What’s on the SSAT?
The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a standardized exam that many private high schools use as part of their application process. This is just one type of admission exam—others include the BCA admission test, the ISEE, the COOP, and the HSPT.
The Upper Level SSAT tests 8th grade students in Verbal, Math, and Reading sections. These sections are all multiple choice. The SSAT also features an unscored writing sample, meaning it does not affect the student’s overall test score.
Writing Sample (25 minutes)
The first section of the test gives students a choice between a creative and an analytical writing prompt. While the writing is not scored, it does help admissions boards understand your writing abilities and your sense of organization.
Math Section (60 minutes—divided into two 30-minute blocks)
- Block 1: 25 questions, 30 minutes
- Block 2: 25 questions, 30 minutes
This section focuses on your problem-solving abilities. Math topics on the exam include Numbers and Operations, Pre-Algebra/Algebra, Basic Geometry, Graph/Table Interpretation, and Probability.
The Math Section does not allow calculators. Over the course of 60 minutes, you will see straightforward operation problems as well as more complex word problems.
Reading Section (40 minutes)
You will have 40 minutes to answer 40 multiple choice questions evaluating your reading comprehension abilities. Reading passages (250-350 words each) come from literary fiction, biographies, art, poetry, and assorted texts (science, history, sociology, and economics).
Test questions evaluate your ability to:
- identify the main idea of a passage
- identify specific details
- make inferences
- use context clues to define a word
- identify the author’s purpose for the passage
- identify tone and language use
- understand/evaluate main arguments
- make predictions based on information from the passage
You will be asked a series of questions after reading each short passage to measure your understanding of style, tone, and more. You will see narrative writing as well as argumentative writing—both of which are exposed to MEK students in Labs and Exam Prep programs.
Verbal Section (30 minutes)
You will have 30 minutes to answer 60 multiple choice questions (30 synonyms, 30 analogies) on vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and connecting ideas.
This section emphasizes word relationships. You must correctly identify synonyms and complete/interpret analogies. Here, you will be evaluated on your critical thinking abilities and the level of your vocabulary.
- Synonyms: two or more words with similar or identical meanings
- Analogies: comparisons between two things that are different in some ways but similar in others
Experimental Section (15 minutes – not scored)
The SSAT board uses this section to test out new questions to make sure they’re appropriate for future exams. This section does not impact your test score in any way.
There will be 6 Verbal, 5 Reading, and 5 Math questions.