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Private schools can offer your student smaller classes, individualized support, and access to a wide range of courses. To ensure your student is placed appropriately, they may need to take an entrance exam as part of the admissions process. The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is a common choice for most private schools.

What is the SSAT?

Founded in 1957 by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA), the SSAT can be used to predict how well your student will perform in the courses to come. It tests your student in areas such as math, reading, writing, and vocabulary to ensure they are appropriately placed.

The SSAT is broken into three levels and the material is adjusted to match the knowledge of those in the corresponding grades.

The Elementary Level SSAT is intended for students in grades three and four. The Middle Level is for those in grades five through seven, and the Upper Level is for grades eight through 11. While it’s recommended to enroll your student in the level that matches their current grade, there are exceptions when you may level up or down for the test.

The level your student takes will be predetermined by the school to which they’re applying. Generally, your student will take the test associated with the grade level for which they are applying. For example, if your student is currently in the third grade, but plans to skip a grade and apply for the fifth, your student would take the Middle Level exam. If your student is in seventh grade and plans to apply for eighth, they will take the Upper Level exam.

Can the SSAT Be Taken Online?

The SSAT is offered in three testing formats, but availability varies by level. The Elementary Level SSAT is only available as a paper test. The Middle and Upper Levels are available as paper tests, SSAT at Home, and Prometric tests.

The paper test, or Standard SSAT, is offered at authorized testing centers and mimic a classroom test day environment. In this mode, your student will complete answer sheets and their writing sample entirely in pencil. Your student is monitored by a proctor throughout their exam.

Paper tests conducted on fixed dates within the regular testing period are called standards. Tests conducted outside of this period are called flex tests. Flex tests offer the same testing format as standards but are administered by approved educational consultants and EMA member schools.

In one testing cycle, Elementary Levels can take up to two standards and one flex. Mid and Upper levels can take up to four standards and one flex test. If your Middle or Upper Level student is based in China, they can take up to five standards.

The SSAT at Home is the online version of the SSAT. It allows your student to complete the exam from the comfort of their home at a predetermined date and time. If you choose this option, you’ll need to ensure your student has a distraction-free test area and a Mac or Windows PC with:

  • working speakers
  • a microphone
  • a webcam
  • a mouse
  • a keyboard

Before your student can take the test, their picture will be taken. As such, the student should be dressed appropriately in a well-lit room and seated at a desk or table during their test. They should be in a quiet place with no posters or items in the background that could distract them.

If you register for this test mode, make sure your student is in the United States or Canada on test day. If your student is outside of these locations on their test day, you’ll need to reschedule for another date.

Prometric SSAT testing is the digital version of the SSAT administered at a Prometric test center. If you register for this mode, your student will be assigned a testing station, headset, whiteboard, dry erase marker, and eraser prior to testing. Make sure your student arrives 30 to 45 minutes before their scheduled test time to complete check-in procedures in a timely manner.

If your student is registered for the SSAT at Home or Prometric testing modes, they can take up to two tests per testing year. These tests can be one of the following:

  • one SSAT at Home and one Prometric test
  • two SSAT at Home tests
  • two Prometric tests

What’s on the SSAT?

The SSAT contains three scored sections and two non-scored sections.

For the Lower Level, your student’s final score will not be negatively impacted by incorrect answers. If your student is testing in Middle or Upper Levels, only one quarter is deducted for each incorrect answer. Points are not awarded for blank answers, so it’s in your student’s best interest to answer as many questions as possible.

The math, reading comprehension, and verbal sections are scored. While the writing section isn’t scored, it’s a great chance for students to express themselves and showcase their writing abilities. The experimental section also isn’t scored, but is included to let SSAT developers check the quality of questions to ensure they are reliable, secure, and acceptable.

While these sections are available for all three levels, the timeframe and content vary slightly.

Lower Level SSAT

If your student is taking the Upper Level SSAT, they’ll have 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete their test. The test is broken into five parts with a 15-minute break in between. Your student will have:

  • 30 minutes to answer 30 math problems
  • 20 minutes to answer 30 questions regarding vocabulary and analogies
  • 30 minutes to answer 28 reading questions
  • 15 minutes to complete a writing prompt
  • 15 minutes to complete a 15 to 17 prompts

Middle and Upper Level SSAT

If your student is taking the Middle or Upper Levels, they’ll have 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete their test. They can finish the test early if they choose to take the SSAT at Home testing mode. They’ll have two 10-minute breaks throughout their test.

In both levels, your student will have:

  • 25 minutes to write an essay
  • Two 30-minute sessions to answer a total of 50 math questions
  • 40 minutes to answer 40 reading questions
  • 30 minutes to answer 60 questions related to verbal reasoning, vocabulary, and logic
  • 15 minutes to answer 16 questions covering reading, verbal, and math questions

To make sure the test is accessible to all students, accommodations are available for all testing modes. Fee waivers are also available for those who qualify.

Preparing for the SSAT

Doing well on the SSAT can be life changing. It’s your student’s opportunity to show independent school administrators what they’ve learned and their potential for growth. Taking the test once isn’t usually enough for most students, though, and the process can feel frustrating without some guidance.

Due to how the SSAT is graded, traditional test-taking strategies may not be the most effective. Give your student the best chance for success by working with a tutor four to six months before taking their exam.

Working with C2 Education’s SSAT tutors, your student can access an individually tailored learning program. We use regular assessments that replicate the testing environment to help ease testing anxiety and see progress. Students enrolled in our program receive academic support where they need it and learn testing strategies for the best outcome.

Prepare Your Student for Success with Tutoring

The SSAT is one of the main factors that some independent schools use to assess students who apply. It provides the perfect chance for students to show their skills and problem-solving abilities. Doing well on the exam can help launch your student into a new learning path, and C2 Education can help!

At C2 Education, we’ve developed a well-rounded SSAT prep program that provides your student with what they need to succeed. Once paired with one of our expert tutors, they’ll have access to our suite of assessment and study tools, along with an individualized learning plan.

Let C2 help your student achieve their academic goals. Get started with us today!