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The SSAT is a standardized test used by admission officers to assess the abilities of students seeking to enroll in an independent school. The SSAT measures the basic verbal, math, and reading skills students need for successful performance in independent schools. It's an indispensable tool that gives admission professionals an equitable means to assess and compare applicants, regardless of their background or experience.

Middle and Upper SSAT Standard Tests are held on eight Saturdays (and Sundays for testers who received approval for Sunday testing accommodations due to religious observance) during the testing year (August 1 - July 31). Elementary Level SSAT testing begins in December. Testing normally begins at 9:00 am for all Standard tests, but testing times may vary, so check your admission ticket for the exact start time. Make sure you arrive at least ​30 minutes early.

Test Structure
There are three SSAT levels: Elementary Level SSAT, Middle and Upper Level SSAT.

Elementary Level SSAT

For children currently in 3rd and 4th grades who are applying for admission to 4th and 5th grades.

SSAT Timing

Content: SSAT Elementary

Quantitative Section

The quantitative section consists of thirty items that are a mixture of basic mathematical concepts familiar to students, as well as a few that may be a challenge. Included are questions on number sense, properties and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, and probability. These questions assume your student understands the following concepts:

  • Basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

  • Place value

  • Ordering of numbers (greater than, less than)

  • Fractions

  • Basic concepts of geometry (shapes and their attributes)

  • Basic concepts of measurement

  • Interpretation of graphs

Verbal Section

Verbal section has 30 questions and needs to be completed in 20 minutes. The verbal section of the test has two parts. The first is a vocabulary section and the second is an analogies section. These sections test understanding of language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings by relating them to words with similar but not identical meanings (synonyms).

Synonyms are words with the same or similar meanings. For example, large and big are synonyms, as are beautiful and pretty. The Elementary SSATs focus on vocabulary appropriate to third and fourth grades, pulling words from all areas of study, including science, technology, and social studies.

Analogies are a comparison between two things usually seen as different, but that have some similarities. These comparisons play an important role in the development of problem solving and decision-making skills, perception and memory, communication and reasoning, reading, and vocabulary building. Analogies help students process information actively, make important decisions, and improve understanding and long-term memory. These questions require the student to demonstrate an understanding of nuances in both word meanings and relationships.


Reading Section

Reading section has 28 questions that need to be completed in 30 minutes. The reading section consists of seven short passages, each with four multiple-choice questions. These passages may include prose, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from diverse cultures. Students are asked to locate information and find meaning by skimming and close reading. They are also asked to demonstrate literal, inferential, and evaluative comprehension. The reader must demonstrate an understanding of key ideas and details to determine the main idea of the text. Additionally, the reader must determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

Writing Sample

The writing sample gives the student a chance to express him/herself through a written response to a picture prompt. The student is asked to look at a picture and tell a story about what happened and to be sure his/her story includes a beginning, a middle, and an end. This writing sample is not graded but a copy is provided to schools along with the student’s score report.


Experimental Section

The experimental section is one section of mixed content questions (verbal, reading, and math). This section does not count toward reported scores. The SSAT test development team continuously tests new questions to make sure they are reliable, suitable, and acceptable for the SSAT. These questions may be used on a future SSAT form.

SSAT Elementary Content/ Duration

Middle and Upper Level SSAT

The Middle Level SSAT is a multiple-choice test for students currently in grades 5-7 that consists of verbal, quantitative (math), and reading comprehension sections.  Upper Level SSAT is for children currently in grades 8-11 who are applying for admission to grades 9 through PG (Post Graduate).  The format and the number of questions are the same; the difference between them is the sheer difficulty.


Content: SSAT Middle and Upper

Writing Sample

At the beginning of the test, you are given 25 minutes to write a story based on one of two provided creative prompts. This writing sample is sent to the admission officers at the schools to which you send score reports, to help them assess your writing skills. 


Quantitative (Math) Section

This section has  50 questions broken into two parts. It measures students ability to solve problems involving arithmetic, elementary algebra, geometry, and other concepts.  Time allotted is 30 minutes for each section of 25 questions.  A calculator is not allowed in this section.


Reading Comprehension Section

There are 40 questions that measure a student’s ability to read and comprehend what he or she reads. Time allotted is 40 minutes.  Reading passages generally range in length from 250 to 350 words and may be taken from, literary fiction,  humanities (biography, art, poetry), science (anthropology, astronomy, medicine) and social studies (history, sociology, economics). Questions related to the passage may ask you to:


  • Recognize the main idea

  • Locate details

  • Make inferences

  • Derive the meaning of a word or phrase from its context

  • Determine the author’s purpose

  • Determine the author’s attitude and tone

  • Understand and evaluate opinions/arguments

  • Make predictions based on information in the passage


By presenting passages and questions about them, the reading comprehension section measures students ability to understand what he or she reads. In general, the SSAT uses two types of writing: narrative, which includes excerpts from novels, poems, short stories, or essays; and argument, which presents a definite point of view about a subject.


Verbal Section
There are 60 questions that consist of  30 synonyms and 30 analogies that measure vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and ability to relate ideas logically. Time allotted is 30 minutes. This section covers word similarities and relationships through synonyms and analogies. The synonym questions test the strength of your vocabulary. The analogy questions measure your ability to relate ideas to each other logically.

Synonyms are words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word. Analogies are comparisons between two things that are usually seen as different but have some similarities. These types of comparisons play an important role in improving problem-solving and decision-making skills, in perception and memory, in communication and reasoning skills, and in reading and building vocabulary. 

Experimental Section

There are 16 questions in this section. New questions are continuously being tested for future SSAT forms. These questions appear on the SSAT to ensure they are reliable, secure, and acceptable. Time allotted is 15 minutes and this section is not scored. This section contains six verbal, five reading, and five quantitative questions for you to answer.

SSAT Administration (All Levels)


The SSAT is offered on 8 Saturdays between October and June at hundreds of locations throughout the U.S., Canada, and around the world. These 8 administrations are called Standard tests.

A Flex test is an SSAT given on a day other than the 8 Standard test dates, usually with a member school or educational consultant. You can take one SSAT Flex test per testing year (August 1st to July 31st), in addition to all eight SSAT Standard tests.

The SSAT is a pencil and paper test. For each question, your student will use a pencil to fill in a circle for the answer they have chosen. For Elementary Level tests, students fill in the answer directly in the test book. For Middle and Upper Level tests, students fill in the answer on a separate answer sheet. Students from all levels will also complete a writing sample in pencil.

SSAT scores are broken down by section (verbal, quantitative/math, reading). A total score (a sum of the three sections) is also reported.

For the Middle Level SSAT, the lowest number on the scale (440) is the lowest possible score a student can earn and the highest number (710) is the highest score for each section.The total scaled score for a Middle Level SSAT is the sum of the scores for the quantitative, verbal, and reading sections. It has a low value of 1320, a high value of 2130, and a midpoint of 1725.

For the Upper Level SSAT, the lowest number on the scale (500) is the lowest possible score a student can earn and the highest number (800) is the highest score for each section. The total scaled score for an Upper Level
SSAT is the sum of the scores for the quantitative, verbal, and reading sections. It has a low value of 1500, a high value of 2400, and a midpoint of 1950.

Scaled Score Range
No single test score provides a perfectly accurate estimate of your proficiency.  Therefore, a score range is provided to emphasize the possibility of score differences if you took the SSAT again within a relatively short period of time. Your new scores would likely fall within the scaled score range indicated.

SSAT Reference Information
The SSAT Percentile (1 to 99) compares your performance on the SSAT with that of other students of the same grade/gender who have taken the SSAT in the U.S. and Canada on a Standard test date in the previous three years (the norm group). For students who have taken the SSAT more than once, only their first set of scores is included in this process. You will see the average score for the norm group for each section of the SSAT, as well as your percentile as compared to the norm group.

Test Question Breakdown
This section provides valuable information about the test’s content and your test-taking strategies. Comparing the number of wrong answers to unanswered questions will tell you whether you took many guesses rather than leaving questions unanswered if you weren’t sure of the answer.

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