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A comprehensive guide to the SSATs

A comprehensive guide to the SSATs

The SSAT: what it is and how to prepare for it

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The SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) is an admissions test required by a number of private and independent schools across Canada. It's one important step on the path to an independent school education.  

While SSAT results are taken seriously, they're only one part of the admissions process. You should try, then, not to put too much emphasis on them. 

In this guide, we answer several important questions about the SSATs. We discuss the format of the test, how to prepare for it, and offer tips for success. To view a list of schools requiring the SSAT, click here.

Why do some schools require students to take the SSAT?

A number of schools across Canada require applicants to take the SSAT. The aim of the test is to assess a student’s verbal, quantitative, reading, and writing skills.  It can sometimes be a good indicator of potential academic success.

That said, SSAT tests are not meant to measure all traits that can contribute to academic success. For instance, the test doesn't directly assess motivation, persistence, or creativity.

Who designs the SSAT?

The test is developed by committees made up of education experts and independent or private school teachers. The questions are rigorously reviewed to make sure they're the appropriate degree of difficulty. 

How reliable is the test?

According to SSAT.org, very. The verbal and quantitative sections of the SSAT have a reliability score of higher than .90. The reading section has a slightly lower scoreThese scores are considered above average by widely recognized educational  standards.

What makes the SSAT a norm-referenced test?

The SSAT is a norm-referenced test. This means it interprets each individual score in relation to the distribution of scores for a comparison group, referred to as the "norm group." The SSAT norm groups consist of all scores from the same grade and gender who have taken the test for the first time over the past three years. 

The SSAT reports percentile ranks, which are calculated relative to the performance of the norm group. It's important to remember that the SSAT norm group is a highly competitive group.

Among the flurry of private school application requirements, the SSAT test is one of the most nerve-wracking. Luckily, it's never too soon to begin preparing for this standardized aptitude test.

Here are some tips to ensure that your child is as prepared as he or she can be.

Tips for SSAT Success

Timing is key

Keep in mind that many schools like to receive SSAT scores no later than the February before the school year begins in September. Make sure you fully understand the requirements and essential deadline dates for your preferred school(s), since these vary between schools.

Once you know you will need to take the SSAT test, ensure you do the following:

  • Select a test site and location (Alberta and British Columbia dates and locations can be found here; Ontario dates and locations can be found here.)
  • Obtain necessary documentation
  • Select score recipients (who will receive the test results)
  • Register for the test
  • Print your SSAT admission ticket and manage your SSAT account
  • Prepare for the test (more on this below)
  • Review your score report (after you've written the test)

Order a prep test

Help is only a click away. The Secondary School Admission Test Board publishes a book of full-length practice tests, available online.

It contains:

  • Full-length practice tests (two upper level, two lower)
  • Scoring instructions and explanations
  • Descriptions and exercises for each type of question
  • Advice for using time efficiently

The guide currently costs $30. Once you've received the test, go through it. It will give you a strong indication of what to expect from the SSAT. You should be able to breathe a sigh of relief at this point.

Prep courses

Some organizations offer prep courses for the SSAT, which may help prepare your child. It's important to note, though, that prep courses are not endorsed by the SSAT's governing body.

Work together with your child

Parents can help by going over test-taking strategies with children and helping them practice. After giving your child a timed test, go over the wrong answers with your child, to help him or her figure out how to do better when taking the actual SSAT.

Get familiar with the test format

Section Testing time Questions Skills tested
Verbal 30 minutes (one section) 30 synonym questions Vocabulary

30 analogy questions

Vocabulary and verbal reasoning

Quantitative

60 minutes (two 30-minute sections)

50 multiple-choice questions

Math reasoning and computation

Reading

40 minutes (one section)

7 reading passages and 40 questions

Reading comprehension

Writing Sample

25 minutes (one section)

1 essay prompt

Writing

Verbal
  • 30 synonym, 30 analogy questions
  • Students are given 30 minutes to complete this section
Quantitative (math)
  • Two sections, 25 questions each
  • Students do math computations, as they would in school
  • Students are given 30 minutes to complete this section
Reading comprehension
  • 40 questions based on seven reading passages
  • Questions measure your ability to understand what you read
  • Students are given 40 minutes to complete this section
Writing sample
  • Support or argue the topic statement (presented)
  • Use examples from personal experience, current events, history, or literature
  • Students are given 25 minutes to complete this section

Sample SSAT questions

Below, are some sample SSAT questions for each section: verbal, quantitative, and reading. (Source: the Study Point, a test preparation and tutoring institute.)

Verbal

  • Synonym questions; Students must select the answer that's closest in meaning to the word given in the question.
  • Analogy questions: These questions test a student's ability to determine relationships between words. Students must select the answer that best completes the meaning of the sentence.


Answers: 1. (D), 2. (C), 3. (A); 1. (E), 2. (A), 3. (B), 4. (D)

Math
 





Answers: 1. (B), 2. (C), 3. (C), 4. (C)

Reading

Answers: 1. (C), 2. (C), 3. (B)

Levels of the SSAT

There are three SSAT levels:

  1. Elementary Level SSAT: For children currently in 3rd and 4th grades who are applying for admission to 4th and 5th grades.
  2. Middle Level SSAT: For children currently in grades 5-7 who seek admission to grades 6 through 8.
  3. Upper Level SSAT: For children currently in grades 8-11 who are applying for admission to grades 9 through PG (Post Graduate).

The day of the test

On test day, don't forget:

  • Your SSAT admission ticket
  • Sharpened No. 2 pencils
  • A good eraser
  • A positive attitude

Standardized test-taking can be very stressful. It's important to remember the test is just one element of an independent school's admissions criteria. Many other factors will affect a school's decison.

Answers: 1. (B), 2. (C), 3. (C), 4. (C)

 
Find Private Schools:
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List of private schools requiring the SSAT

 
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Type
Grades
  School Name Type Cost

TMS (est. 1961)  

  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (780 students)
Internationally recognized since 1961,TMS is the leading university preparatory school in Richmond Hill with Montessori & IB frameworks that provide students with the foundation for a life of goodness & excellence. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Montessori
  • International Baccalaureate
$16,750 to $29,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 16750

Branksome Hall (est. 1903)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Boarding school (66 students)
  • Day school (900 students)
Branksome Hall is an all girls school in Toronto, from JK to Grade 12, including 56 boarding students. Tuition ranges from $28,995 to $31,245 for day students. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$32,570 to $64,305


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls 32570

Appleby College (est. 1911)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (492 students)
  • Boarding school (273 students)
Appleby College in Oakville is recognized globally as one of Canada's leading independent schools. Breadth, excellence, innovation and caring are the characteristics that define the essence of the Appleby experience. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto, Halton-Peel
  • Liberal Arts
$36,510 to $72,875

Our Kids
Review

• Our Kids Review
MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 36510

Upper Canada College (est. 1829)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • SK to 12 Boys
  • Boarding school (88 students)
  • Day school (1072 students)
Located in the heart of Toronto, Upper Canada College is the oldest independent boys' school in Ontario. Our IB graduates are highly regarded by top universities and post-secondary institutions worldwide. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$32,650 to $64,205

User
reviews (2)

• User reviews (2)
Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Boys 32650

The Country Day School (est. 1972)  

  • King, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (770 students)
The Country Day School offers JK-12 in a co-ed, non-denominational environment located on 100 beautiful acres just north of Toronto in King. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Traditional
$29,500

User
reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 29500

Elmwood School (est. 1915)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • Day school (370 students)
Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from JK to Grade 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Ottawa
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$13,500 to $25,660


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 13500

Crescent School (est. 1913)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 3 to 12 Boys
  • Day school (750 students)
Crescent School is a Toronto independent day school for boys in Grades 3 to 12. Our learning environment develops students' characters through academics, arts, athletics, business, outreach and robotics. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Traditional
$33,250

User
reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boys 33250

St. George's School (est. 1930)  

  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • 8 to 12 Boys
  • Boarding school (110 students)
St. George's School in Vancouver offers university-preparatory program to Canadian and International boarding students from Grade 8 to 12. The School's mission: Building Fine Young Men. One Boy at a Time. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Calgary, Toronto
  • Traditional
$22,450 to $68,085


HighSchools Boarding Boys 22450

TFS - Canada's International School (est. 1962)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (1250 students)
TFS - Canada's International School offers Canada's only bilingual IB programs from PK to Grade 12. Average class size is 12 to 22 students. Entrance Scholarship to Grade 7 is available. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto, Halton-Peel
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$19,180 to $32,980


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 19180

Meadowridge School (est. 1985)  

  • Maple Ridge, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (605 students)
Meadowridge is an IB Continuum World School that supports the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and challenging environment. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$21,300 to $31,300


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 21300

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (est. 1905)  

  • Okotoks, Alberta
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Day school (675 students)
Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School is an independent, private coeducational day school for Grades K-12 close to Calgary, AB. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Calgary
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
$15,450 to $22,930


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 15450

St. Andrew's College (est. 1899)  

  • Aurora, Ontario
  • 5 to 12 Boys
  • Boarding school (253 students)
  • Day school (386 students)
St. Andrew's College offers programs from grades 5 to 12 in Aurora. Its average class size is 17 students. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$35,120 to $63,500


MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Boys 35120

St. Clement's School (est. 1901)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Girls
  • Day school (470 students)
St. Clement's School develops outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
$29,900


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 29900

Delta West Academy (est. 1993)  

  • Calgary, Alberta
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school
Accomplished, confident and innovative - adjectives that describe not only our programs but more importantly, our students. Developing critical thinking, creative problem solving and academic excellence for everyone. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Calgary
  • Liberal Arts
$9,900 to $17,550


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 9900

North Broward Preparatory School (est. 1957)  

  • Coconut Creek, Florida
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Day school (1296 students)
  • Boarding school (325 students)
North Broward Preparatory School is a K-12 co-educational day and boarding school located in S. Florida located minutes from the beach with IB, AP, and LD classes set on 80 acres with year round hockey. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Montreal, Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
US $24,200 to US $59,950


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 24200

Ridley College (est. 1889)  

  • St. Catharines, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (319 students)
  • Boarding school (379 students)
Ridley College is an acclaimed co-educational boarding and day school that prepares meaningful and flourishing lives by teaching the habits of mind, body, and spirit, and the values needed to lead in a global society. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$16,500 to $65,700


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 16500

St. Michael's College School (est. 1852)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Boys
  • Day school (1035 students)
St. Michael's College School offers students in Grades 7-12 an enriched, Catholic, liberal arts education complemented by a diverse co-curricular programme. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
$19,500


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boys 19500

The Bishop Strachan School (est. 1867)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (825 students)
  • Boarding school (75 students)
Located in Toronto, The Bishop Strachan School is Canada's oldest independent JK to Grade 12 day and boarding school for girls, welcoming students from Toronto and around the world. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Progressive
$32,060 to $60,730

User
reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 32060

TFS - Canada's International School (West Campus) (est. 1962)  

  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • PS to 7 Coed
  • Day school (185 students)
TFS - Canada's International School (West Campus) offers programs from pre-kindergarten to grade seven. Its average class size is 12 to 22 students. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$25,680 to $32,980


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 25680

Havergal College (est. 1894)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (870 students)
  • Boarding school (50 students)
Havergal College is an all-girls school in Toronto for students in JK to Grade 12. Preparing Young Women to Make a Difference Since 1894. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
$32,750 to $59,875

Our Kids
Review

User
reviews (1)
• Our Kids Review
• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 32750

Rundle College (est. 1985)  

  • Calgary, Alberta
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Day school (1080 students)
Rundle College is a university preparatory school from Kindergarten-Grade 12 in Calgary, Alberta. Our small class sizes of 12-16 students, gives our students the advantage of and enriched and personalized education. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Calgary
  • Traditional
$12,300 to $17,625


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 12300

Mulgrave School (est. 1993)  

  • West Vancouver, British Columbia
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (900 students)
Mulgrave School offers programmes from Preschool to Grade 12 in West Vancouver. Its average class size is 20 students with teacher to student ratios of 1:8. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$17,195 to $21,370


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 17195

University of Toronto Schools (est. 1910)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (660 students)
University of Toronto Schools (UTS) offers a transformative education to high-achieving students in Grades 7 to 12. UTS graduates take initiative and innovate as socially responsible global citizens. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Liberal Arts
$26,050


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 26050

Academie Providence (est. 2002)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (200 students)
Providence Academy is the only Private French Catholic School offering a trilingual program of study in Ontario with classes from nursery to grade eight. Tuition: $8,800-10,300. Extracurricular activities: $600-$650. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Ottawa
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$8,800 to $10,300


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 8800

Montverde Academy (est. 1912)  

  • Montverde, Florida
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (891 students)
  • Boarding school (325 students)
Founded in 1912, Montverde Academy is an elite college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-K3 through post-graduate studies with a distinct student population from over 80 countries worldwide. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Montreal
  • Traditional
US $7,875 to US $51,350


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 7875

De La Salle College (est. 1851)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 5 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (670 students)
De La Salle College is a Catholic, co-educational, university preparatory school in Toronto from grade five to 12, with average class sizes of 22 students and tuition at $14,575. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$14,575 to $14,875


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 14575

Buffalo Seminary (est. 1851)  

  • Buffalo, New York
  • 9 to 12 Girls
  • Day school
  • Boarding school
Independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls. Our STEAM curriculum is unique, and creative, independent thinking is valued. Located in Buffalo, NY, girls access the best of city living. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $21,900 to US $52,750


HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 21900

Trillium School (est. 1991)  

  • Markham, Ontario
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (300 students)
  • Boarding school (30 students)
Trillium School is a montessori school that offers programs from pre-school to grade eight in Markham. [View profile]
School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
  • Montessori
$6,900 to $44,500


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 6900

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