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Your Guide to the SSATs

Your Guide to the SSATs

What the test is, how it is created, and how to prepare your child for the test

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The SSAT is an admissions test required by a number of private and independent schools across Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and is one important step on the path to an independent school education.  

While the SSAT score is an important part of the entire admissions process, it’s not the be all and end all, so don’t stress too much over it.

Below are a number of frequently asked questions about the SSATs that will help you become better acquainted with what the test is, why it’s important and how the process works: pre-test, during the test and post-test.

As well, there are a number of tips to help your child prepare for the test. 

Why do some students need to take the SSAT?

A number of schools across Canada require prospective students to complete the test as part of their admissions package. The purpose of the test is to determine a student’s verbal, quantitative and reading skills, all things schools have expectations for in order for students to be offered entrance. The test provides important and meaningful information about the potential academic success of students, removing background and experience from the overall equation: meaning coming from money or a wealth of experience aren’t part of the test and don’t play a role in how the standardized test is scored.

SSAT tests are not designed to measure other characteristics, such as motivation, persistence, or creativity that may contribute to a students’ success in school.

How is the test designed?

The SSAT measures three things: verbal, quantitative, and reading skills that students develop over time, both in and out of school. There is an emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving that schools who require the test believe are crucial aspects of one’s academic success. The questions vary in difficulty and are distributed in a way that will be different for every test taker, bringing their levels of ability into account.

The test is developed by committees made up of education experts and independent or private school teachers that help shape the test with questions that are rigorously reviewed to make sure they appropriately indicate a potential students’ strengths and weaknesses.

How reliable is the test?

According to the New Jersey-based company, very. The score reliability is higher than .90 for both the verbal and quantitative sections and is almost at that level for the reading section. These reliability results are considered above average by educational field standards.

What is a Norm-Referenced Test?

A norm-referenced test, like the SSAT, interprets each individual score 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 on one of the Standard Saturday or Sunday SSAT administrations in North America over the past three years. 

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

Among the flurry of private school application requirements, the SSAT test may be among 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 you or 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 both of these vary from school to school.

Once you know the SSAT test will be required for a desired school, follow these steps:

  • Select a test site and location (Alberta and British Columbia dates and locations can be found here; and Ontario dates and locations here.)
  • Obtain necessary documentation
  • Select score recipients
  • Register for the test
  • Print SSAT admission ticket and manage SSAT account
  • Prepare for test (as noted below)
  • Review your score report.

Order a prep test

Help is only a click away. The Secondary School Admission Test Board publishes a book of full-length practice tests, Preparing and Applying, 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 have received the test, run 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 member organizations offer prep courses for the SSAT which may be helpful to prepare your child. It's important to note, however, 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 issuing your child a timed test, go over the wrong answers with your child to help him/her figure out how to do better when taking the actual SSAT.

Get familiar with test format

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
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
Verbal
  • 30 synonym, 30 analogy questions
  • 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.

Note: there are many editions of the test to ensure students won't take the same test twice.

Bring your essentials

On test day, don't forget:
  • SSAT Admission ticket
  • Sharpened No. 2 pencils
  • A good eraser
  • Your positive attitude!

Keep it in perspective

Standardized test-taking can be particularly stressful. It's important to remember the test is often just one element of an independent school's admission criteria. Not everything hinges on the SSAT. It's not you who is being tested, it's the education you have received.

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List of Your Guide to the SSATs

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  •  
    School NameTypePaceCost

    Appleby College (est. 1911)  

    • Oakville, Ontario
    • 7 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (487 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]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$35,090 to $69,440MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day35090

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

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • NS to 12 Coed
    • Day school (1230 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]
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate
    Accelerated$17,600 to $31,100Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day17600

    The Country Day School (est. 1972)  

    • King, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Coed
    • Day school (760 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]
    • Traditional
    Standard-enriched$24,850 to $28,825Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day24850

    Upper Canada College (est. 1829)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • SK to 12 Boys
    • Day school (1072 students)
    • Boarding school (88 students)
    Located in the heart of Toronto, Upper Canada College is the oldest independent boys' school in Ontario. Our graduates are highly regarded by top universities and post-secondary institutions worldwide. [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    Accelerated$30,860 to $61,560Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boys Boarding Day30860

    TMS (est. 1961)  

    • Richmond Hill, Ontario
    • PS to 12 Coed
    • Day school (750 students)
    Internationally recognized since 1961, TMS is a not-for-profit independent university preparatory school located in Richmond Hill where students, faculty and staff regularly Go Beyond. [View profile]
    • Montessori
    • International Baccalaureate
    Accelerated$14,075 to $25,440Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day14075

    St. Michaels University School (est. 1906)  

    • Victoria, British Columbia
    • K to 12 Coed
    • Day school
    • Boarding school
    Independent K-12 boarding & day school in Victoria, BC, Canada focusing on university prep. Find out how a SMUS education can benefit your family. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    Standard-enriched$17,235 to $61,590Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day17235

    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]
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enriched$12,960 to $24,350Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Day12960

    Crescent School (est. 1913)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • 3 to 12 Boys
    • Day school (743 students)
    Crescent School is a Toronto independent school for boys only, Grades 3 to 12. Tuition starts at $32,350. Crescent offers a variety of extra-curricular activities including sports, arts, outreach and robotics. [View profile]
    • Traditional
    Standard-enriched$32,350MiddleSchools HighSchools Boys Day32350

    Branksome Hall (est. 1903)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Girls
    • Day school (834 students)
    • Boarding school (66 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]
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enriched$29,590 to $56,855Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Boarding Day29590

    Meadowridge School (est. 1985)  

    • Maple Ridge, British Columbia
    • JK to 12 Coed
    • Day school (560 students)
    Meadowridge is an IB Continuum World School that supports the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and challenging environment. See for yourself and join us for a tour every Friday from 9:00am to 11:00am. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enriched$20,400 to $30,400Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day20400

    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]
    • Traditional
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enriched$18,780 to $21,660Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day18780

    North Broward Preparatory School (est. 1957)  

    • Coconut Creek, Florida
    • PS to 12 Coed
    • Day school (900 students)
    • Boarding school (330 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]
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    Accelerated$24,200 to $58,000 USDPreschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day24200

    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
    Accelerated$17,195 to $21,370Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day17195

    The Bishop Strachan School (est. 1867)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Girls
    • Day school (825 students)
    • Boarding school (80 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]
    • Traditional
    • Reggio Emilia
    Student-paced$31,740 to $60,130Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Boarding Day31740

    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]
    • Traditional
    Standard-enriched$11,900 to $16,300Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day11900

    University of Toronto Schools (est. 1910)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • 7 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (650 students)
    University of Toronto Schools offers programs for grades seven to 12. Its average class size is 25 students. [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    Accelerated$25,350MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day25350

    York House School (est. 1932)  

    • Vancouver, British Columbia
    • JK to 12 Girls
    • Day school (656 students)
    York House School provides an exceptional education for girls from JK to Gr. 12. We instill in each girl the belief and confidence that girls can do anything! [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    • Reggio Emilia
    Standard-enriched$20,600 to $21,400Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Day20600

    De La Salle College (est. 1851)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • 5 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (640 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 $12,950. [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$14,575 to $14,775MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day14575

    New Mexico Military Institute (est. 1891)  

    • Roswell, New Mexico
    • 9 to 12 Coed
    • Boarding school (843 students)
    The New Mexico Military Institute offers a rich history and tradition of educating tomorrow’s leaders through a program of strong, challenging academics, leadership preparation, and character development. [View profile]
    • Traditional
    $13,629 to $20,065 USDHighSchools Coed Boarding13629

    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]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$31,725 to $58,000Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Boarding Day31725

    Léman Manhattan Preparatory School (est. 2010)  

    • New York, New York
    • PS to 12 Coed
    • Day school (635 students)
    • Boarding school (115 students)
    Nestled in the heart of downtown New York City, Léman Manhattan delivers academic excellence that inspires for a lifetime. [View profile]
    • Traditional
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enrichednot providedPreschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day9999999999

    St. Andrew's College (est. 1899)  

    • Aurora, Ontario
    • 5 to 12 Boys
    • Day school (367 students)
    • Boarding school (259 students)
    St. Andrew's College offers programs from grades 5 to 12 in Aurora. Its average class size is 17 students. [View profile]
    • Traditional
    Standard-enriched$30,120 to $63,500MiddleSchools HighSchools Boys Boarding Day30120

    Duke Academy (est. 2013)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • 9 to 12 Coed
    • Day school
    Duke Academy 4576 Yonge St. Unit 602, Toronto, ON, M2N 6N4 [View profile]
    • Traditional
    Standard-enriched$15,860HighSchools Coed Day15860

    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]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$29,175Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Day29175

    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]
    • Progressive
    Standard-enriched$8,800 to $10,300Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Coed Day8800

    Trillium School (est. 1991)  

    • Markham, Ontario
    • NS to 12 Coed/Coed
    • Day school (300 students)
    • Boarding school
    Trillium School is a montessori school that offers programs from pre-school to grade eight in Markham. [View profile]
    • Montessori
    Accelerated$9,400 to $33,000Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day9400

    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
    Accelerated$19,840 to $46,715 USDHighSchools Girls Boarding Day19840

    Oxford Tutorial College (est. 1988)  

    • Oxford,
    • 10 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (120 students)
    • Boarding school (65 students)
    Oxford Tutorial College is a leading independent college specialising in A-level, GCSE, BTEC tuition for students grade 10 to 12, intending to go on to higher education at a good British University. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate
    Standard-enriched$33,255 to $39,447Coed Boarding Day Homestay33255

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

    • Mississauga, Ontario
    • PS to 7 Coed
    • Day school (165 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
    Accelerated$11,900 to $26,150Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Coed Day11900

    Ridley College (est. 1889)  

    • St. Catharines, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Coed
    • Day school (307 students)
    • Boarding school (358 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
    Accelerated$15,500 to $63,700Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day15500

    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]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$9,900 to $17,550Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day9900

    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]
    • Liberal Arts
    Standard-enriched$18,700MiddleSchools HighSchools Boys Day9999999999

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