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    How to Prepare for the SSAT Test

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Cari Shultz

    Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 27th, 2024
    How to Prepare for the SSAT Test

    The SSAT is one of the factors that helps determine whether a student should be admitted into a private middle or high school. Therefore, we know the pressure that students are under to do well on the SSAT. In this article, we’ve put together a collection of tips for taking the SSAT to help you or your child achieve a score that reflects their academic potential!

    Before we start…

    While it is important to get a “good” score on the SSAT, it is not the only component that determines admittance to a private school. Private middle and high schools also look at an applicant’s grades in their current school and extra- curricular activities

    So, do not feel like the SSAT is going to make or break your admission! This will help calm any nerves and allow you to focus on doing your best on the SSAT.  Read more in this guide on how to best prepare for the SSAT test. 

    Step-by-step guide to prepare for the SSAT test

    1. Take a practice SSAT test

    The first step for preparing for the SSAT should be taking a full practice SSAT test. This means sticking to the allotted time allowed and not becoming distracted or taking breaks in between sections. This should mimic your “real life” testing situation. Doing so will give you a great baseline to begin your studies! You will be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. 

    For example, maybe you aced the reading comprehension section, but your math section was weak. Therefore, focusing on the math section should be your priority when you study.

    There are plenty of SSAT tests online, including free ones, so everyone can practice and prepare.  

    2. Create a study plan for the SSAT 

    Now, you should create a study plan to keep yourself accountable. Studying a little bit each day will keep the information fresh in your mind and help you in the long run rather than cramming right before the test!  

    At this point, you should already be registered for the SSAT and have a set date for when you are taking the SSAT. Knowing the date of the exam, you should split up the remaining days, weeks, or months into specific “study days.” The earlier you start studying, the better your SSAT score will be! 

    The SSAT is split up into three sections: quantitative math, reading, and verbal. Therefore, depending on how long you have until your exam, you should spend somewhere between 15-60 minutes a day focusing on one section at a time. It is smart to focus on your weaker subjects for the best outcome. 

    An example of a study plan for someone who is taking the SSAT in a month would be: 

    Monday – 30 minutes of reading comprehension practice

    Tuesday – 30 minutes of quantitative math practice

    Wednesday – 30 minutes of verbal practice

    Thursday – 15 minutes of quantitative math practice

    Friday – 1 practice writing essay question response

    Saturday – SSAT practice test in full

    Sunday – Day off!

    This study plan helps students practice while still giving them time to do other things. You do not want to burn yourself out before taking the SSAT. Rather, a little practice each day will go a long way for your SSAT score.

    In addition, it is still important to practice the writing essay question portion of the SSAT despite it being unscored. This is because staff at the schools you are applying to can read these responses. It can even give you an edge over another applicant, so it is important to get some practice with writing before the real SSAT! 

    3. Continue to take practice SSAT tests

    It is important to constantly take practice SSAT tests leading up to the actual test. This will help you determine what areas need improvement compared to others.
    In addition, it will allow you to get used to the timing and general format of the SSAT. Being comfortable with taking the test before the real SSAT will give you an advantage and allow you to feel more confident. This can help eliminate any test day jitters, and allow you to truly focus on the SSAT and feel confident in the time allotted. 

    Also see: SSAT vs ISEE: What you need to know

    4. Use the SSAT scoring to your advantage

    For the middle and upper level SSAT, there is a unique scoring system. Each correct answer receives 1 point, each skipped question receives 0 points, and each wrong answer receives a ¼ point deduction.
    Therefore, skipping a question does not provide a deduction of points for the SSAT, but answering the question incorrectly does. 

    Knowing this, it makes sense in situations where you are completely unsure about an answer to skip the question altogether to avoid a penalty. However, in situations where you are between 2 answers it may be wise to take the gamble. 

    Knowing the SSATs scoring system and taking practice tests can help you learn when it is best to skip a question or to guess. This can allow you to gain confidence in your responses and use the SSAT scoring system to your advantage. 

    Also see: What is the ISEE?

    Additional tips for taking the SSAT

    • Study in quiet places 
    • Be continuously freshening up your vocabulary
    • Monitor your time closely when taking practice SSAT tests to mimic the real thing
    • Think positively about the SSAT 
    • Start studying early! 
    • Stick to your study plan and hold yourself accountable
    • Use online resources to aid your studying
    • Get a good night’s sleep before the SSAT 

    Final thoughts on preparing for the SSAT

    We hope that these tips for taking the SSAT have made you feel more confident than ever in your ability to take the test! Your preparation will allow you to be comfortable with the formatting and types of questions found on the SSAT which will help you be confident in yourself on test day.

    You will do well on the SSAT as long as you have studied and prepared. If you are getting nervous about taking the SSAT just remember the following: 

    • The SSAT is not the only thing that private schools look at to admit applicants
    • You can retake the SSAT
    • You got this! 
    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The SSAT is a test used for private K-12 school admissions 
    • In order to prepare for the SSAT you should take a practice SSAT test, create a study plan for the SSAT and use the SSAT scoring to your advantage
    • Becoming familiar with the SSAT format and timing will help you master the SSAT 

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    Frequently asked questions about preparing for the SSAT

    What is the best way to handle test anxiety?

    The best way to handle test anxiety is by being thoroughly prepared for the exam. You can be well-prepared by practicing regularly and simulating the test. Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can help manage your anxiety during the test.

    How many times can I take the SSAT?

    You can take the SSAT as any times as you like, but it is important to be aware of individual schools’ policies regarding how they consider multiple test scores.

    How can I find a SSAT test center near me?

    When registering for the SSAT, you can search for available test centers on the official website. Be sure to choose a location that is convenient for you and has availability on your preferred test date.

    What’s the importance of the writing sample, and how should I approach it?

    The writing sample is an unscored aspect of the exam. However, it can provide the schools you’re applying to with insight into your writing skills. So, take it seriously and focus on proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.

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