Understanding the SSAT

Frequently Asked Questions and Resources

One required element of the application process at GPS is the SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test. With verbal, math, and reading components, this standardized test allows our Admission Team to assess prospective student applicants equally, regardless of background or experience. At the same time, the SSAT helps students ensure they will be successful in their educational pursuits at GPS.
The SSAT measures aptitude and your daughter’s ability to reason through problems to find an answer.  There will likely be questions on the SSAT that ask her to consider concepts she may not be completely familiar with yet. SSAT scores shouldn’t be compared to scores she’s received on other types of standardized tests.
While standardized testing can seem intimidating for students, there are test-taking strategies and tips that will ensure your daughter feels prepared and capable on the day of her test. We encourage you to read through the frequently asked SSAT questions below to familiarize yourself with the process. Of course, if you have any additional questions, we are more than happy to answer them. You can reach us at Admission@GPS.edu or 423.624.7644.

SSAT Frequently Asked Questions

List of 13 items.

  • + Is the SSAT required?

    At GPS, the SSAT is a required component of the application process. It serves as a way for both our Admission Team and prospective students to ensure GPS is the best match for their educational needs.
  • + How can my daughter take the SSAT?

    We invite your daughter to join us for the on-campus SSAT:
    Saturday, November 6, 2021 | Register here.
    Monday, January 3, 2022 | Register here.

    Prometric Test Center
    – Prospective students can take a computer-based version of the SSAT at any Prometric Test Center location. Please note, this option should be reserved for those who feel confident taking the test virtually. While many aspects of the computer-based test are similar to those of paper-based testing, there are some differences. For more information on testing at a Prometric Test Center, click here. 
    Please note: When completing the SSAT registration, regardless of the method you have chosen, you will be asked if you have been provided with an access code by a member school. Please select 'no' to move forward. The access code is different from the school code and not needed for your registration.
  • + What’s on the SSAT?

    For both Middle School and Upper School, the SSAT features a quantitative (math) section, a verbal section, a reading comprehension section, an unscored experimental section, and an unscored writing sample. The breakdown is as follows:

    • Quantitative (Math): 50 questions composed of math computation
    • Reading Comprehension: 40 questions based on reading passages
    • Verbal: 60 questions featuring vocabulary and analogies
    • Experimental (unscored): 16 mixed-content questions (math, reading, and verbal) *This section is unscored. It helps the SSAT writers ensure new questions are reliable, secure, and acceptable. 
    • Writing Sample (unscored): 1 essay, choice between two prompts *Though this portion is unscored, it gives admission counselors an opportunity to see how well your daughter writes and how she organizes her ideas.
  • + How long does the SSAT take?

    The SSAT takes 3 hours and 10 minutes. The timeline of the test is broken down as follows:

    SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
    Writing Sample1 (unscored)25 minutes
    Break10 minutes
    Quantitative 12530 minutes
    Reading4040 minutes
    Break10 minutes
    Verbal6030 minutes
    Quantitative 22530 minutes
    Experimental16 (unscored)15 minutes
    Totals1673 hours, 10 minutes
  • + When does my daughter need to take the SSAT?

    All portions of your daughter’s admission file are due by January 18, 2022. The on-campus SSAT is scheduled for November 6 and January 3, 2022. If she is taking the SSAT at Home or at a prometric center, GPS recommends taking the SSAT by mid-December.
  • + Can my daughter prepare for the SSAT?

    Absolutely! In fact, we highly recommend your daughter take a practice test to help her get accustomed to the format, type, and quantity of questions. A practice test will also help your daughter better understand the in’s and out’s of scoring. For instance, students will receive 1 point for each correct answer, lose 1/4 point for each incorrect answer, and neither receive nor lose points for skipping a question. Since skipping test questions is not a common practice for students at school, it is important that your daughter remember that it is okay to skip questions on the SSAT.

    There are also two official SSAT preparation tools available, should you be interested. One, called the Official Study Guide for the SSAT, features three full-length practice tests. The second is the SSAT Practice Online service, which provides additional practice content and tools. Click here to learn more.
  • + What are some tips for test day?

    The key to success on the SSAT—or any test for that matter—is going in with the right mindset. By taking steps to prepare in advance, your daughter will enter the test relaxed and able to take it one question at a time. We recommend the following tips for test day:

    1. Print your admission ticket in advance and review it the day before the test so you know when and where to arrive. We recommend arriving earlier if you are using test accommodations to allow your test administrator time to help you to your testing area so you can get situated.
    2. Bring at least three #2 pencils with erasers. Do NOT bring mechanical pencils or pens—these are not allowed.
    3. Remind your daughter that if she is unsure of an answer it is best to skip the question. She will neither receive nor lose points for skipping a question. 
    4. Bring a snack in a clear plastic bag. This can be eaten during a break and will help keep your stomach from grumbling during the test. Some snack ideas that double as brain food include nuts or nut butter, vegetables, hummus, cheese, and fresh or dried fruit. Avoid sugar and simple carbs, as those can give a quick boost that ultimately leads to an energy crash.
    5. Wear something comfortable. Layers are a good idea so that you can adjust if you get too hot or too cold during the test. Don’t forget about comfortable shoes! Being able to move your legs and wiggle your toes will help keep blood flowing so you can stay focused.
    6. Eat breakfast. Eggs, Greek yogurt, and oatmeal are all great options that will leave you satiated but not sleepy.
  • + What is prohibited on test day?

    Several items are prohibited on test day and, whenever possible, should be left at home. These include:

    • Calculators
    • Cellphones (if your daughter must bring a cellphone, it has to be turned off and placed in the prohibited items area until after the test)
    • Fitness tracker wristbands
    • Media players
    • Watches (clocks will be visible in testing rooms and proctors will provide timing cues)
    • Backpacks/bags/purses
    • Large jewelry
    • Coats/hats
    • Books
    • Mechanical pencils
    • Notes or paper
    • Pens
    • Rulers
  • + When do I find out my daughter’s score?

    Your daughter’s score report will be available approximately two weeks after testing. It can be found in your portal on the SSAT website, and you can sign up for score report alerts via text or email to be notified as soon as scores are posted. 
  • + How do I read my daughter’s score report?

    Your daughter’s score report will include the following sections:

    About You
    • This section will contain your daughter’s name, date of birth, and current grade. Double check that her current grade is accurate, as this is used to compare her SSAT score to those of her peers.
    The Test You Took
    • If your daughter is in grades 5-7, she should have taken the Middle Level SSAT. If she is in grades 8-11, she should have taken the Upper Level SSAT. Scoring scales differ for each level.
    Your Scaled Scores
    • For both the Middle and Upper Level SSAT, scores are broken down by section (quantitative/math, verbal, and reading).
    • For the Middle Level SSAT, the lowest score possible in each section is 440, and the highest is 710. These three scores are combined to create your daughter’s total scaled score. The lowest total scaled score for the Middle Level SSAT is 1320, the highest is 2130, and the midpoint is 1725.
    • For the Upper Level SSAT, the lowest score possible in each section is 500, and the highest score possible per section is 800. These three scores are combined to create your daughter’s total scaled score. The lowest total scaled score for the Upper Level SSAT is 1500, the highest is 2400, and the midpoint is 1950.
    Scaled Score Range
    • Since no single test score can provide a perfectly accurate estimation of your daughter’s proficiency, the scaled score range is provided to showcase a range of potential scores she would likely receive if she took the SSAT again in a short period of time.
    SSAT Reference Information
    • The SSAT Percentile (1 to 99) compares your daughter’s SSAT performance to other students of the same grade/gender who have taken the SSAT in the United States and Canada on a standard test date in the previous three years. For students who have taken the SSAT multiple times, only their first set of scores is included. This collection of students is known as the “norm group.” You will see the average score for the norm group for each SSAT section as well as your daughter’s percentile compared to the group. Her SSAT percentile is not the percent of questions she answered correctly. For example, if her percentile is 50, she did better than half of students from the norm group.
    Test Question Breakdown
    • This section will provide you with valuable information about your daughter’s test-taking strategy. It compares the number of wrong answers to the number of unanswered questions so you can see if she took too many guesses or left too many questions blank.
  • + How do I share my daughter’s scores with GPS?

    There are two options for sending your daughter’s SSAT scores to GPS. The first is to select GPS as a score recipient when registering her for the SSAT. Our school code is 3425. Scores can be sent to multiple schools, if desired. The second option is to wait until you see her scores before sending them. If you choose this route, you would submit her test registration with no score recipients listed. Once the scores are posted, you would enter the parent/guardian account portal on the SSAT website, click on the “SSAT Scores” tab, select the scores you want to send, and search and add GPS to the score recipient list. Once confirmed and submitted, GPS would receive your daughter’s scores immediately. For more information or to see step-by-step instructions, click here.

    Once GPS receives your daughter’s scores, the SSAT step on her admission checklist in MyGPS will be marked complete.
  • + How much weight is applied to the SSAT in the admission decision?

    The SSAT provides an additional point of information for our Admission Team to consider when evaluating prospective students. It is one component of an array of data points that include her application, grades, and teacher recommendations, in addition to information derived through Admission events such as the Student Visit & Activity and Parent Conversation. The admission process is designed to present a well-rounded picture of your daughter and help us evaluate whether or not GPS is the right fit for her.
  • + How do I apply for my daughter to take the SSAT with accommodations?

    Testing accommodations are practices and procedures designed to ensure students with disabilities are provided equitable access to the SSAT. They are intended to limit or eliminate the effect of a student’s disabilities on test performance so they can showcase their true academic and intellectual abilities.

    Any student who has an identified impairment or disabling condition that substantially limits her ability to successfully take the SSAT, which can include but is not limited to trouble seeing, hearing, speaking, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and learning, has the option of applying for accommodations.

    Examples of accommodations include:
    • Permission to mark answers directly in test booklet
    • Large print test booklet and materials
    • Extra time (1.5x standard time per section)
    • Other accommodations required by the student
     You can apply for testing accommodations on the SSAT website. For step-by-step instructions, or to learn more, click here.

    Please note: Your daughter’s accommodations must be approved before she registers for the SSAT. It is recommended you allow 3-4 weeks for her accommodation request to be reviewed and processed.

    SSAT score reports do not identify those who have taken the test with accommodations.