The Best SSAT Tutoring in NJ | Summit Prep

The SSAT or Secondary School Admission Test is used as an entrance exam for admission evaluation into private elementary, middle, and high school. It is administered seven times each year by the Secondary Schools Admissions Testing located in Princeton, New Jersey. Scores are accepted by more than 600 schools. Schools that accept SSAT scores include independent unaffiliated private day and boarding schools, non-diocesan Catholic schools or Catholic schools operated by religious orders, and non-Catholic religious-affiliated schools.

There are currently three levels of the SSAT for admission into different grades:

  • Elementary Level
  • Middle Level
  • Upper Level


The scoring of the SSAT is as follows: You get one point (+1) for each correct answer, and you lose one quarter of a point (- 1/4 point) for each incorrect answer. Omitted answers have no effect (0 points) on your score. If you can eliminate one incorrect answer choice, then it is in your statistical favor to guess. If you cannot eliminate any answer choices, then we recommend leaving the answer blank to that question. (Note: the Elementary Level SSAT does not have a guessing penalty, so students should answer every question on this exam.)

Calculation of right answers minus one fourth of wrong answer yields your raw score. Do not worry that your standing on the exam may suffer in comparison to students in other grades taking the same upper-level exam. SSAT scores are scaled and reported in percentiles that compare only students within the same age and grade group.

The essay is not scored by the SSAT, but it is made available to read for the admission officers at the schools to which the student applies.

Elementary Level SSAT

Which grade level of students take the Elementary Level SSAT?
  • Students in 3rd and 4th grade take this test for admission into 4th and 5th grade, respectively.
Ways that the Elementary SSAT varies from the Middle and Upper Level SSAT:
  • There are no guessing penalties on the elementary level test, so put an answer down for every question.
  • Students answer directly in the book (there is no scantron for elementary testing).
  • There is a picture prompt for the essay section (they are asked to give a response to a picture). The essay does not get scored by the SSAT, but admission officers can read a copy of the essay. 

Format of the Elementary Level SSAT:

Section Number of Questions Time
Mathematics 30 30 minutes
Verbal 30 20 minutes
Break 0 15 minutes
Reading 28 30 minutes
Writing Sample 1 15 minutes
Experimental Section 15-17 15 minutes
Total 104-106 2 hr and 5 min

Middle Level SSAT

What grade level of students take the Middle Level SSAT?
  • Students in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade take this test for admission into 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, respectively.

Click here for more information about the Middle Level SSAT from the makers of the test.

Format of the Middle Level SSAT

Section Number of Questions Time
Writing Sample 1 25 minutes
Break 0 5 minutes
Mathematics 25 30 minutes
Reading 40 40 minutes
Break 0 10 minutes
Verbal 60 30 minutes
Mathematics 25 30 minutes
Experimental 16 15 minutes
Total 167 3 hr and 5 min

Upper Level SSAT

What grade level of students take the Upper Level SSAT?
  • Students in grades 8-11 take this test for admission into grades 9-12, respectively.

Format of the Upper Level SSAT

Section Number of Questions Time
Writing Sample 1 25 minutes
Break 0 5 minutes
Mathematics 25 30 minutes
Reading 40 40 minutes
Break 0 10 minutes
Verbal 60 30 minutes
Mathematics 25 30 minutes
Experimental 16 15 minutes
Total 167 3 hr and 5 min
  1. Remember the order of difficulty on the Math sections: you’ll find the hardest questions at the end of the section, which means that the answers are more complex. Look carefully at the choices and really think about what the question is asking. But, because all questions have equal worth, there is no reason to rush through the easier questions to get to the hardest ones, since everyone has a lower probability of getting the hardest questions correct anyway.
  2. Don’t read the directions during the test: You should have read and memorized the directions before sitting down to take the exam. So when the exam clock starts ticking, don’t waste time rereading directions you already know. Instead, go directly to Question 1.
  3. Bring a watch: To pace yourself, you need to keep track of the time – and what if there is no clock in your room or if the only clock is out of your line of vision? So bring a watch just in case. A word of warning: Don’t bring a watch that makes noise (such as one that has an alarm) or a smartwatch — both can get you kicked out of the test.
  4. Keep it moving: If you don’t know an answer, that’s ok. Don’t get stuck. There may be questions later on in the test that you can answer easily, and you don’t want to lose points just because you didn’t get to them. And, if you have time left over, you can go back to the questions you skipped.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a student is applying to a private school, there is a good chance that the school will require students to submit standardized test results. The two most frequently accepted tests are the ISEE and SSAT. Students should check with the schools to which they are applying which tests the schools accept or require. If the school accepts both the ISEE and SSAT, then students should take a practice test of each to determine which test fits them best.

To determine which test to take, students should take a diagnostic of both to see which one fits them best.

Note: Because the ISEE can only be taken once in any given testing season (Fall: August t0 November. Winter: December to March. Spring: April to July), students are likely to only have one try on the ISEE when they are fully prepared for it. There is variability in any test date: Students could have a good or bad day, the content tested on that test date might fit them particularly well or not, etc. Given that variability, there’s higher risk inherent with going with the ISEE. For that reason, if a student scores significantly higher on the ISEE, they should prepare for the ISEE. If they only score slightly higher on the ISEE diagnostic, then it’s still safer for them to prepare for the SSAT, because they can easily take the SSAT multiple times. And, if a student does prepare for the ISEE, they still might want to register for and take an SSAT as a back-up, just in case they get unlucky on the ISEE test day and the test does not go as planned.

Students cannot use a calculator on any portion of this exam.

There are usually two score reports. The first is the school score report, and the second is the student/parent report. The schools normally receive students’ scores about two weeks after the test, and they are released both by mail and online. For students, their scores are usually released online within two weeks of the exam and can also be sent by mail for an additional fee. When students and parents log into their online account on, they can click on the “Check Scores” button which will take them directly to their scores. For all info about scores (how to check, send, verify, etc), see the SSAT page by clicking here.

After Acceptance to High School

Once you start high school (or before), we are here to support you if you need help in any academic subjects. And, when you need it, we’re here for you at the next step: we specialize in SAT and ACT prep and provide one-on-one, customized tutoring and college counseling to over 1,000 students every year.

Timeline for SAT/ACT Testing and College Admissions

  • Fall of sophomore year: Students take the PSAT in October and get results back in early December. These results do not count toward National Merit status, and we recommend that students do not prep for it (here’s more info one why we make that recommendation). But, the results do give us an early indication of where a student’s standardized test score is at, which can inform if we need to start SAT/ACT prep earlier than anticipated.
  • Summer after sophomore year: in June, take our free diagnostic SAT and ACT exams to determine which test suits your child best and then start SAT prep or ACT prep (recruited athletes or those needing very large score increases sometimes need to start the process earlier).
  • Throughout junior year: take the SAT/ACT tests until you hit your score goal (ACT scores, in particular, can be deleted at any time, so there’s no downside to re-taking the test).
  • October of junior year: most students take the PSAT (this score does not matter for the vast majority of students) — the results for this test come back in early December of that year.
  • Summer after junior year and early fall of senior year: college visits and applications.
  • November 1st and 15th of senior year: early application deadlines for most colleges.

If you have any questions before or along the course of that journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out — we’re always happy to talk about the best plan for your child and how to help them succeed.