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When it comes to the private school admissions process, preparation begins years in advance. While the admissions team is looking for mature, diligent, curious students, the mechanisms to get there start well before kids enter the classroom.

Strong students start early

Reading: Make sure your children love it!

Young readers become fast learners. They harbor vast vocabularies, develop vivid imaginations, retain keen insights, and excel in information processing. Whatever titles keep the pages turning is what your child should be reading. Reading for pleasure is the backbone of later educational endeavors. Implementing 30 minutes of reading into your child’s daily routine helps form productive habits early on while also limiting screen time.

Interviews: Talking to adults is good practice

A strong and confident handshake with eye contact will be your child’s first impression.

Have your children practice when they meet any adult. Your kids will become comfortable and confident in speaking with adults.

Good Grades

Competitive schools will look to admit top students. “A”s are better than “B”s, so you should encourage the habit of academic success. The key components are being attentive every day in class and taking pride in each assignment.

Test Scores

Many elite private schools still rely on standardized test scores such as the SSAT, ISEE, and HSPT. These tests are often not grade-level and can seem insurmountable to children and their families. This is why hiring outside help is such a popular route.

How Can We Help?

The Admissions process can be overwhelming but Who Tutors can guide your family through any and all stages of the admissions process! Need help determining which school is the right fit for your child? We offer school consultations, test preparation, tutoring, and much more!

  • Admission Test Experts

  • Free Online Test Prep:

  • 1-on-1 tutoring

  • Small-Group Classes

  • 24/7 Online Test Strategy Hacks

We teach in a positive, colorful, child-appropriate fashion that builds confident test-takers. With test strategies that have been developed for over a decade, our 4-hour video course “SSAT Test Hacks” is memorable and proven effective! Together, we will curate a plan and earn your child admission into an elite private school that fits their unique skills and interests.

Call, email, or find us on Instagram or Facebook

786-309-3966 | | @who_tutors

A new trend has been underway since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and that is the movement to limit the role of standardized tests for higher education (college) and K-12 private school admissions. However, this does not mean that the SAT, ACT, and the SSAT no longer have a function, they do, but that function is changing.


Colleges & Universities Remove SAT/ACT Requirement

What began as a response to limited access to testing sites in 2020, has spurred something much greater. Harvard University recently announced that they will continue their “test-optional” decision for SAT and ACT through 2026. Many other colleges and universities are following suit.

However, the fact remains, scores on these tests are still considered for a student’s entrance. Not too long ago, in fact, Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought back their SAT requirement, stating that a student's success at MIT "is significantly improved by standardized testing". Remember, just because something is not required does not make it null and void. Students can submit a score, or choose not to, but the decision essentially now lies in the student’s hands for most schools. For students who perform well on these tests, it behooves them to submit their scores. Students who excel in other areas, but not necessarily test-taking, can showcase their accolades and worthiness for entry in other creative ways.

Private High Schools Remove SSAT/ISEE Requirements

A trickle-down effect is expected when universities decide to remove testing requirements. The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) and Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) are both tests for admissions to private middle schools and high schools. So, what’s next for these specific tests?

Similar to the universities, many private schools are electing to make these tests optional, too. But, for students to gain entry into these highly-competitive elite private schools, it is in a student’s best interest to complete the test and submit their score.

Consider the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, with a 10% acceptance rate. Could a student be accepted to that school without an SSAT score? Possibly. Would it give a student a leg-up to hire a tutor, dedicate time to studying, perform well, and then submit their score, even if not technically required for admission? Absolutely. It is a no-brainer to take the SSAT and showcase your performance in order to stand out.

Silver Linings

This temporary or permanent pause on standardized testing requirements for academic entry is a silver lining for students who are not the best test-takers. These tests can cause ample amounts of stress and are simply not everyone’s forte. Students are getting creative in this new era. Some gain entry by submitting a portfolio of their work while others submit videos to showcase their personality, story, and speaking skills. There are more ways than ever to shine and showcase a student’s skills that extend well beyond a test.

So, what is the takeaway? While these tests may not be required by many top-tier private schools and universities today and into the future, there is still a benefit and value in studying for, completing, and submitting test scores to your schools of choice. After all, just because something is not required, it does not mean a student won’t gain a competitive advantage over their peers with a stellar performance on the SAT, ACT, SSAT, or ISEE.

Updated: Mar 29, 2022


The Basics:

The Secondary School Admissions Test, also known as the SSAT, is a standardized test primarily for children in grades 5-11 applying to private school. It focuses on reading, writing, verbal, and math skills. There are a number of ways for students to take this test during a school year.

This test can be taken at home or in a standard in-person testing environment. A student may take the test up to 11 times during the year, however, there are limits to how many times it can be taken in the same way.

It is important to note that the SSAT only compares kids in the same grade level. For example, fifth graders will not be compared against seventh graders. The same goes for upper level, eighth graders will not be compared against tenth graders. This is one way the test aims to baseline students in a fair way.


What are the Sections?

The test is broken into five sections with small breaks in between. It is outlined as follows:

  • Writing Sample Assessment: 25 - minute time allotment

Note: This writing sample is not scored, but schools do use it to evaluate writing skills, creativity and vocabulary.


Middle Level grades 5-7: a choice between a creative and personal essay prompt.

Upper Level grades 8-11: a choice between a general and personal essay prompt.

  • Break: 5 -10 minutes

  • Quantitative Assessment: 30 - minute time allotment for 25 questions

Note: This measures critical thinking and knowledge-based math skills

  • Reading Assessment: 40 - minute time allotment for 40 questions

Note: This includes 7 reading passages with 5-7 questions per passage

  • Break: 10 minutes

  • Verbal Assessment: 30 - minute time allotment for 60 questions

Note: This section includes 30 synonym questions and 30 analogy questions. It is intended to measure verbal reasoning, vocabulary, and logic.

  • Quantitative Assessment: 30 - minute time allotment for 25 questions

Note: This measures critical thinking and knowledge-based math skills

  • Experimental Assessment: 15 - minute time allotment for 16 questions

Note: This is a mixed group of questions in math, verbal, and reading and the scores do not count toward reported scores.


What does the SSAT Measure?

The test, as mentioned in the sections above, measures a student’s ability in questions on math skills, word comparison and recognition, and reading questions. In all sections except the written section, there are five answer choices for each and the scoring is percentile scaled. The points are allocated as 1 point for correct, 0 for skipped, and -1/4 for incorrect answers. The written section is not scored. The experimental section, which includes mixed content of verbal, reading, and math, also does not count toward reported scores.


Additional Information

To sign-up for the SSAT, you can visit this website:

The cost is between $95 and $235, depending on the grade and location


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