SSATwhat is the SSAT

What Is The SSAT?

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is one of the two most common entrance exams required by independent schools for admissions throughout the United States, the other being the ISEE. The scores students earn on these exams serve as a common data point to measure a student’s academic abilities compared to other applicants. Private schools consider multiple factors when selecting applicants into a program, but a student’s SSAT score can help tip the admissions’ scale in their favor. How far the score tips the scale depends on the school. But, in general, the higher the score on the SSAT, the more options the student will have for attending and paying for independent schools.

What Are The Levels Of The SSAT?

Independent schools range from preschools to high schools. The SSAT comes into play as early 3rd grade and is administered at different levels:

1.    Elementary Level (for current 3rd and 4th graders)

2.    Middle Level (for current 5th, 6th, and 7th graders)

3.    Upper Level (for 8th graders and above)  

What Is The Format Of The SSAT?

The SSATT is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test comprised of three sections, plus an ungraded essay prompt. The three required sections are Math, Verbal Ability (Synonyms and Analogies), and Reading Comprehension. The Upper Level also includes an experimental section that does not count toward the final score.

The structure and length of the exam depend on the level.

The Lower Level exam is a total of 110 minutes long, including a 15-minute break. The Middle and Upper Level exams are 3 hours and 5 minutes long, including a 5-minute and a 10-minute break.

How Is The SSAT Scored?

What is the SSAT

It is important to note the SSAT penalizes incorrect answers for Middle and Upper Levels. The penalty is minimal (minus ¼ point per incorrect answer), but could impact your overall score. Skipped answers are not penalized.

Since each level of the exam covers multiple grades, the scores are calculated based on the individual grade level. That means, your student will only be scored according to their grade level even though they may be taking the exam alongside older students. In other words, an 8th grader is expected to answer fewer questions correctly as someone in 10th grade.

Make sure your student marks their current grade level on the answer sheet on test day, NOT the grade for which they are applying.

Your students score report will include a raw score, personal score, and a percentile score. The official SSAT website has helpful webinars that explain the score reports for each level.

Should I Take The SSAT Or The ISEE?

What Is The SSAT

Some schools will accept scores from either exam, but other schools may request one over the other. It is important to research every prospective school’s individual admissions process.

How Do I Register For The SSAT?

What Is The SSAT

You can register online, by fax, or by mail. Most students register for the Standard test, but there is a Flex test option as well. The Standard test is administered eight times during the academic year: October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and June. The Flex test is proctored by schools or educational consultants to accommodate busy students’ schedules who cannot test on Standard exam days. The Flex test is subject to an administration fee.

Students can retake the Standard test as often as they wish, but the Flex test can only be taken once between August and July.

How Can I Prep For The ACT?

What is the SSAT

Prepping for the SSAT requires more than learning the material covered in the exam. For the greatest success, students also need to learn and practice test-taking strategies. Practice and preparation are especially important for younger students who have very little test-taking experience.


The SSAT serves as a basis for independent schools to compare applicants’ skills on a national level. There are time-proven methods that can help students achieve higher SSAT scores and increase their chances of getting into the school of their choice. Regardless of your student’s current skill level, Gallagher Prep can help.

Our tutors at Gallagher Prep can identify the core areas needing improvement and customize a study plan on an individual basis. With our experienced tutors and proprietary study materials, students can master the test content in as little as five to eight weeks. Gallagher Prep helps students beyond scoring well on the SSAT by guiding them through the admissions process from start to finish.

Contact Us now for more information on how Gallagher Prep can help your student get accepted into the school of their choice.

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