SSAT Test-Taking Strategies

  • Posted By: Brenna O'Neill
  • January 28, 2020

Process of Elimination

The beauty of a multiple-choice test like the SSAT is that you can be sure the correct answer is there! On every question, even if you aren’t sure how to find the correct answer, see if there are answer choices you know are wrong. Eliminate these and then make an educated guess.

Each answer choice you eliminate increases your chances that your guess is correct. In the example below, after elimination, you have a ⅓ chance of answering correctly, rather than the ⅕ chance you would have had with a random guess. Sometimes, elimination is all you need to find the right answer.

Download the SSAT Digital Prep Guide Here to read the specific strategies for each section to learn ways to eliminate answer choices for different question types.


For the Elementary Level SSAT:

Always answer every question!

Correct answers are awarded 1 point, and incorrect or blank answers receive 0 points. Thus, you have a 20% chance of earning a point by guessing randomly, with no penalty if you’re wrong. Whenever possible, eliminate as many answer choices as you can before guessing to increase your chances of earning points. That said, if you encounter a question where you cannot eliminate any answer choices, or if you are running out of time in the section, you should still select an answer choice for every question!

For the Middle and Upper Level SSAT:

On these levels of the test, incorrect answers lead to a quarter point deduction.

The wrong-answer penalty is simply designed to negate the benefit of guessing. On tests without a wrong-answer penalty, students earn points by guessing randomly. The wrong-answer penalty deducts points for incorrect answers, balancing the 1 point received for each correct answer with deductions for each incorrect answer. Statistically, you will receive the same number of points on average if you guess randomly on every question as if you leave every question blank. Learn more about the wrong answer penalty.

Time Management

Using your time effectively on the SSAT is critical. Every correct answer gives you the same number of points, so your goal is to answer as many questions correctly as possible. Don’t waste valuable time on a hard question when you could instead answer three easy questions correctly in the same amount of time.

Here are three steps to manage your time well:

1. Group questions by difficulty: easy and hard. What does that mean? Every time you read a question, ask yourself “do I know how to do this?” If the answer is “Yes, absolutely,” solve the question. If the answer is “Maybe” or “I’m really not sure about this,” or as you start the problem, you realize that it’s taking you a long time, skip it.
2. When you skip a question, mark an answer on your answer sheet and circle the question in your test booklet. Filling in an answer on your answer sheet will ensure that you don’t mis-bubble your answers!
3. After going through the whole section, return to the hard questions you marked and see if you can make any progress.

This is an example of what timing feedback looks like in the Test Innovators practice platform:

You can see that this student spent far too long on question 20, and therefore didn’t have time to answer all of the questions. Insights like these are critical to building effective time management skills.

Get Started On Your SSAT Prep Here