Ratios, proportions and rates

  • Ordering and sequences

  • Averages and probabilities

  • Basic concepts of Angles

What is the breakdown of question types in the Math sections of the SSAT?

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 (ML); roughly 40% of questions asked (UL))

Note that some SSAT test questions require you to use more than one skill!

Do I need to brush up on history to do well the SSAT? How about science, literature, etc.?

The SSAT is not designed as a test of knowledge, but as a test of reasoning skills. In general, you do not need to possess any specialized knowledge to do well on the SSAT. You will, however, need to have a strong vocabulary to do well on the verbal section of the test.

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. Ivy Global tutors use our own wordlist in addition to those resources, which is based on an educated estimate of the statistical appearance of words on the official SSAT exams and also takes into account the fact that the SSAT uses a lot of the same vocabulary as the SAT.


SSAT Test Day

I have a disability. Can I request accommodations for taking the SSAT?

Yes. Children with documented disabilities may apply for special accommodations to help them take the test. Accommodations may include extra time, large print test materials, or the use of a calculator, laptop, or other devices.

In order to be eligible for accommodations the student must have a documented disability and be able to demonstrate that they regularly receive accommodations in school. For more details, see the SSAT’s Special Accommodations section.

Can I use mechanical pencils?

No. Bring at least two standard #2 wood pencils.

Can I use a calculator?

Generally, no: however, if you have a documented learning disability, you may apply for special accommodations which may include the use of a calculator, laptop, reader, scribe, or other device.

Can I bring my cellphone?

No. Cell phones, tablet computers, alarm watches, calculators and other devices are not allowed in the testing room. You should avoid bring anything except the materials that you need to take the test, a snack, and a beverage.

Is the SSAT related to the SAT?

No. The SSAT is used only for admission to elementary, middle and high schools and is administered by a separate body: the SSATB, not the College Board. It is not related to college admissions, is not a prerequisite for taking the SAT, and your performance will not affect your SAT scores.

However, the SSAT is similar to the SAT in structure, and your performance on the SSAT may be predictive of your performance on the SAT.

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).

  3. Know where the test center is and how long it will take to get there. Remember: you should arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam begins!

  4. Organize all of the things that you will need to bring with you, including:

    • Your SSAT admission ticket, and special accommodations document (if applicable)

    • At least two sharpened #2 pencils

    • Photo ID

    • A snack and drink for the break

  5. Eat a good dinner, get a good night's sleep, and then eat a healthy breakfast. Congratulations! You’re ready!!


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