About the SSAT

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is an entrance test for admission to several schools in the US. It is a primary requirement for admission at many independent or private schools.

The SSAT is a standardized measure to assess a student’s ability to cope with the coursework. The score helps the school determine whether or not the applicant should be admitted.

All students who are in grades 3 to 11 can take the SSAT.

SSAT Test Format

The SSAT tests the verbal, quantitative, and reading abilities of the students.

  • The Quantitative (Math) section analyzes a child’s ability to understand basic mathematical constructs. It comprises fundamental questions required to comprehend higher grade math. The questions differ from grade to grade.
  • The Verbal section is the easiest and quickest one. It determines the student’s capability to think clearly and constructively. It consists of a series of multiple-choice questions.
  • The Reading Comprehension section assesses the student’s skill in understanding what is being read. The student needs to answer multiple-choice questions based on the passages provided.
  • There is a Writing Sample section that accesses the student’s writing ability. This section is not scored.
  • The Experimental section consists of mixed content questions (Verbal, Reading, and Math). This section does not count toward reported scores.

Elementary Level SSAT Test Breakdown

Elementary (Lower) Level SSAT is for students in grades 3–4. The Elementary Level SSAT consists of a total of 104-106 questions, with a duration of 2 hours 5 minutes.

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Section 1 - Quantitative (Math)3030 minutes
Section 2 - Verbal3020 minutes
Break- 15 minutes
Section 3 - Reading2830 minutes
Writing Sample 1 Writing Prompt15 minutes
ExperimentalVaries from 15 - 1715 minutes

Middle/Upper Level SSAT Test Breakdown

Middle Level is for students in grades 5–7.  Upper Level is for students in grades 8–11. The Middle/Upper Level SSAT’s total testing time is 3 hours 10 minutes.

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Writing Sample 1 25 minutes
Break- 10 minutes
Section 1 - Quantitative (Math)2530 minutes
Section 2 - Reading4040 minutes
Break-10 minutes
Section 3 - Verbal6030 minutes
Section 4 - Quantitative (Math) 2530 minutes
Section 5 - Experimental1615 minutes

What is a good SSAT score?

A good SSAT score depends on the grade and the school you are applying for. The higher the grade, the better the score should be. Most schools will mention the minimum cutoff score on their website.

50th percentile is considered to be the median SSAT score. Most schools look for anything above that mark.

However, there are a few elite schools that prefer students from the 80th percentile and above category. This means that you need to score better than 80% of the students taking the SSAT.

Differences between Elementary (Lower), Middle, and Upper Level SSAT

SSAT is divided into three levels: Elementary (Lower), Middle, and Upper.

Elementary (Lower) Level SSAT

Elementary (Lower) Level SSAT
Elementary (Lower) level is for children in grades 3 and 4 applying to grades 4 and 5. This level is vastly different from the other two levels.

The quantitative questions are visual mathematical concepts appropriate to their grade. The comprehension passages are easier to grasp. And the essay section usually has a picture prompt.

Middle Level SSAT

Middle Level SSAT
Middle level is for students in grades 5 to 7 applying to grades 6 to 8. The questions here are a lot harder. But they are not beyond the ability of middle school kids.

The quantitative section is based on algebra and geometry. But heavy emphasis is laid on the phrasing.

The comprehension passages are excerpts from middle-school level novels, poems, or essays. The essay section will test the student’s creative writing skills.

Upper Level SSAT

Upper Level SSAT
Upper level is for students in grades 8 to 11 applying for grades 9 to 12. It is the toughest of the lot but quite easy for high schoolers.

The structure of the questionnaire is similar to that of the middle level, but the content is more advanced.

The Best Boarding Schools In The US

Overview of the Top Boarding Schools in the US and How they Use the SSAT Scores
Phillips Exeter Academy - Being the most selective boarding school in the list, it boasts an Ivy League rate of 30%.
Acceptance rate: 10%
SSAT score: 90th percentile
Deerfield Academy - This is another elite school with high expectations from its applicants.
Acceptance rate: 17%
SSAT score: 86th percentile
Phillips Academy (Andover) - It is one of the toughest schools to get admission in.
Acceptance rate: 13%
SSAT score: 93rd percentile
St. Paul’s School
Acceptance rate: 12%
SSAT score: 89th percentile
Groton School
Acceptance rate: 13%
SSAT score: 93rd percentile
Cate School
Acceptance rate: 17%
SSAT score: 85th percentile
The Hotchkiss School - It is optional for students to submit their SSAT scores. However, a high percentile score will definitely help during the admissions process.
Acceptance rate: 18%
SSAT score: Optional

If you think that high SSAT cutoffs like these are a bit dicey for your kid, then don’t be disheartened.

The Governor’s Academy usually accepts students in the 75th percentile. Cranbrook Schools can go even lower, with 65th percentile SSAT scores.

We recommend that you prepare your child well for the SSAT and let him/her take it before aiming for a particular school.

SSAT Consultation

Need guidance with your child’s SSAT preparation and US boarding school journey?

Prep Zone Academy has helped hundreds of International School and top Junior College students over the last 10 years with their SAT/ACT/PSAT/SSAT preparation and admissions to top US Colleges / US Boarding Schools.

Call us at +65 6812 9999 or WhatsApp +65 8305 1871 if you have any queries. Alternatively, you can also provide us with your contact details below & we will reach out to you to schedule a free consultation – no obligation.


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