Many high schools in North America require students to complete Secondary School Admissions Testing — or SSAT — as part of the admission process, and I have had to take this exam.
The SSATs are split into four different parts: an essay-writing section, a quantitative section, a qualitative section and a reading section. With the exception of the essay writing, all of these sections are in the format of multiple choice. One point is awarded for every question that is correctly answered, zero points are given for every question that is unanswered, and one-quarter point is deducted for every question that is incorrect.
The essay section is not graded by the company that runs the SSATs. The written essay is instead sent off to the school to which the student is applying. Schools tend to look for a creative, well-structured essay to ensure the student’s writing is original and authentic. There are not many ways you can prepare for this section. The best way to study for the written essay is to review vocabulary, punctuation and syntax.
The second section of the SSAT is the quantitative section. This section includes different types of math — geometry, calculus, algebra, frequency, and interpretations of data. Because the SSAT spans many different age levels, you may not have yet learned certain concepts in the exam. If a question covers something you do not know, it is best to skip the question rather than to risk getting points deducted with a wild guess.
The qualitative section includes analogies and synonyms. It is very hard to study for the synonym section as it is impossible to predict which words will be on a test. The most productive way to prepare for the synonyms portion is to study root words. During the analogies portion, try to find links between the words. Once you have found the link in the example, apply the same link to each of the multiple choice options. Whichever option makes the most sense once the link has been added in is the correct answer.
Time management is really important for the reading section. You will be presented with several passages and questions to answer about them. The reading section has 40 questions and a 40-minute time limit. If you do not approach this section properly, you will likely run out of time. It is best to go through every question and underline key words in the question. You can then scan the text and find what the question is asking. Try to save general questions such as “what is the main topic of this passage?” for the end.
Studying for the SSAT is challenging — I know firsthand! The best study method is to focus on learning concepts and techniques so that you can answer a majority of the questions. Hopefully, some of the tips that I have shared in this article are useful. As long as you try your hardest and remember to manage your time, you should receive a great score. I wish you the best of luck on your SSAT. Happy studying!
Ellie Nickason is a 12-year-old middle school student who attended Cayman International School before going abroad to further her studies this fall.