The SSAT: Private School Admission & The SAT’s Younger Brother

Posted by Sophie Pauze on 6/7/12 10:43 AM

 test answersI. What is the SSAT and why does it matter to me?

A little SSAT history…

In the 1950’s, the United States Office of Education sought to create unified, academic standards across the nation. They came up with the Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB) designed to be a “common admission test” that could compare students’ academic performance and school standards across disparate elementary and high schools. 

Today, the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is exclusively a private school entrance exam for students in grades 5-11. Like the original exam, the SSAT is not supposed to be an achievement test (i.e. to provide a student “extra credit”), but intends to create an academic base line that charts a students’ ability vis-à-vis his or her peers.

You might be thinking…

Are students in grade 5 taking the same exam as students in grade 11??! Luckily, no, they aren’t…There are two versions of the SSAT based on grade level:

- Lower: for students in grades 5-7

- Upper: for students in grades 8-11

Both tests are made up of three parts: a quantitative section (math), a verbal section, and a reading comprehension section. The quantitative section tests the students’ ability to solve arithmetic, basic algebra and geometry problems. The verbal section tests vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and logical deduction. The reading comprehension section tests the students’ ability to clearly process and understand text.

Fortunately, the SSAT is highly coachable, patterned, and predictable. Because the SSAT represents the first standardized test for many students, systematic tutoring can lead to dramatically superior outcomes in students. If you are thinking about sending your child to a private school in the Boston area, plan ahead for the SSAT and find yourself a dynamic and effective tutor here in Cambridge.

 II. The SSAT: Building Up to the SAT

In addition to the most common purpose of the SSAT— admission to private school— the exam has some other unintended uses:  

1) The SSAT is great preparation for the format and duration of standardized tests. Time management and sustained focus can be primary challenges for young test-takers. Early training for standardized tests will lead to advantages during high school, when students must often take a slew of exams (SAT IIs, SAT, APs) as part of the college application process.

2) The SSAT also serves as an early indicator of 12th grade SAT scores for students taking the test in grades 7-10. The predictive nature of the SSAT will help identify a student’s educational strengths and weaknesses early in their academic career.

 III.  Planning for the SSAT

1) Determine when your child needs to take the test and plan ahead: The SSAT is administered 8 times annually. Map out the application process to your child’s dream school and identify when test results need to be submitted. You can view the SSAT test calendar here.

2) Familiarize yourself with the format an exam and take a diagnostic test: Establishing a baseline score is an important first step in the process of studying for an exam. We recommend that students take a full-length practice test as a diagnostic. Practice exams can be found in the free preparation materials for the SSAT. 

3) Still Unsure about Next Steps? Reach out to Cambridge Coaching:

We are careful to customize our test preparation approach to suit younger students who are often encountering their first experience of testing under pressure. For the SSAT, the experience of studying is critically important because it gives young students the groundwork for all future standardized tests. We introduce students to test prep techniques, such as time management and effective ways to answer multiple-choice questions.

Our Cambridge-based tutors are graduates of highly ranked colleges and students in prestigious graduate programs. They know that preparing for a standardized test can be hard, especially the first one.  Our tutors are experts at managing young students’ attention spans, moods, needs—and sense of cool. They emphasize a highly structured and systematic study process as the best path to a higher score on the SSAT, while keeping the process engaging and age-appropriate.

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