SSAT Tutoring

The SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) is generally the entrance exam required by boarding schools throughout the United States and Canada. However, it is also accepted by many New York City independent day schools as an alternative to the ISEE.

I recommend getting started at least six months prior to the test, but many students begin preparation a full year or more before the exam to help ensure they achieve their greatest potential.

Summer is a vital opportunity to prepare for this important exam and avoid cramming in the fall, which can generate additional anxiety as students experience the pressure of both returning to school and simultaneously adding SSAT preparation.

I understand the ways in which pressure can adversely affect test results, which is why my one-on-one SSAT tutoring approach is effective in building content knowledge and test-taking strategies, as well as diminishing anxiety. At the conclusion of each session, I send a session report to the student and parent(s) with notes about the session that ensures everyone is on the same page with respect to progress.

It is important to recognize that private school admissions are highly competitive, and for many students the SSAT (or ISEE) will be the first time they are taking a standardized test that will likely have a significant impact on their future. It may also be the first time they experience test-taking anxiety, which can play a key role in the outcome. Getting an early start can make a substantial difference in performance and results.

Schedule a complimentary consultation to answer all your questions about test preparation, take the mystery and guesswork out of the SSAT, and get on track to helping your child achieve his or her greatest potential.

Boarding School Admissions Are Competitive

For many students the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) or the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) is the first test they have encountered that will have significant consequences for their future — and anxiety can be a key factor in the outcome. It is not uncommon for students in this age bracket to feel tremendous pressure as they seek to put their best effort forward, and sometimes that desire can generate a degree of anxiety that impacts performance. On occasion, I see students who have never previously suffered from anxiety succumb to the pressure of the SSAT. My SSAT tutoring is designed to diminish anxiety and improve test-taking skills. My personalized, one-on-one tutoring enables me to directly engage students and teach them how to strategically navigate the SSAT and ensure they achieve their greatest potential.

Parents are Concerned About Their Children

In addition to children feeling significant pressure to do well on the SSAT, parents also feel concern, and sometimes a parent’s focus on the exam and their child’s preparation can inadvertently add pressure. My best advice to parents is to let me work with their child on the exam while they take a step back. That approach generally leads to both parents and children feeling less pressure, which can have a positive impact on performance and results. Of course I can’t guarantee outcomes, but I can promise that I will put your child in position to perform to the best of his or her ability.

One of the reasons I write and send a report after each tutoring session is to enable parents to have a glimpse of the session and an idea about progress without feeling compelled to pepper their child with questions and potentially risk ratcheting up the pressure. In the end, parents simply want their children to achieve their greatest potential, and that’s my goal as well.

Should My Child Take the SSAT or ISEE?

While the SSAT and ISEE differ somewhat in structure and organization, both are designed to measure the student’s verbal and analytical skills against those of other students in the same grade. So how do you determine whether your child should take the SSAT or the ISEE? The answer is pretty straightforward: find out what the admission requirement is for the school(s) to which he or she is applying.

There is no hard and fast rule but, in general, the SSAT is required by boarding schools throughout the United States and Canada and the ISEE is typically required by New York’s independent day schools. While most boarding schools typically prefer the SSAT, some will accept the ISEE. If you are considering boarding schools and local private schools, I can help you decide which exam is the best exam for your child.


What Are the Differences Between the SSAT and the ISEE?

There are many similarities between the two tests but there are a few significant differences to consider:
  • The SSAT imposes a penalty for incorrect answers. A quarter point is deducted for each incorrect answer, while no points are deducted for omitted answers. This adds a layer of strategy students must consider to maximize success with the SSAT. The ISEE has no such scoring penalty for wrong answers.
  • The SSAT tends to present questions that require more of a creative, problem-solving approach. Examples may include extrapolating patterns, identifying analogies, difficult word problems, and reading passages that cover a wider range of topics, including poetry.
  • The SSAT contains an ‘analogies’ section that tests vocabulary and reasoning skills in a much different way than the ISEE. The ISEE uses a ‘sentence completion’ section instead.
  • The SSAT gives students a choice of two essay topics while the ISEE offers one essay topic.
  • The way scores are presented may also play an important part in deciding which test to choose: The SSAT reports scores in three sections, verbal, reading, and quantitative/math. Students stronger in verbal/reading may tend to favor the SSAT, as this makes up two thirds of the score, compared to half on the ISEE. The ISEE reports scores from two separate language sections (verbal reasoning and reading comprehension) and two math sections (quantitative reasoning and mathematics achievement). As a result, students who are stronger in math may tend to favor the ISEE, as math makes up half of the reported scores (compared to 1/3 of the SSAT.)
Another factor that may play a role in deciding which exam is better for a student is the number of times a test can be taken. The SSAT can be taken up to 11 times in the fall and early winter of a student’s 8th grade, whereas the ISEE can only be taken twice in the same period. Some parents see these extra test dates as an opportunity to improve scores or make up for a poor test day performance.

I Can Help You Decide

If the schools to which your child is applying accept both exams, I can help you determine the better choice. Once you have determined whether the SSAT or ISEE is better for your child, the next step is developing an effective strategy to prepare for the test. I can evaluate your child’s aptitude, skills, strengths, and weaknesses, and then devise a learning plan that ensures your child is in the best position to take the exam. As with all tests, better SSAT preparation translates into better results. For some students that means getting started sooner rather than later so they can build their skills over time.

When Should Preparation Begin?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about the SSAT is when students should start preparing, and the answer varies depending upon the following factors:
  • Is the student working at grade level?
  • Are there concepts or material on the ISEE that require significant review?
  • Does the student typically perform well on standardized exams or important tests?
  • Is anxiety a factor in performance?
  • Is motivation an issue?
  • Is the student able to commit fully to preparation?
  • Does the student have a learning disability that requires remediation?
  • Does the student have time to complete homework assignments as part of preparation?
  • Is the student applying to highly competitive schools for which a high score is more imperative?
Especially with students in this age range, it’s vital for them to not be in the position of cramming a few weeks or months before the exam. Rushing to prepare immediately before the SSAT generates significant added pressure and can sometimes cause anxiety in students who have never previously exhibited symptoms of being anxious. Even high-performing students often begin preparation a year or more before the exam. I recommend completing an initial session and assessment as early as possible. In some instances, it will be apparent that the student is well-positioned and doesn’t need to begin preparation right away; in other instances, we may identify significant areas that need to be addressed over an extended period. If you have doubts or questions about the ideal time to begin, contact me now and I can help you make an informed decision.

When Should My Child Take the SSAT?

During a single testing year, a student may take the SSAT up to 8 times in the paper-based format and up to 3 times in the computer-based format. You can learn more about your testing options here. Students typically take the test two or three times, often beginning in summer or fall of 8th grade. You can register for the test online here.

What’s on the SSAT?

There are three different ‘levels’ of the SSAT, depending on which grade a student is applying to:
  1. Elementary Level SSAT – for admission to grades 4 and 5.
  2. Middle Level SSAT – for admission to grades 6 through 8.
  3. Upper Level SSAT – for admission to grades 9 through 12.
The test consists of a writing sample, four separate sections and an unscored experimental section. A detailed breakdown can be found here.

How Is the SSAT Scored?

Scores are reported for each of the three sections (with the two quantitative sections combined). The SSAT utilizes a percentile system. Students’ scores are ranked compared to every student applying for the same grade from the last three years. A student’s place in this list determines their percentile.
The nature of scoring and the purpose of the SSAT make it a challenging test. It is set up to rank each test taker based on all scores in a ‘norm group’ consisting of competitive, intelligent, and often highly prepared students who are applying to some of the best schools in the country. Scoring 75 percent in a section may only be enough to put a student in the 65th percentile (i.e., having a higher score than 65% of other students).
The writing sample is not scored and instead sent directly to schools, providing admissions insight into a student’s writing skills.

When Are SSAT Scores Released, and Do We Have to Send Them to Schools Regardless of the Result?

SSAT scores are available approximately two weeks after the exam, either by mail or email. You can read more about the score release schedule here. You choose which scores you wish to send to schools, either before or after the exam.

What Is a Good SSAT Score?

Given the purpose of the SSAT, a “good” score is somewhat arbitrary and depends solely upon the schools to which a student applies. An important first step in the admissions process is to identify the target schools and consider the scores required for admission. It should also be noted that the SSAT is only one part in the process; there are many other factors a school considers when accepting students, such as grades, application essays, school interviews, recommendations, etc.

The SSAT Flex Test

Middle & Upper students are permitted to take up to 2 Flex tests per year. This is a test administered outside the standard test dates, either to an individual student or group. More information can be found here.

Get Started

No matter where you are in deciding next steps for your child to take the SSAT, it is never too early to speak to me and begin the planning process. As stated, the SSAT is a challenging exam for the vast majority of students, and it is therefore important to ensure that you put your child in the best position to excel and perform to his or her greatest potential. Please contact me to obtain the best SSAT tutoring in New York.

Featured SSAT testimonial:

Kenny worked remotely with our son to help him prep for the SHSAT and SSAT tests. We're not sure how Kenny managed it, but our son never saw these lessons as onerous in any way and he was always keen to be ready for them. We haven't seen the results of the SHSAT yet, but he did remarkably well (97th percentile) on the SSAT. How much of that is down to Kenny, I can't say for sure, but he certainly got our son prepared, confident, and calm. He was always patient with our son and helped him develop a mindset whereby he was ready to take on these tests. We would recommend him wholeheartedly.
- Dina Goldman

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