How to Succeed on the SSAT: Part II

  • Posted By: Nora Martin
  • September 17, 2014

General Tips

When to Guess

The first thing to know for the Middle or Upper level SSAT is when to guess. You need to understand each question well enough to be able to cross off at least one answer choice. Otherwise, omit the question as there is a ¼ point guessing penalty.

How to Bubble (if you're taking the test on paper)

Bubble-in Separately
Unless you are running out of time in a section, we recommend bubbling in a whole page in your test booklet and THEN giving all your attention to properly bubbling in your answer sheet. You must give your whole attention to each number to ensure that you bubble-in the letter you have chosen for question 8 into the bubble for question 8, etc. In test prep we again and again see students who miss points by inaccurately bubbling. In fact, ALMOST ALL students do this at some point in prep: create good habits so you do not inaccurately bubble on the real exam!

Quantitative Sections

Write down and reread
When reading SSAT math problems, underline and write down important information. Write down your calculations. After you've decided on an answer, briefly reread the problem before bubbling your answer.
Using Answer Choices
You will often use answer choices to solve the trickiest SSAT math problems. However, note how wrong answers choices are made by test writers: wrong answers are often common calculation errors or mistakes. For example, if a word problem requires 3 steps to complete, it is likely that after 2 steps, your partial answer will be one of the wrong answer choices. If you see it there and forget to reread the problem, you may pick it and move on!
Possible Solutions
Note that some tricky SSAT problems present a scenario and then ask you which of the answer choices is a possible solution. The word POSSIBLE is important here because sometimes the correct answer is not necessarily the most obvious possible solution. The problem may simply not mention the obvious answer in its answer choices. So before you assume that there is an error with the exam or simply omit the question, check to see if you can find other, less obvious possible solutions.
Confidence and Creativity
Solving the most difficult math problems on any standardized test will likely require confidence, as some may appear foreign. Breathe and invite in your creativity. While creativity can harm you in Reading Comprehension (don’t be creative, just go back to the passage!), in math, creativity allows you to playfully approach unfamiliar problems. Depending on your experience, it is possible that there are SSAT math problems for which you do not “know the math” (for these, omit!). However, for many questions you may know enough math but be intimidated by a strange presentation, phrasing, or diagram. So for tricky math problems, until you give up and omit them, assume you know enough and approach them as puzzles. What could the question mean or be asking? How can you apply the concepts you know?   Find all of our SSAT practice materials at!

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