What To Expect on the SSAT

When students decide to apply to a private or independent high school, they are entering brand new territory: the world of standardized testing. Enter the SSAT (the Secondary School Admissions Test). The SSAT is by no means the only factor that high school admissions boards are taking into account when students apply, but they certainly take it into consideration. How do parents and students prepare? SSAT test prep. Whether one-on-one or in a small group class, no student should go at it alone. 

What to Expect on the SSAT and How the Exam is Graded

The Upper-Level SSAT test is taken by all 8th through 11th-grade students applying to private high schools. As you can imagine, this means that a lot of the content on the test has not yet been taught to students starting the 8th-grade. Simply put, this is a hard test!

However, the good news is that schools are not looking at total scaled scores.

The SSAT is a “norm-referenced” test, meaning that schools are concerned with the applicants’ percentile rankings compared only to other students of the same grade and gender.

This is not to say that the test is not competitive. Many applicants come from private middle schools, and most have gone through test preparation (this pool often contains above-average students, who have been hard at work practicing the SSAT). Also, students generally take the test more than once in the fall of their 8th-grade year and choose to submit only their highest score.

What’s On the SSAT Test?

The test consists of five total sections: A 25-minute written sample, a 30-minute math section, a 40-minute critical reading section, a 30-minute verbal section, and a final 30-minute math section. Because the test asks a lot of questions in a short amount of time, strategy is key. Calculators are not allowed on any of the math problems, so students must be able to work through basic arithmetic operations quickly and efficiently. The test also deducts points for incorrect answers, so students also need to know when to make an educated guess on a question, and when to skip it completely. The critical reading passages are lengthy and dense, and students need to possess the skills to be able to glean important content quickly.

Thankfully, with the right program, students won’t have to fear the SSAT.

Sage Advice

At Sage, we typically suggest that students take an initial diagnostic exam in the spring of their seventh-grade year, or at the beginning of eighth-grade. This provides an idea of a student’s areas of strength and weakness, which gives students and their tutors the opportunity to see where they should focus their efforts. Typically, a student will then decide whether group test prep classes or one-on-one sessions are the right path for them.

SSAT Test Prep: Small Classes. Big Results. 

SSAT classes at Sage meet for two hours per week for seven weeks. These are offered either for two hours on Sundays, or an hour each on Tuesday and Thursday. The class includes two practice tests, as well as an optional instructor hour each week. For one-on-one prep, we suggest between 12-14 hours of instruction in order to get through the complete curriculum. The schedule for independent sessions can, of course, be flexible based on a student’s schedule.

Register for the SSAT test prep class beginning October 15th, or explore more about SSAT here.

ssat test prep at sage educators