Last Updated On: October 23rd, 2020

The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is only part of your application packet to private schools, but if you have been preparing for this test, you know that it is a part that you want to use to show your best performance. So, how do you know if you are ready?

Know what test you are taking and how you are taking it

If you are checking your preparedness for the SSAT, you already know which test you are taking and what format you will use. If you are just beginning your SSAT prep, this is your first step so you can register for your test dates.

Know your test

  • Students in 3rd or 4th grade will take the 3rd Grade or 4th Grade Elementary Level SSAT exam
  • Students in 5th -7th grade will take the Middle Level SSAT exam
  • Students in 8th-11th grade will take the Upper Level SSAT exam
  • Students may test at a higher grade level than they are actually attending, if desired.
  • The SSAT contains Math, Verbal, Reading, and Essay sections

Know your test format

  • Test at Home
  • Prometric Test Center
  • Paper-Based
  • With or without accommodations

Check your Subject Readiness


There are two Quantitative (math) sections in the SSAT Middle level and SSAT Upper level (one on the SSAT Elementary level), so you want your math skills to be in top form!

You have reviewed your math skills

  • You’ve made sure that material that you have not seen for years is fresh and sharp. You won’t want to waste time dredging information up from the past on test day.
  • You have brushed up on any remaining rough math areas. Everyone has them, but you want to have reviewed your challenge areas so that you can work with them easily and comfortably in the test.
  • You have reviewed the topics on the test and all of the practice problems that you can to review all possible math material.

You have reviewed your math strategies for standardized tests

  • You have worked with a test prep tutor or mentor to learn test-taking strategies for math problems on standardized tests, or you have reviewed the topic yourself thoroughly so that you can use all of your resources.
  • You know how to effectively use your answer choices.
  • You know when and how to guess.
  • You know how to plug in numbers and use process of elimination instinctively.


There is one Verbal section containing Vocabulary and Analogies sections.

You have studied vocabulary extensively

Vocabulary is key in both of these sections. There are back up strategies for if you do not know some vocabulary, but you will be more comfortable and almost certainly receive a higher score if you can address the questions from a place of strong vocabulary. Vocabulary flashcards have probably been your best friends and worst enemies if you are prepared for the Verbal section.

You are familiar with common analogies relationships

Analogies are a question type that some students have used in class, and some have not. Either way, if you have done your SSAT prep, you have worked with a test prep tutor or a mentor to learn strategies and common relationships for analogies, or you have researched and practiced these on your own. You can comfortably make relationship sentences in both directions, identify vertical relationships, and identify word manipulation analogies. You also have back up strategies for if you don’t know one of the words in the original analogy or in an answer choice.


There is one Reading Comprehension section on the SSAT.

  • You are familiar with the different question types that are commonly asked.
  • You can alternate between skimming and careful detailed reading. Both of these skills will be needed to allow you to quickly find information and accurately.
  • You have developed the habit of checking your answers against the passage information.
  • You can identify a main idea in roughly five words for a passage.


Although your writing sample is not part of your test scores, your school will look at it as a sample of your technical and creative or rhetorical writing skills. This section goes directly to your independent school of interest, so you’ll want it the best that it can be. These essays are also a great conversation piece for the interview with your private schools that you can influence directly, so take advantage of this!

If you are prepared for the SSAT, you have practiced prewriting and writing a variety of essays and had them reviewed by a trusted adult. You know which type of essay, persuasive or story, you will likely do based on your test level and preference and have written a vast number of timed practice essays in that format. Ideally you have also practiced writing in the other format if it will be an option, in case you don’t love the prompt in your chosen format. You effectively use prewriting to increase the ease and quality of your essay writing. Your persuasive essays are organized and well supported with analytical support. Your stories are well structured with sensory details and an interesting, defined plotline and character(s).

Check your Test Technical Readiness

Do your background research:

You have checked into your school(s) of interest to find out their incoming students’ scores.

This information, if it is available, is usually located in school information under Admissions or Student Body, or similar title. You may need to look around for this data, but it is worth researching so you have an idea of your goal score. The answer to that common question, “What is a good SSAT score?” depends on the independent school(s) that you are considering. To be prepared for your SSAT, you will want to be consistently testing at or above your goal score.

Practice Timing:

Make sure that you are comfortable with the timing of the test; you want to be able to work within the timing so that you work at a fast enough pace to complete the test, but a slow enough pace to avoid rushing. If you are prepared, you have practiced your timing on appropriate level practice tests and consistently complete your sections without rushing. Practiced test takers are able to reduce avoidable mistakes

Enhance your Endurance:

This is a long test, 3 hrs 10 min for the Middle and Upper Level tests and 2 hrs 5 minutes for the Lower Level test. You need to have built your endurance to achieve your best scores, so practice is vital. You wouldn’t play a full concert or a full sports match having only done short practices or drills; your SSAT practice materials shouldn’t only be short drills either. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your skills are if you are too tired to use them effectively. For this reason, you need to have practiced Full-Length SSAT practice tests frequently before the actual test to build your test taking and sitting endurance. It may be awful to think about sitting for these full-length practice tests, but to be properly prepared to take the real SSAT test, you will have suffered through the training, so that you don’t have to suffer during the actual test. This frees you to be able to access and use the knowledge that you have. If you are prepared for the SSAT, you’ve taken full-length SSAT practice tests regularly enough to reduce fatigue errors.

Know the rules:

Being familiar with the instructions so that you don’t need to read them on the day of the test will make you more comfortable and give you more time. If you are ready for the SSAT, you know the rules of each section as well as the process and types of strategies for each.

Check your Materials and Environment Readiness

As you do final checking of your SSAT preparedness, don’t forget your materials and environment. If you are testing soon, it is worth preparing these so that you can have a less stressful testing experience.

Review the preparation materials provided by the Official SSAT website:

For the Take at Home test: Guide to the SSAT at Home

Run the system check: If you are Testing at Home, you will want to run the SSAT System Check well before the day of your test. Connect to the PSI System. Check here to run your system check if you haven’t already done this.

For the Prometric Test Center test:
Review the materials here.

For the Paper-Based test:
Review the materials here.

When you are prepared for the SSAT test, you will find that your testing experience is more enjoyable. You will also be able to transfer the knowledge that you gain in your SSAT test prep to other tests, such as the ISEE, PSAT, SAT, ACT, and regular classroom exams. You will also be one step closer to submitting your best application to your dream school, whether that is an elementary, middle or high school, or some combination of these. You will be confident that you are ready to achieve your best SSAT scores as a result of your preparation!

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