SSAT Prep Tips for Your Child

As a parent, you of course want the best for your child. While they’re largely in charge of their own willingness to learn, there are many ways you can help your child prepare for standardized tests, particularly when it comes to SSAT prep for your child.

The SSAT is a standardized test used to help assess the capabilities of students who are trying to enroll in an independent school. Some SSAT prep tips for your child include helping him or her understand the makeup of the test, explaining what the environment will be like, and simply being encouraging and positive as they prepare.

Help interpret the SSAT test

Students who enter into a test feeling prepared are likely going to be more confident, which often leads to better scores. This begins with a basic knowledge of the structure, timing, and possible outcomes of the exam. Make sure your student knows what the test is used for and how it is graded.

The SSAT covers reading, math, and verbal skills and is offered in either the Standard variation (given on eight Saturdays during the academic year around the world) or the Flex variation (given to an individual or group on a date outside the Standard range).

The SSAT is given at three levels, including:

  • Elementary (3rd and 4th grade)

  • Middle (5th through 7th grade)

  • Upper (8th through 11th grade)

It is a norm-referenced test, meaning it compares individual scores against results from a statistically selected group of test takers who have previously taken the exam.

Administer SSAT practice tests

You can begin assisting your student by administering SSAT practice tests to identify places he or she may need to study further. Do this at the start of your preparation, and repeat the process as your student works to build skills. Approximate the testing environment as best as you can, timing your student, replicating a quiet place, and administering breaks, etc. in the same way your child will experience on test day.

Practice SSAT skills at home

You can practice building reading, math, and verbal skills at home with your student. To practice reading and verbal skills, have your student report on the books he or she is reading, or read a book as a family. Define vocabulary words, review plot, and talk about word origins. Afterwards, you might have your student practice the written portion by responding to a book-related prompt or another prompt that you develop. Review together for elements like punctuation and clarity of ideas.

Work on math skills by doing problems together or getting a book of fun math activities. Problems on the SSAT tend to focus on spatial skills, patterns, and sequencing, which can be fun skills to work on together.

Help build confidence for SSAT test day

Many students develop test anxiety when they’re studying for a large standardized test, so do what you can to combat this. Equip your student with coping mechanisms (like meditation, deep breaths, or repetition) that can be practiced before and even during test day. Let your child know that you’re proud of his or her efforts.

Before the test, make sure your child is well rested, has a nutritious meal, and is comfortable. It can be useful to review basic tips with your student: read and thoroughly follow directions, finish the question before reviewing the answers, pace yourself, and so on. If your child is taking the Elementary SSAT, encourage him or her to answer every question, as there is no penalty for incorrect answers. For the other two levels, wrong answers do deduct points, so explain to your child what that means and how that might alter his or her approach.

[RELATED: How is the SSAT Scored?]

Reviewing basic test-taking practices with your child can be helpful and also boost confidence, though you should be careful about introducing new information to your child directly before the test, as it may cause more anxiety.

If you decide to seek further assistance for your child, SSAT tutoring may provide the extra help needed. With a little preparation, both parents and students should feel better about the SSAT.

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