What is the SSAT? A Comprehensive Overview

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a standardized test designed to assess the academic abilities of students seeking admission to independent or private schools. It consists of four sections, totaling 170 questions, and includes one unscored essay prompt. The test takes approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete, with short breaks interspersed throughout.

Test Levels:

The SSAT is administered at three levels, depending on the student’s current grade:

  • Grades 3-4: SSAT Elementary Level Test
  • Grades 5-7: SSAT Middle Level Test
  • Grades 8-11: SSAT Upper Level Test

Test Sections and Format:

  1. Writing Sample: One unscored prompt requiring a written response supporting or arguing a given topic, using examples from personal experience, current events, history, or literature (25 minutes).
  2. Quantitative (Math): 25 multiple-choice questions covering Number Concepts and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis, and Probability (30 minutes).
  3. Reading: 40 multiple-choice questions based on 7 passages, testing Main Ideas, Details, Inferences, Word Meanings, Author’s Purpose and Tone, Opinions and Arguments, and Predictions (40 minutes).
  4. Verbal: 60 multiple-choice questions (30 synonyms and 30 analogies) testing Vocabulary, Verbal Reasoning, and Ability to Relate Ideas Logically (30 minutes).
  5. Experimental: 16 multiple-choice questions featuring Verbal, Reading, and Quantitative-style questions (15 minutes).

Registration Details:

The SSAT middle/upper level test fee is $127, with a $45 late fee and a $35 change fee. The international fee is $247. Fee waivers may be available for those unable to pay, although they are limited. Contact your admission office for more information on test fees or waivers.


  • Raw scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly minus one-quarter point for each incorrect answer.
  • Scaled Scores: Grades 5-7 (Middle Level): 440-710 (V/Q/R), 1320-2130 (Total); Grades 8-11 (Upper Level): 500-800 (V/Q/R), 1500-2400 (Total).
  • Percentile Ranks: Compare scores to similar students who have taken the SSAT in the past three years.


While the essay section is not graded, a copy of the essay will be sent to a school or consultant. Overall, the SSAT is a comprehensive test that evaluates students’ academic skills and is an important factor in the admission process for many independent and private schools.