How to Prepare for the SSAT
The SSAT is a standardized multiple-choice test for students in grades 3-11. Although the SSAT is less well-known than the ACT or SAT, its function is the same. Your SSAT score will become a major factor in any boarding school admission decision, especially at the more competitive schools, so preparing for it is wise.
What score do I need to get in?
It’s common for students and parents to ask, “What score do I need to get in to _____ school?” But it’s not always a clear-cut answer. Avoid websites (that aren’t official school sources) that claim to know. Often, they are relying on self-reported data from a small sample size. The official SSAT website has great insights: “If you’re like most people, you’ll quickly scan the score report trying to find the magic number that will tell you whether the scores are good or bad. With an admission test like the SSAT, this is not an easy thing to do… Most people are not aware that a “good” admission test question is only answered correctly fifty percent of the time.”
SSAT Test Format
The SSAT has five sections and one essay portion. For the purposes of scoring, only four sections matter. And while the essay is not graded, a copy of it is sent to schools
Here’s what you can expect:
- Verbal The verbal section tests the student’s vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and ability to relate ideas logically.
- Quantitative The quantitative sections contain math questions that test the student’s ability to solve problems involving arithmetic, elementary algebra and geometry, and general number concepts.
- Reading The reading section tests the student’s ability to understand a written passage.
- Experimental The experimental section is not part of your score, but is used to improve the test.
Take the Right Test!
There are three levels of the SSAT. They are: Elementary (Grade 3-4), Middle (Grade 5-7), and Upper (Grade 8-11), so make sure you register for the right one. Take the test no more than twice; There is typically one test date in each of the following months: October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and June. Start studying a couple months early, so that the material and strategies stay fresh in your mind. While you can take the test multiple times, we recommend you take it no more than twice.
How Can You Prepare?
One of the best ways to prepare for the SSAT is to “take” the test before you actually take the test.
The Official Guide
A great resource for this is the 2014-2015 Official SSAT Guide ($35). It’s a non-digital guide that comes with 2 practice tests and helpful advice about how to prepare. If you’re going to take the SSAT – this is a must-have. Pros & Cons: It’s the official guide at an affordable price, but you will have to grade your own practice tests.
There are many companies and private individuals all over the country who specialize in preparing for standardized tests like the SSAT. It can be expensive, so find someone with a good reputation. Pros & Cons: Personalized attention and specific answers, but expect to pay $2,000+ for classes.
ePrep is somewhere in between the previous two options. You get instant scores to practice tests, as well as, expert video answers for every question that will help improve your weak spots. Pros & Cons: It’s affordable and online, but it’s unofficial and less personalized than a private tutor.