All you need to know about the SSAT

By Kevin Kwok

(Test Preparation Instructor at The Edge Learning Center)

Student Studying Online

Previously, we published a blog post that introduced the ISEE and compared it to its alternative, the SSAT. Now it’s the turn of the SSAT to get its own dedicated blog post! Like the ISEE, the SSAT is also a test that is used for private school admissions. Here’s what we need to know if we’re thinking about taking the test.

Quick Facts

There are three versions of the SSAT: Upper Level, Middle Level, and Elementary Level. The Elementary Level test is 2 hours and 5 minutes, while the Upper and Middle Level tests are both 3 hours and 10 minutes. 

Applying To... 
LevelUS grade systemUK equivalentHK equivalent
SSAT UpperGrade 9 and aboveY10 and aboveForm 3 and above
SSAT MiddleGrade 6-8Y7-9P6 to Form 2
SSAT LowerGrade 4-5Y5-6P4 to P5

Most people will be taking either the SSAT Upper or the SSAT Middle tests. For these two levels, the test has four sections in the following order:

  1. Quantitative – This section tests common math concepts like number operations, basic algebra, and geometry
  2. Reading – This section includes longer reading passages and tests reading comprehension skills such as inference and main idea.
  3. Verbal – This section is split into two halves. The first half is composed of synonym questions, while the second half asks the test-taker to complete a series of verbal analogies.
  4. Quantitative – This is the second half of the test’s math questions.

There is also an essay component. Just like the ISEE, your essay is not graded, but it will be submitted along with your test score when applying to schools.

Finally, just like the SSAT, your ISEE score will have a scaled score component and a corresponding percentile score. The percentile score is used by schools to determine how well you did when compared to other test-takers in your grade.

Differences to ISEE

So how should I decide if the SSAT is right for me? A few things:

Are you a bookworm? 

The SSAT’s Verbal section is infamous for including words that even adults may not be familiar with. It can be painful to try to cram vocabulary, but those who have read widely for years may actually recall a lot of the words from their favorite novels.

Do you like poetry?

The SSAT’s Reading section contains shorter passages than the ISEE’s Reading Comprehension passage, but there may be harder material like poems or passages taken from older documents. Before deciding on the SSAT or ISEE, it could be worth thinking about your strengths as a reader. How quickly can you read an article? Do you read widely, or have you spent your time reading only fiction or non-fiction?

Are you a paper person or a screen person?

If you’re based in Hong Kong, the SSAT does not offer online testing options, so for those who are better at online tests, have a good look at the ISEE. Pay particular attention to the questions unique to the ISEE, such as the Quantitative Reasoning questions about value comparison, and see if you feel confident tackling them.

How we can help

If you’re still not sure whether the SSAT is the right fit for your admissions needs, we’re happy to help! Simply give us a ring to see if we can arrange a mock test, trial 1-on-1 lessons, or even a FREE 30 minutes with our Admissions Consultants to discuss testing, school applications, and more!

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