The Middle and Upper Level SSAT have six total sections. Two are unscored: the Writing Sample and the Experimental Section. The other four are scored: the two Quantitative (Math) Sections, the Reading Section, and the Verbal Section.
While the Writing Sample isn’t scored, it will be sent to the schools you’re applying to. This section gives you a chance to express yourself and gives the school a chance to see your writing skills and style. Middle Level SSAT test-takers are given 25 minutes to respond to one of two prompts: a creative story starter or a personal essay prompt. The Upper Level SSAT provides two prompts to choose from as well, one personal prompt and the other a general prompt. For a creative prompt, it’s important to craft a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. If you are writing on the traditional essay prompt, focus on clearly addressing the prompt and using details to support your point of view. Check out this link for more information on how to approach the SSAT Writing Sample.
Quantitative (Math) Sections
The Quantitative (Math) portion of the test is split into two sections. One comes right after the Writing Sample, and the other follows the Verbal Section. Math questions vary widely in difficulty. Some cover familiar mathematical concepts that students have likely covered in school, while others cover content that may be new and will be more challenging. The Middle and Upper levels will evaluate your ability to solve algebra problems, understand geometric principles, interpret graphs and charts, and find measures of center and spread from a graph or set of numbers. You cannot use a calculator on the SSAT.
In the Reading Section, you will read and answer questions about several short passages. There will be both fiction and nonfiction passages, and you will encounter stories, poems, short essays, and persuasive pieces. Questions will ask you to identify main ideas and supporting details, use context clues to find a word’s meaning, and draw conclusions about an author’s purpose and tone.
The Verbal Section is comprised of two types of questions. Synonym questions evaluate your vocabulary by asking you to select the term that is closest in meaning to a given word. Analogy questions ask you to analyze the relationships between words, and they cover a range of different relationship types. You’ll see questions that test your knowledge of word meanings, opposites, homonyms, object purposes, and categorizations. Some examples are:
- Wet is to dry as full is to empty
- Fish is to school as bird is to flock
- Pear is to pair as shoe is to shoo
Check out the hardest SSAT verbal question in our system last year!
The Experimental Section is neither scored nor sent to schools. This section is used by the exam’s creators to evaluate questions for future tests.
Originally published on October 24, 2018. Updated on September 28, 2020.