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About The SSAT

The SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test, is a crucial standardized exam utilized by independent and private schools as a determining factor in their admissions process. The score helps the school determine whether or not the applicant should be admitted.

All students who are in grades 3 to 11 can take the SSAT.

SSAT Test Format

The SSAT consists of 3 sections: Verbal, Quantitative (Math) and Reading Comprehension. Additionally, there will also be 2 un-scored sections: Writing Sample and Experimental.

  • The Quantitative (Math) section analyzes a child’s ability to understand basic mathematical constructs. It comprises fundamental questions required to comprehend higher grade math. The questions differ from grade to grade.
  • The Verbal section is the easiest and quickest one. It determines the student’s capability to think clearly and constructively. It consists of a series of multiple-choice questions.
  • The Reading Comprehension section assesses the student’s skill in understanding what is being read. The student needs to answer multiple-choice questions based on the passages provided.
  • There is a Writing Sample section that accesses the student’s writing ability. This section is not scored.
  • The Experimental section consists of mixed content questions (Verbal, Reading, and Math). This section does not count toward reported scores.

SSAT Levels And Their Differences

The SSAT is divided into three levels:

  • Lower Level for students in grades 3-4
  • Middle Level for students in grades 5-7
  • Upper Level for students in grades 8-11.

Lower SSAT Format (Grade 3 - 4)

The Lower Level SSAT consists of 104 – 106 questions, with a duration of 2 hours 5 minutes.

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Section 1 - Quantitative (Math)30 Questions30 Minutes
Section 2 - Verbal30 Questions20 Minutes
Break15 Minutes
Section 3 - Reading Comprehension28 Questions30 Minutes
Writing Sample1 Writing Prompt15 Minutes
Experimental15 - 17 Questions15 Minutes

Middle SSAT (Grade 5-7) & Upper SSAT (Grade 8 - 11) Format

The Middle/Upper Level SSAT consists of 167 questions, with a duration of 3 hours 10 minutes.

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Writing Sample1 Writing Prompt25 Minutes
Break10 Minutes
Section 1 - Quantitative (Math)25 Questions30 Minutes
Section 2 - Reading40 Questions40 Minutes
Break10 Minutes
Section 3 - Verbal60 Questions30 Minutes
Section 4 - Quantitative (Math)25 Questions30 Minutes
Experimental16 Questions15 Minutes

In general, the Lower Level SSAT is vastly different from the middle Middle and Upper Level SSAT:

  • The quantitative questions are visual mathematical concepts appropriate for their grade.
  • The comprehension passages are easier to grasp
  • Essay section usually has a picture prompt.

For the Middle Level SSAT:

  • The quantitative section is based on algebra and geometry, with heavy amphasis on phrasing.
  • The comprehension passages are exerpts from middle-school level novels, poems or essays
  • Essay section will not have a picture prompt, and will test for student’s creative writing skills

For Upper Level SSAT, the structure of the questions will be similar to the Middle Level SSAT, but content will be more advanced.

When Should You Take The SSAT?

The SSAT is offered several times throughout the year, so it is important for students to plan ahead and schedule the test well in advance of the application deadline for the schools they are interested in attending.

It is generally recommended that students take the SSAT at least a few months before the application deadline.

This will allow the student enough time to prepare for the test and also allow enough time for the test results to be received and processed by the schools before the application deadline.

It’s also a good idea to check specific test dates and registration deadlines for the schools you are applying to, as some schools may have specific test date requirements.

It’s also recommended for students to take the SSAT more than once, as some schools will accept the highest score from multiple test dates. This can be beneficial for students who may not have performed as well as they hoped on their first attempt.

What Is A Good SSAT Score?

A good SSAT score for US boarding schools can vary depending on the school and the level of competition for admissions. However, generally speaking, a score in the upper percentiles is considered to be a good score for US boarding schools:

  • For the Lower Level SSAT, a score in the 80th percentile or higher is considered to be a good score.
  • For the Middle Level SSAT, a score in the 90th percentile or higher is considered to be a good score.
  • For the Upper Level SSAT, a score in the 90th percentile or higher is considered to be a good score.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are general guidelines and that different schools may have different standards for what constitutes a good SSAT score.

Some highly selective schools may require scores in the 99th percentile, while other schools may be more flexible with their admissions criteria.

It’s also important to note that a student’s SSAT score is just one of many factors that are considered during the admissions process.

Schools will also take into account a student’s academic record, extracurricular activities, essays, and teacher recommendations. Therefore, a student who has a good SSAT score but a weak academic record or a lack of extracurricular activities may not be as competitive as a student who has a lower SSAT score but stronger overall credentials.

In addition to the SSAT, US boarding schools also consider other factors such as GPA, essays, interviews, and extracurricular activities. It’s also important to consider that the admission process is highly competitive, therefore, a good SSAT score is a great advantage, but it is not the only factor in the decision-making process.

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