SSAT Test Prep: Tips for taking the SSAT

June 2, 2023
5 min read

If you’re looking for top tips for taking the SSAT, you’re in the right place! Before you start studying, we’ll help you learn how to prepare for the SSAT.

Have you ever heard of the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT)? If you didn’t know, the SSAT is an aptitude and admissions test used primarily by private schools to place their students at different class levels. If you plan on attending a private school, you may want to know a few tips to improve your chances.

The SSAT has three levels based on your grade. The elementary level exam covers third and fourth graders, students in fifth through seventh grade will take the middle-level exam, and the final upper level is designed for students in eighth through eleven grade. 

Below, you’ll find the list of the top 7 SSAT study tips for proven success on the exam. 

7 Tips for Taking the SSAT

When starting to prepare for the SSAT exam, the following tips will help guide you toward efficient studying and better test scores. 

1. Decide How You’ll Take the Test

Before you take the test, you’ll want to consider the available SSAT testing options. You can choose to either take the test online from home, at a testing center, or in a classroom setting with a paper exam. 

While their availability depends on location, as long as you’re in America or Canada, all three options should be common for most areas.

The most popular version of the exam remains the in-person paper exam. However, don’t be afraid to consider the digital options if you have testing anxiety in classroom settings or are prone to making errors on paper. 

2. Don't Stress About New Questions

Remember, the SSAT is designed to challenge students of various grade levels, so encountering unfamiliar questions is expected. Focus on answering the questions you do know well, and don't let unfamiliar ones shake your confidence. 

Trust in your preparation and approach each question with a calm and focused mindset. Ultimately, your performance will be evaluated in comparison to others at your grade level, so stay focused on showcasing your abilities to the best of your capacity.

3. Start Studying Early

With your exam date and level in mind, start studying early! Depending on your level, you’ll need to start anywhere from six weeks to up to three months in advance. While the lower-level tests may not need as much study time, expect the high school exam to take extra effort.

By setting aside more time to prepare, you'll become increasingly comfortable with the content and significantly improve your chances of excelling on test day.

4. Use Official Study Material

The best way to review for the SSAT is to use the study guides and practice materials provided by the SSAT exam’s parent group. Secondary supplementary material will help, but the official study guides will always provide exactly what you need to know for the exam and nothing more. They may even provide extra study tips. 

5. Be Ready for Test Day

On exam day, ensure you’ve had plenty of sleep, a solid breakfast, and a solid amount of studying. Whether online or in person, be early and try to use that extra time to prepare yourself mentally. Remember, stress during an exam can reduce your score, so feeling rested and focused is just as important as any other tip for taking the SSAT.

6. Use All of Your Exam Time

The SSAT time limit may seem daunting, but it’s designed to give the average student enough time to finish. Students will have three hours and ten minutes on the upper and middle-level exams, while the elementary level takes two hours and five minutes. If you’re still worried about the SSAT time limit, take practice timed tests. 

Remember to use the time provided to your advantage! Knocking out the easier questions first and jumping around the exam as needed are good test-taking skills. If you have leftover time when you reach the end, don’t be afraid to review questions to ensure you read them correctly and that your answers match the exam sheet. 

7. Understand How the Exam Is Scored

Knowing how the exam sections are scored and which sections count can give you an edge. On the upper and mid-level tests, you get one point for each correct answer, lose a quarter point for a wrong answer, and omitted questions don’t count toward anything. On the elementary exam, on the other hand, wrong answers don’t count against you.

Considering the scoring, you can devise an SSAT guessing strategy for the harder questions. While studying can help you learn the material, sometimes the multiple-choice questions can be tricky. Knowing how to make educated guesses, narrowing down answers, and weighing the odds of a correct answer can reward you.

How to Prepare for the SSAT

To prepare for the SSAT, consider taking the exam multiple times to improve your score. Practice with full-length tests, study regularly and work on test-taking strategies and vocabulary. Creating a solid study plan will help you get ready for the exam. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips. 

1. Consider Taking the Test More Than Once

It's a good idea to plan on taking the SSAT multiple times. This gives you a chance to improve if your first attempt doesn't go as well as you hoped. Elementary-level students can take it twice, while middle and upper-level students have more chances, with options for both computer-based and paper-based tests.

2. Practice with Full-Length Tests

Doing full-length practice tests is the best way to get ready for the SSAT. It helps you get used to the test's style and content, and it builds up your stamina for the long test day. Try to simulate the real test environment by doing mock tests with a proctor.

3. Study Regularly, but Shorter

Instead of cramming, it's better to study for shorter periods more often. Aim for about 30 to 60 minutes a day, three to five days a week. This helps you remember what you've learned and improves your test-taking skills over time.

4. Learn Test-Taking Tricks

Get familiar with smart strategies for taking the test. Taking prep classes or watching instructional videos can teach you useful tricks for each section of the SSAT. The key is to practice these strategies consistently.

5. Work on Your Vocabulary

Spend some time every day expanding your vocabulary. It's important for the Verbal section and can help with other parts of the test too. Use flashcards, write sentences with new words, or try drawing pictures to remember them better.

Similar to the ISEE, a strong vocabulary is essential for success on the SSAT. By dedicating time each day to expand your word knowledge through activities like flashcards, sentence writing, and visual aids, you'll improve your performance not only in the Verbal section but also across other areas of the test.

6. Read Regularly

Reading different kinds of texts regularly is great practice for the SSAT. It helps improve your reading skills, vocabulary, and even your writing. Try reading newspapers, poems, and challenging articles to get better prepared.

7. Create an SSAT Study Plan

Preparing for the SSAT can be tough, no matter your grade. The exams are challenging and competitive by design. To get ready, it's important to understand the format of the SSAT.

So, it's a good idea to create a solid study plan. This means setting a schedule for your study sessions and maybe getting some help from a tutor who knows their stuff. Having a plan in place will make sure you're ready for the SSAT when the time comes.

Day Study Focus Duration
Monday Math: Review basic arithmetic concepts 45 minutes
Tuesday Verbal: Learn new vocabulary words 30 minutes
Wednesday Reading: Practice reading comprehension 45 minutes
Thursday Math: Solve practice problems 45 minutes
Friday Verbal: Review synonyms and analogies 30 minutes
Saturday Full-Length Practice Test 3 hours
Sunday Rest and Review -

Getting ready for the SSAT takes some work, but it's definitely doable. By following these steps—like making a study plan, doing practice tests, learning test-taking tricks, and building your vocabulary—you'll be well-prepared for the big day. 

Just keep at it, and you'll increase your chances of acing the SSAT and getting into the private school of your choice.

FAQs: SSAT Study Tips

Here are some common questions from students looking to learn how to prepare for the SSAT.

1. Is the SSAT Test Hard?

As an aptitude test, the SSAT should be a challenge for most students, from studying to taking the exam. Students should expect not to know everything on the exam, especially if they are in lower grade levels. This is why studying for the exam is so important; knowing the material inside and out may take a plan and a tutor!

2. What’s on the SSAT Exam?

The SSAT has about five sections, two of which are not scored. The three scored sections include Quantitative Math, Verbal Vocabulary and Analogies, and Passage Reading. The other two sections, the Writing Sample and the Experimental Mixed Questions, are there for your school to place you in the right classes among your peers. 

3. What Is the Hardest Part of the SSAT?

Parents have reported that the verbal section is the hardest part of the SSAT. Not only does this section cover vocabulary that you will likely not know but the questions also ask for synonyms and antonyms that require out-of-the-box thinking, similar to an IQ test. 

Final Thoughts

The SSAT will challenge your skills and education level as an important step in getting into a private school. The exam adapts the student’s grade level and expects you to understand various subjects, acting as both an admissions and aptitude test. While the exam may seem daunting, there are plenty of strong tips for taking the SSAT.

If you’re looking for advice on how to prepare for the SSAT, starting early with a study schedule, reaching out to a tutor, and reviewing the official guides will provide a strong foundation. 

On the day of the exam, going into the test with a stress-free mind, strong test-taking skills, and an understanding of the test structure will help your overall grade. 

Good luck with the SSAT!

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