Varsity Tutors is the premier resource for connecting students and their parents with professional SSAT tutoring services. The SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test, is a standardized exam used by private and independent schools as one factor in their competitive application process. This test assesses a student's reading, verbal, and mathematics skills in order to provide schools with an objective data point to consider in projecting how well a given student would fare in a rigorous private school curriculum.
The exam is offered to students in grades 3-11 interested in enrolling in a new school for the next school year. For example, a fifth-grader who takes the exam would be trying to enroll in a new school for sixth grade. It would be silly to give a 10-year old the same exam as a high school junior, so the SSAT is divided into three "levels" to provide each student with an appropriate level of academic challenge.
The Elementary Level SSAT is taken by students in grades 3 and 4. The Middle Level SSAT is for students in grades 5-7. The Upper Level SSAT is for students in grades 8-11. Finding a private instructor on your own can be a hassle, as you need to verify that any potential individual is completely up-to-date on any test changes, knowledgeable about the correct level of the SSAT, and understands how to help a student improve their study skills. At Varsity Tutors, we can help you find an SSAT tutor for any level of the exam in as little as 24 hours. They will be a knowledgeable expert on the appropriate level of SSAT, so you can trust that the student in your life is receiving the type of guidance that can improve their self-confidence on exam day. Here is a closer look at how a private instructor can assist your student with each segment of the test.
The Elementary Level SSAT
The Elementary Level SSAT consists of five sections: Quantitative (Math), Reading, Verbal, Writing, and Experimental. The Experimental section is unscored and exists solely so that the exam's manufacturer can try out questions for future tests. Test-takers should be aware of its existence, but do not need to waste any test prep time on it specifically. The assessment's Writing section is also unscored, but sent as part of a student's application to every school they apply to. As such, your student should treat the Writing section as an integral portion of the exam.
The Quantitative section measures your student's quantitative problem-solving and analytical thinking skills. Sample topics include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and age-appropriate word problems. Students have 30 minutes to answer 30 multiple-choice questions.
If your student isn't comfortable around numbers, SSAT tutors have a variety of tools at their disposal to help them overcome their learning obstacles. If your student is a visual learner, counting cubes may help illustrate what abstract plus and minus signs mean in practical terms. Similarly, key phrases such as "altogether" and "how many are left" can help young students identify exactly what a word problem is asking them to do.
The Verbal section evaluates your student's vocabulary skills. Most of the questions deal with synonyms or analogies, meaning that students need to identify the relationship between two words and select the answer with a similar pairing. Students have 20 minutes to answer 30 questions on this section.
A private instructor might use flashcards to help your student study new vocabulary words to prepare for this section. An SSAT tutor may also provide sample questions to give your student experience working with analogies, as some of them can be confusing.
The Reading section measures a student's reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Every question is based on an associated reading passage, with emphasis on understanding the text provided. Students may also be asked to use context to work out what an unfamiliar term means. Students have 30 minutes to answer 28 questions on this section.
If your student could retain more of the information they read, their instructor may teach them active reading skills to promote a more complete engagement with the material. For instance, taking notes as you go along forces your brain to absorb the information, frequently improving retention.
The Writing section measures a student's written communication, creativity, and organization skills. Students have 15 minutes to compose a story based on a provided picture prompt, making sure to include a beginning, a middle, and an end in the proper sequence. Factors such as punctuation, grammar, and spelling all count, so students are encouraged to save some of their time to proofread their work and make any necessary corrections.
If your student could more effectively express themselves in writing, their SSAT tutor may show them how to outline their piece beforehand to give their work a logical flow. Working from an outline can also save time, as students never need to pause and figure out what they want to say next.
Once your student finishes the Elementary Level SSAT, they will receive a score from 900-1800. There will also be a percentile rank to give you an idea of how your student performed relative to other students.
Middle and Upper Level SSAT
The Upper Level SSAT is more challenging than the Middle Level version of the exam, but both tests share the same basic structure. There are again five sections (Quantitative, Reading, Verbal, Writing, Experimental), and the Experimental and Writing sections are again unscored.
The Quantitative section is split into two subsections (Quantitative 1 and Quantitative 2), each of which contain 25 multiple-choice questions over 30-minute testing sessions (50 questions over one hour total). Topics include elementary algebra, data analysis, geometry, and graphing. If your student has a hard time with any of these topics, they might complete practice problems during SSAT tutoring sessions until the concepts begin to click.
The Reading section is comprised of 40 questions in 40 minutes. Students are expected to be able to identify a passage's main idea, make inferences based on what they read, and evaluate arguments. The same active reading techniques recommended for the Elementary Level exam can also help older students, especially if they jot down their reactions to the text as well as what it might mean.
The Verbal section consists of 60 questions in 30 minutes split evenly between synonyms and analogies. It's impossible to try to memorize every word that could appear on the exam, so your student might go over prefixes, suffixes, and common word roots with SSAT tutors to help them decipher unfamiliar words.
The Writing section lasts 25 minutes on both versions, but its structure changes slightly. Middle Level test-takers may choose between two creative writing prompts, while Upper Level students may choose between a creative prompt and a more traditional essay. Either way, working from an outline is still a great way for students to produce their best possible piece.
Each test is also scored on a slightly different scale. Middle Level scores range from 1320-2130, while Upper Level scores fall anywhere from 1500-2400.
How can SSAT tutors help my student study for the test?
A one-on-one instructor can provide individualized attention. Any questions your student has may be answered promptly, as they are their tutor's sole priority during study sessions. A private educator can also design sessions around your student's preferred learning style, helping them make the most of time spent studying.
Working on academic skills is great, but some students may benefit more from time management and test-taking strategies specific to the SSAT. It's important for students taking the Elementary Level SSAT to try to answer every question, as there is no penalty for incorrect responses. However, both the Middle Level and Upper Level exams penalize you for every wrong answer, meaning that guessing incorrectly is objectively worse than leaving it blank. This turns every tough question into a risk-reward scenario, as students must weigh the chances of a guess proving correct with the downside of getting it wrong.
One factor that goes into that analysis could be how many answer choices a student can safely eliminate. With the exception of the Writing section, all SSAT questions are multiple-choice. This means that students can try to deduce the right answer by mentally crossing out answer choices that are obviously incorrect, a valuable test-taking tool that students can use long after they finish the SSAT.
Many students also take practice exams during SSAT tutoring sessions to develop a familiarity with how the exam words questions. Keywords such as "except" and "not" can completely change an item's meaning, and knowing how the test prints these words can help your student spot them. Finishing practice tests can also help your student understand their academic strengths and any areas of opportunity for further study, potentially increasing their study efficiency.
How do I get started?
Simply use the information provided on this page to connect with an educational consultant who can answer any questions you still have about our services. Varsity Tutors is the expert when it comes to matching students with SSAT tutors, and we look forward to playing our part in your student's pursuit of academic success!