The Secondary School Admission Tests (SSAT) is an assessment for students
hoping to earn a seat in grades 3-12 at some of America’s most prestigious
private schools. The SSAT has three different levels for which students sit
depending on their current grade:
- Elementary Level for entrance into grades 4 and 5
- Third-grade test (for entrance in grade 4)
- Fourth-grade test (for entrance in grade 5)
- Middle Level - For entrance in grades 6–8
- Upper Level - For entrance in grades 9–12
Elementary Level SSAT (3rd and 4th grade)
The Elementary (Lower) Level for the SSAT has a different structure and is
considerably shorter than the Middle and Upper Levels of the exam.
The Elementary Level SSAT has four sections (1 hour 50 minutes total):
- Quantitative (Math) - 30 minutes
- Verbal - 20 minutes
- Break - 15 minutes
- Reading - 30 minutes
- Writing - 15 minutes
Middle Level and Upper Level SSAT
Both the Middle Level and Upper Level SSAT have six sections (3 hours 5
- Writing - 25 minutes
- Break - 5 minutes
- Break (5 Minutes)
- Quantitative Section I (Math) - 30 minutes
- Reading - 40 minutes
- Break - 10 minutes
- Verbal - 30 minutes
- Quantitative Section II (Math) - 30 minutes
- Experimental Section - 15 minutes
Apart from the unscored essay, all questions on all levels of the SSAT are
Who takes the SSAT?
Students hoping to secure a seat at some of America’s most competitive
independent and private schools. In recent years, private schools across
the board have reported their lowest-ever acceptance rates as students
from across the world vie for acceptance. The SSAT (along with the ISEE)
serves as a way for students to distinguish themselves when it comes to
the application process. Most schools will accept either the SSAT or the
What is tested on the SSAT?
There are several academic areas that are assessed on the SSAT.
The quantitative sections on the SSAT assess students in basic quantitative
concepts, algebra, geometry, and spatial sense. The difficulty of these concepts
varies based on the level on the exam being taken.
The verbal section on the SSAT consists of synonym and analogy questions.
These sections test understanding of language, word relationships, and nuances
in word meanings by relating them to words with similar but not identical
The reading section on the SSAT tests a student’s ability to read and comprehend
a textual passage. Unlike questions on other sections of the SSAT, the questions
within the SSAT reading section do not generally progress in difficulty as a
student works his or her way through the section.
For the writing sample section of the SSAT, test takers are given the following
option(s) for the sample:
- Elementary Level test takers are presented a picture and are asked to tell
a story about it
- Middle Level test takers receive a choice of two creative prompts
- Upper Level test takers receive a choice of one standard essay prompt
and one creative prompt from which to choose
How do I register for the SSAT?
Sign up to take the SSAT at the official
SSAT website. There are two
options for registering for the SSAT:
- Standard test - A group administration of the SSAT held at sites worldwide
on eight Saturdays each year. Most students will take a Standard test. These
test dates are held in January, February, March, April, June, October,
November, and December.
- Flex Test – A group or individual administration on any date other than
the Standard test dates. Flex tests may be given by educational consultants
or member schools. A student may only take one Flex test in a testing year.
A student may take the Middle/Upper Level SSAT on all eight Standard test dates.
A student may only take one SSAT Flex Test per testing year (August 1 - July 31),
in addition to the Standard Tests.
For the Elementary Level SSAT, a child may take the Third Grade SSAT only once
during the testing year (August 1- July 31), and the Fourth Grade SSAT may only
be taken twice during the testing year.
What is the cost to take the SSAT?
The regular registration fee for the SSAT is $84 (Elementary Level SSAT) or $124
(Middle/Upper Level SSAT).
How should I prepare for the SSAT?
Properly preparing to excel on the SSAT can have a significant impact on a
student’s success in getting into the school of his or her choice and excelling
once they get there. It is important to remember that the students sitting for
the SSAT (and the ISEE) are some of the best and brightest from around the world,
so the level of competition will be unlike any exam a student has taken before.
There are many resources at a student’s disposal. Whether it’s reaching out to
the teacher for extra support, joining a study group, or finding a tutor to help
them prepare to pass the test, any additional effort invested now is going to pay
off in the long run.
At the very minimum, buying a study guide with practice tests can help get your
student get familiar with the content and structure of the exams.