Frequently Asked Questions
About the SSAT
Each year, more than 50,000 students 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 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 Test (SSAT).
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.
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 registration deadline.
**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.
Students can take the test on all eight national or five international test dates each year. Only one SSAT Flex test can be taken per academic
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.
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.
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!
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, 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.
- Read the questions carefully. Are there words like ‘EXCEPT’ or ‘OPPOSITE’? Underline the key words in each question.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- As breaks from the rest of your studying, make flashcards of vocabulary - and use them!
- Eat well, exercise, and sleep!
- 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.
- 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 center is and how long it will take to get there.
- Eat a good dinner, get a good night's sleep, and then eat a healthy breakfast. Congratulations! You’re ready!!