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The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT), created by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA), is used nationally by independent schools to assess prospective students’ verbal, reading, math, and writing skills. The test is administered to three different level groups: Elementary (for 3rd and 4th graders), Middle (for 5th-7th graders), and Upper (for 8th-11th graders). Each level test consists of five sections: a Writing Sample, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The SSAT is NOT an achievement test. It is a snapshot of a student’s current academic capabilities, which can be improved through rigorous individualized tutoring sessions.


For many students, this is their first time navigating the competitive standardized test landscape. Few are prepared for the rigor, self-discipline, and endurance it takes to achieve an ideal score. We are here to demystify this process and help your child take charge of their learning!

The SSAT's Format

              (Upper Level)

Writing Sample: 25 minutes

This section tests a student's writing abilities with the choice of 1 general or 1 personal prompt. Although it isn't graded, schools use this sample to compare with a student's application essays.

Quantitative Reasoning: 25 questions in 30 minutes

This section tests a student's knowledge of math topics ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. There is no calculator allowed. 

Reading Comprehension: 40 questions in 40 minutes

This section tests a student's reading comprehension with eight fiction, nonfiction, or poetry passages. Each passage has a variable amount of questions that can touch on main idea, supporting details, organization/logic, tone/style/figurative language, and inference.

Verbal Reasoning: 60 questions in 30 minutes

This section tests a student's verbal skills through synonyms and analogies. 

Quantitative Reasoning: 25 questions in 30 minutes

This section tests a student's knowledge of math topics ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. There is no calculator allowed. 

Our personalized approach and experienced expert tutors can help your child achieve dramatic score increases quickly (provided your child completes the homework we assign!).

By working with us and studying for this test, your child will see improvement in their school grades, study habits, and confidence.

Here's how we do it:

Red line of emphasis under the 3 steps to SSAT success with Andersen Education

Alex M, Washington, DC parent

"Remy is nothing short of brilliant! She has an unbelievable ability to connect with kids and with our daughter with mild dyslexia. Her SSAT scores went from being in the 30% to 75%. She helps unblock kids and teach them to succeed. No other tutor has ever come close to her results. She has been a god-send to our daughter and continues to work with her when needed for particular school subjects. Remy is a remarkable talent in everything she sets out to do!"


When should my child start studying for the SSAT?

For the best outcome with the least amount of stress, we recommend starting in January or February of the year your child is taking the test.

Why do you recommend a 9-12 month study timeline?

This is the optimal timeline for the Upper Level test, which is incredibly difficult for any 7-8th grader to prepare for. The test covers 9-12th math, which most students haven't learned yet. Our tutors will teach your child the statistics, probability, quadratics, and even trigonometry (!) that your child must know in order to score high on the math sections. In addition, the pacing of the test is quick - 30-60 seconds per question - and students need time to adjust to this. Lastly, students need time to learn the vocabulary words can appear on the test.

An optimal timeline for a Elementary Level and Middle Level test might be shorter - please reach out via our Contact form to discuss your unique circumstances with Remy.

My child scored extremely low on their diagnostic test. Should I be worried?

Generally, no. Most students score very low on their diagnostic test for a few reasons. The first is that they aren't used to the format of the test. The second is that the material is hard and they need to review it or learn it. The third is that every student who takes this test is extremely bright and driven, so the percentiles are skewed lower than normal. 

That said, the lower the score, the sooner a child should start to prepare for the test!

What scores does my child need in order to be competitive for their first-choice high school?

This depends on the schools that the child is interested in. Please reach out via our Contact form and Remy will set up a free phone consultation.


When should my child take the SSAT?

A student can take the test up to 6 times on paper and twice at home. That said, just because a student can take the test 8 times doesn't mean we recommend taking it that many times! We recommend our students take the test once per month starting in September for a total of 3-4 times. Anything more than that is overkill and gives diminishing returns. Make sure to sign your child up for testing as soon as possible, as dates book up quickly.

Where should my child take the SSAT?

There are three options for your child to take the test: online at home, on paper at a school, or on online at a Prometric testing center. We highly recommend taking it online at home for the first and final time, especially since this is how most students are preparing. Taking the test at their school is a great second great option! We do not recommend Prometric centers since they have intense policies and ask students to remove jewelry, which can aggravate some students' test anxiety.

Which materials do you recommend using?

Please visit our Books and Tools page to see which materials we use to prepare our students for all levels of the SSAT.

What about the ISEE?

There are a few major differences that make a student immediately not even want to try the ISEE, so it’s good to know these points ahead of time:

  • ISEE has faster pacing than the SSAT

  • ISEE has more of an emphasis on trigonometry

  • ISEE has a Quantitative Comparisons section that tests concepts/rules in an abstract way


That said, every student should take a practice ISEE, as annoying as it may seem for them. Taking a practice ISEE will help the student determine which test they prefer and will eliminate any regrets/disruptive last minute changes to a prep plan. The scores won’t lie, either. 


Please visit our ISEE page to learn more about whether or not the ISEE might be a better fit for your child.

Ready to prepare your child for the SSAT?

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