The SSAT stands for the Secondary School Admissions Test. It is a required examination for admission into private middle school and high schools. The standard SSAT is given on eight designated Saturdays during the school year and the Flex SSAT may be given to an individual or group outside of those specified dates. It measures basic verbal, quantitative and reading comprehension skills that students need to perform successfully in the school system. All levels of the SSAT include verbal, math and reading sections. There is also a writing section which is not scored. The SSAT also helps students to highlight any areas of weakness which can be improved over time.

There are three SSAT levels: elementary, middle level, and upper level. The elementary level is administered to students in grades 3rd and 4th grades for admission into 4th and 5th grades. The middle level SSAT is for students in grades 5 through 7 who are entering 6 through 8 grades. The highest level SSAT is for students in grades 8-11. All testing levels have the same three main sections- Quantitative, Reading Comprehension, and Verbal Reasoning. The elementary level, however, is a shorter examination than the middle and upper levels, running about 2 hours and 5 minutes. This is because the higher-level tests have two quantitative sections and an un-scored essay that is sent to the school to which the student is applying.

The SSAT is written by independent school teachers and content matter experts. They go through a rigorous process of review by a committee which makes a judgement as to whether the items submitted are sound and appropriate. The SSAT is scored using norm referencing. Norm referencing reports if a test taker performs better or worse than a hypothetical student. This is determined by referencing average scores of a group of students of similar age and gender who have taken the test previously. This is reflected as percentile rankings which will differ from year to year, since different groups of students take the test. This SSAT norm group is very competitive, consisting of students who apply to extremely selective schools.

The verbal section is thirty minutes long, containing 60 multiple choice questions. The questions are based on synonyms and analogies. For the synonym questions, students should choose the answer closest in meaning to the word given in the item. Analogy questions judge a student’s ability to determine the relationship between words. There are two 30-minute math sections which are comprised of 25 multiple choice questions. The areas of computations, geometry/algebra, and mathematical concepts are focused on by the SSAT. The reading section contains 40 questions and 7 passages which take approximately 40 minutes.
The purpose of this section is to determine whether the student is able to read and understand what they have read. SSAT questions become more difficult as the student progresses through the exam. Failure to answer correctly results in loss of 1/4 of a point, so students should avoid making random guesses.

The SSAT is created to measure a student’s ability rather than knowledge of specific material. A student should begin preparing for the exam about three months before the date. Practice tests help to assess and analyze a student’s strengths and weaknesses. A student should avoid spending too much time on a single question and should opt to skip and return to it later.  It is almost impossible to cram for this sort of examination and be successful. Studying regularly and consistently helps to improve a student’s score. Reading improves vocabulary, which is particularly useful for the verbal section. Of course, practical advice including eating a proper meal, arriving at the center ahead of time, and getting a good night’s sleep are very important as well.


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