Constructing an ideal testing schedule for the SSAT is far more straightforward than doing likewise for the ISEE, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even just trying to navigate the SSAT’s labyrinthine (complimentary vocab word preview!) website can feel like an adventure unto itself. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood test experts are here with some helpful tips on optimizing your SSAT testing schedule.
How the SSAT testing calendar works
For the paper-based Middle Level and Upper Level tests, the SSAT is offered on six Standard test dates each testing year, and there are no restrictions on how many times a student can test. Test dates are scheduled once a month beginning in September/October, and the most common testing times are fall and early winter to meet application deadlines in December and January.
In 2020, the EMA also introduced a computer-based SSAT option, and its rules are slightly different from those for the paper-based test. If a student wants to test at home, virtually-proctored ‘SSAT at Home’ administrations are available on multiple dates each month, typically clustered around one or more weekends. For more scheduling flexibility, students can instead opt to set up an administration at a Prometric test center, which provides more options in terms of dates. Students can take a maximum of three computer-based tests, and that quota includes both those administered at home and those administered at a test center.
(Quick note: the Elementary Level test is a bit different—it’s only offered on five of the Standard test dates, and students can take the test a maximum of two times during each testing year. Because of that, and because the EL test is a bit less common, we’ll focus primarily on the ML and UL tests in this post.)
How to make the testing calendar work for you
Though nine tests is definitely too many for any one student to take (seriously—please don’t do this to yourself), only testing once is a detriment for most people. It’s often very difficult for a student to perform at their highest level when put into a testing environment for the first time: blanking, test anxiety, pressure to do well, and other fears can impact your ability to perform. This can be even harder for younger students to cope with, especially if it’s the first standardized test they’ve ever taken. Even if they decide to test at home, novice test-takers can easily feel overwhelmed by the intimidating content and unfamiliar test structure.
That’s why we highly recommend that SSAT students test at least twice, and typically more as needed. This gives students a chance to overcome some of the nervousness they might have the first time they take the test and then perform better during subsequent administrations, once some of that anxiety has subsided and they know exactly what they’re up against.
One other thing for SSAT students to consider is the ability to take up to two Flex Tests. A Flex Test occurs outside of the six designated Standard test dates, and it’s often administered at an Educational Consultant’s office. This small-group environment is typically more comfortable for students and therefore more conducive to better results.
Because of this, we strongly recommend that all students take at least one Flex Test as one of their SSAT administrations. We always advise, however, that a student take a Standard administration as their first test, as it’s best to save the Flex Test(s) for a time when you’re likely to perform your best. Use your first test or two to get acclimated, then set up a Flex Test when you feel comfortable, confident, and ready to show the SSAT who’s boss.
Assuming that you’ll be testing more than once, create an SSAT testing schedule based on your application deadlines. Be sure to start testing early enough to leave time for 2-3 test dates before your applications are due in order to give yourself as many chances as possible to maximize your score; to bolster those chances even more, remember to build in time to study for the SSAT before your first administration.
On that note, it’s not too late to start preparing to take the SSAT for this application cycle! If you want help prepping or even just some advice on plotting out your test calendar, we know some people who can help.
Inspirica’s structured one-on-one programs combine curated top-of-the-line curriculum and experienced tutors to get you the scores you need at a price you can afford; buy online and get started tomorrow, or talk through the process with a test prep expert first. If you’re looking for customized one-on-one prep that’s 100% tailored to your unique needs, Noodle Pros has dozens of expert SSAT tutors with decades of combined experience; set up a consultation today. We can’t wait to get started.