What is the SSAT?

The SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) is a required entrance exam at many independent schools throughout the United States. The test, created and administered by the Secondary School Admission Test Board in Princeton, New Jersey, is a multiple-choice exam that consists of Verbal, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative (Math) sections. In addition, there is a writing sample in which you respond to a topic sentence. This essay is not graded but is submitted along with your multiple-choice score report to the schools to which you have applied. The Middle and Upper Level exams will also contain an experimental section of problems that will not be scored.
There are three levels of the SSAT:

  1. Upper Level (for students currently in grades 8–11)
  2. Middle Level (for students currently in grades 5–7)
  3. Elementary Level (for all students currently in grades 3–4)

Here’s a breakdown of the tests, by level:

Elementary Level SSAT Breakdown
SectionNumber of Questions (Elementary)Time Allowed
Math I30 questions30 minutes
Verbal30 questions20 minutes
Break15 minutes
Reading28 questions30 minutes
Essay* One writing prompt15 minutes
Total89 questions110 minutes

Upper and Middle Level SSAT Breakdown
SectionNumber of Questions (Middle)Number of Questions (Upper)Time Allowed
Essay*One essay promptOne essay prompt25 minutes
Break5 minutes
Math I25 questions25 questions30 minutes
Reading40 questions40 questions40 minutes
Break10 minutes
Verbal 60 questions60 questions30 minutes
Math II25 questions25 questions30 minutes
Experimental16 questions16 questions15 minutes
Total167 questions167 questions3 hours, 5 minutes

*Remember that the essay will not be scored, nor will it be included in your score report. It will be sent to the schools to which you are applying.
All questions on the SSAT will have five answer choices, (A) through (E). Calculators, dictionaries, tablets, or rulers are prohibited. Cell phones and electronic wallets are not allowed. Pencils will not be provided and both mechanical pencils and pens are prohibited, so be sure to be prepared with your own pencils and erasers on Test Day.

SSAT Scoring

The first thing you might notice with respect to grades is that students from other class years are taking the same test as you. Not to worry! You are graded according to your age. In other words, if you’re in 9th grade, you aren’t expected to get as many questions right as someone in 11th grade, even though you take the same test. One note of caution: You are scored according to the grade level you report on the answer sheet on Test Day. Be sure to indicate your current grade level, not the grade for which you are applying.
Given this fact, you can expect to see questions on the test that may be too hard for you. Just remember, you don’t need to get every question right to get a great score.
Your score report will include a raw score, a personal score, which is a spectrum of measurement for each subject area, a scaled score, and a percentile score, which compares your scores to those of others who have taken the SSAT in the past three years. Click here for more information about SSAT scoring.
Raw score is the result of correct, incorrect, and omitted answers.
For an Elementary Level SSAT, there is no penalty for wrong answers. That means that you can calculate the raw score by simply adding together the number of right answers.
For a Middle/Upper Level SSAT, though, there is a slight penalty for wrong answers– while you still get a full point for each correct answer, each wrong answer subtracts a quarter of a point from your score. Here’s the formula:
(# Correct Answers) – ¼ (# Incorrect Answers) = Raw Score
For questions left blank, no points are deducted.
Scores are mailed to you and your school two to three weeks after you take the test. Make sure you test early enough in the year that schools will receive your scores by application deadlines. If you feel that you have not tested well after you leave the test, you have the option of canceling your score. To do so, you must send your request to SSAT by mail, fax, or email. This request must be received no later than the Tuesday after Test Day. If you cancel them, your canceled scores will not be sent to any of your designated score recipients.
Click here for more information about scoring on the SSAT.

How to Register for the SSAT

There are two different administrations of the SSAT: Standard and Flex test. Flex tests are proctored by educational consultants or schools at times that can be more convenient for busy students’ schedules and are subject to an administration fee. Standard tests are given eight times during the academic year: October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and June. While most students choose a Standard test option, a Flex test is helpful for students who are unable to meet the eight scheduled Standard times. However, a student can only take one Flex test between August and July. You may register online, by fax, or by mail. For more information, go to the official test site at ssat.org.

SSAT Contact Info

Phone: (609) 683-4440
Email: info@ssat.org
Fax: 800-442-7728 (Domestic) or (609) 683-4507 (International)
CN 5339
Princeton, NJ 08543

What is the Difference Between the SSAT and the ISEE?

The SSAT and ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Examination, are largely similar, but with a few key differences:

  • On the ISEE, the Verbal section contains Synonym and Sentence Completion questions. On the SSAT, the Verbal section contains Synonym and Analogy questions.
  • On the ISEE, there are Quantitative Comparisons in the Quantitative Reasoning section (Upper and Middle Levels only).
  • On the ISEE, there is no penalty for a wrong answer. That means it is always in your favor to guess if you’re not sure of the answer.
  • On the ISEE, there are four answer choices, (A) through (D). On the SSAT, there are five answer choices, (A) through (E).