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If you have been thinking about helping your student pursue educational success by investing in SSAT prep, Varsity Tutors can set you up with private SSAT tutoring sessions today. We are experts when it comes to referring students and their parents to SSAT test prep resources, making us a name you can trust in a crowded industry!

The SSAT, or Secondary School Admissions Test, is a high-stakes exam taken by students in grades 3-11 as part of the application process to get into competitive independent and private high schools throughout the country. The exam measures a test-taker's academic skills in subject areas such as mathematics, reading, and vocabulary to give selective schools a sense of how a given applicant might fit into their learning environment. It does not measure a student's motivation, persistence, or creativity, meaning that the SSAT is not a perfect predictor of future academic success. Still, it provides a valuable data point for admissions departments to consider in combination with other factors.

It would be foolish to give a nine-year old and a 16-year old the same exam and expect them to be on an even playing field, so the SSAT is divided into three "levels" based on the age group it is intended for. The Elementary Level SSAT is intended for students currently in grades 3-4. The Middle Level SSAT is for students in grades 5-7. Finally, the Upper-Level SSAT is for students in grades 8-11. It is always assumed that a test-taker intends to enroll at their new school for the beginning of the next school year. For example, a 7th-grader who takes the test is trying to get into an independent school starting with grade 8.

Can An SSAT Tutor Near Me Go Over Every Section With My Student?

Sure, but what that entails depends on the level of SSAT your student is taking. Here is a breakdown of the SSAT Middle Level:

  • Writing Sample
    • Write a story based on one of two provided creative prompts.
  • Quantitative Math
    • Arithmetic, geometry, elementary algebra, etc.
    • 50 questions broken up into two 30 minute sections
  • Reading Comprehension
    • Read 250-350 word passages and answer questions
      • Main idea
      • Find details
      • Determine the author's purpose
      • Make inferences
      • Understand and evaluate opinions/arguments
      • etc.
  • Verbal
    • Similarities and relationships through synonyms and analogies
    • 30 synonyms and 30 analogies
  • Experimental
    • 16 unscored test questions

The Upper Level SSAT follows the exact same structure, except that students may choose between a creative writing prompt and a more traditional essay prompt on the exam's Writing section. The material is also more difficult to create a more age-appropriate challenge.

The Elementary Level SSAT follows a different format. All of the sections are the same, but there is only one Quantitative component instead of two. Younger students have a picture-based writing prompt for the Writing section, and the number of questions and time available to answer them are adjusted. Here is a closer look at how professional SSAT test prep can help your student prepare for each section of the exam:


As noted above, the SSAT Writing section is the only one that differs in format on all three levels of the test. This section isn't scored, but is sent to the school you are applying to with your student's application. Elementary-level students have 15 minutes to compose their answers, while older students get 25. That's a tight deadline regardless of a test-taker's age, so your student might want to create a quick outline to help them stay on track. If they are unaccustomed to working from an outline, they may practice their technique during an SSAT course.

If your student doesn't believe in the value of outlines, SSAT tutors may explain the benefits during an SSAT class as well. Creating an outline provides a convenience reference point for every supporting detail you originally planned to include, making it easier to remember everything. You can also look up what you planned to say next if you get stuck, ensuring that you don't waste time staring at your paper with a confused expression.

Older students may also want to discuss their strategy during their SSAT prep. Essay writing and creative writing require completely different thought processes, so part of SSAT test prep could be determining which is a better fit for your student and planning accordingly.

Quantitative (Math at the Elementary level)

The Quantitative portion of the SSAT includes grade-appropriate math problems. Elementary students answer questions about shapes, operations, fractions and number sense. They have 30 minutes to answer 30 multiple-choice questions. Older students can expect topics such as elementary algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. They have two separate Quantitative sections, each containing 25 multiple-choice questions over a 30-minute testing session (50 questions and 60 minutes total).

Completing practice problems as part of SSAT test prep is one of the best ways to understand mathematical concepts. Your student's instructor can watch them as they work and point out any mistakes in real time, sparing them the hassle of trying to figure out where they went wrong. Likewise, an SSAT tutor can provide additional practice problems as needed over the course of your student's SSAT classes.

Calculators are prohibited at all SSAT levels, so your student cannot rely on any technological aid. If your student is uncomfortable tackling math problems the old-fashioned way, their SSAT prep can include long division, geometric proofs, and graphing as needed.


All of the SSAT Reading sections have approximately seven reading passages followed by multiple-choice questions. Elementary students have 30 minutes to answer 28 questions, while older students have 40 minutes for 40 questions. The passages get more challenging as the test-taker gets older, and high school students may get passages on history or the humanities that an elementary student never would.

Your student may go over active reading techniques such as writing little notes in the margin during their SSAT prep. This serves two purposes. First, actively engaging with the text ensures that your student is giving it their undivided attention, potentially making it easier to recall the information. Second, it may be faster to look something up in your student's notes than trying to find it in the passage, saving valuable time.

Your student may also go over test-taking strategy at this stage of their SSAT test preparation. If they read the questions before the passage, they can start the passage already knowing what information they should be looking for. This may make it easier to notice a relatively minor detail.


The SSAT Verbal component deals primarily with vocabulary and analogies. Elementary students have 30 multiple-choice questions to answer in 20 minutes, while older students have 60 questions over 30 minutes to contend with.

Most of the exam's vocab questions are structured as synonyms, requiring students to select the word with the most similar meaning to one provided. For instance, if the word in question is "fast," the word "quick" might be a suitable response. If your student's vocabulary could be better, they may review flashcards during one-on-one SSAT courses to learn new words. Alternatively, hearing unfamiliar words in conversation (either in an SSAT class or just in the wild) may make it easier to remember them.

The rest of this section is comprised of analogies, or identifying the relationship between two words and then completing that relationship for another word. For instance, "hammer is to carpenter" suggests that the first word is used by the second word. "Telephone is to operator" is one possible answer, as operators use telephones just as carpenters use hammers. These can get pretty confusing, so your student may want to go over some practice questions during their SSAT test preparation to build some self-confidence heading into the exam.


The last section of the SSAT isn't scored and just allows the test developer to experiment with new questions before using them on an actual exam. Your student should do their best on this section, but there is no need to go over it during an SSAT course.

Can SSAT Prep Near Me Focus On Concepts Instead Of Sections?

Absolutely! One of the most important benefits of one-on-one SSAT tutoring is the ability to concentrate exclusively on your student's unique areas of need. If they are great with the Verbal section but don't do as well with math problems, they can concentrate on the Quantitative section during their SSAT test prep to improve study efficiency. In contrast, large SSAT classes generally follow set curricula, sacrificing flexibility in favor of a more streamlined approach.

Likewise, any questions asked in a private SSAT course can be answered on the spot, as your student is their instructor's only responsibility during their SSAT prep. In fact, many students find that one-on-one SSAT test prep creates a learning environment more conducive to asking questions than an overcrowded classroom setting.

Similarly, all of the work your student performs during their SSAT preparation can receive immediate feedback. If they made a mistake, the misunderstanding can be addressed promptly before it has a chance to spiral out of control.

Many students also take practice exams during SSAT courses to get firsthand knowledge of what they can expect on test day. If they read the directions during their SSAT prep, your student can skim over them on the actual exam and apply that time to one of the questions. Reviewing practice exams can also help you identify your student's academic strengths and any areas they could benefit from reviewing again in their SSAT class.

If your student has dealt with test anxiety in the past, knowing exactly what to expect from their SSAT prep may also help calm their nerves. Meditation techniques may also be incorporated into SSAT test preparation if test anxiety is a significant issue.

What Else Can SSAT Preparation Services Near Me Teach Me About The Exam?

The SSAT is a traditional paper-and-pencil exam administered at testing labs eight times per year. It is possible to take the test on another date, as illustrated by the list below:

SSAT Types

  • Standard - The Standard SSAT is given on eight designated Saturdays during the academic year at test sites around the world.
  • Flex - The Flex SSAT is given to an individual or group on any date other than the eight Standard dates.

SSAT score reports can also be confusing, so you might want to use SSAT prep to understand it. While the scale used varies from test to test, you are always given a score on the Quantitative, Reading, and Verbal sections plus a combined score on all three. The latter is usually more important, but may not be if your SSAT test prep emphasized a particular section.

You are also given a percentile score ranging from 1-99 that illustrates how your student fared compared to students of the same gender and age who took the exam within the last three years. Considering that the SSAT is exclusively taken by students looking to get into private schools (many of whom invested in SSAT classes), this population experiences more academic success as a whole than a random group of students.

Why Should I Trust Varsity Tutors To Book SSAT Courses Near Me?

Our proprietary Live Learning Platform facilitates digital SSAT test prep, allowing your student to receive face-to-face instruction from the comfort of your home. That's right - no more commuting to SSAT prep! If you're concerned with the quality of the resulting SSAT test prep, don't be. Our platform leverages powerful features such as a virtual whiteboard and video chat functionality to deliver an outstanding SSAT tutoring experience!

We also try to set every student up with SSAT test prep that fits into their schedule. Who wants to set their schedule around SSAT prep?

As you may expect, the more time that your student spends on their SSAT prep, the better prepared they can be on exam day. A tutor can work alongside your student to help them get the most out of their study time. If you'd like to get started helping your student prepare for the exam, reach out to Varsity Tutors. We can answer any questions you or your student may have and get you set up with expert SSAT preparation assistance from an SSAT test prep expert today!

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