The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is the standardized test used by many private and independent schools across the country. Testing students on their verbal, reading comprehension, and math skills, the SSAT is a critical piece of a student’s entrance application. The SSAT is composed of three levels—Elementary, Middle, and Upper—with a range of ages for each level of the test. The most common level, the Upper Level test, is taken by students applying to grades 9-12.
While each level of the SSAT has a slightly different format, all three levels contain the following sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Reading. The specific breakdown of each level can be found on the SSAT’s website.
The Quantitative Section: This section assesses students on their mastery of mathematical concepts, often testing students on above grade level content. The Elementary Level will assess topics such as the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, along with concepts such as place value, fractions, and beginner geometry. The Middle Level expands upon the depth and degree of the concepts on the Elementary Level, while the Upper Level tests more advanced algebra and geometry. A calculator is not permitted for the Quantitative Section.
The Verbal Section: This section assesses students in two primary areas—synonyms and analogies. While students have often worked with synonyms in school, analogies are generally unfamiliar
The Reading Section: This section is very similar to how many students are often assessed in school: students read through a variety of passages covering a range of topics, with a series of follow-up questions. Through SSAT prep, students will learn how to approach the five main question types: Detail, Main Idea, Inference, Vocabulary in Context, and Tone/Mood.
The scoring for the Upper and Middle Levels of the SSAT differs slightly from that of the Elementary Level SSAT – the Upper and Middle level tests include a wrong answer penalty, while the Elementary Level does not. A student’s raw score is calculated by totaling up the number of correct questions; on the Upper and Middle Level tests, one quarter of a point is deducted for each incorrect answer. There is no penalty for questions that are omitted
Student’s raw scores are then equated to scaled scores, which are the numbers you will see on an official score report. These scales take into account a student’s grade and the difficulty level of each question. It is important to note that students are only scored against other students in their grade level. As previously mentioned, the Upper Level SSAT is meant for students applying to grades 9-12; students applying to grade 9 are not expected to be familiar with the same content as a rising senior.
SSAT Registration and Test Dates
The Middle and Upper Level tests are administered on six Standard test dates each year, while the Elementary test us administered on five of those dates. The SSAT also offers at-home testing for the Middle and Upper Levels, which is extremely convenient during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on test center locations and at-home testing can be found on the SSAT website. Students are additionally permitted to schedule up to two Flex test dates, depending on their test level. Flex tests require a specific code during registration and may not be held in the same locations as the paper-based tests. To register, please visit the SSAT website.
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