by Trent Baumbach
As an international school student, applying to a boarding school abroad can be an exciting journey. A pivotal part of getting accepted is acing the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), a standardized entrance examination used by many boarding schools. Preparing for the SSAT can be daunting, but with the right study habits, test-taking strategies, and resources, you can effectively navigate this critical step in your boarding school application.
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Before you dive into your SSAT preparation, it’s important to understand the structure of the exam. While the SSAT has three grade levels (elementary level, middle level, and upper level), all levels contain quantitative (math), verbal, reading comprehension, and an unscored essay. Note that the test levels do not directly correspond to grade levels, as the middle level may be taken by elementary school or middle school students. Familiarizing yourself with these sections is a crucial first step in your SSAT preparation journey.
Effective SSAT preparation starts with time management. Consider starting your study sessions months before the test date. Craft a structured study schedule that devotes ample time to each section of the test. Regular, consistent practice is much more beneficial than cramming, and it reduces stress as the test date approaches.
There’s a wealth of SSAT study resources online, including study guides, practice tests, SSAT prep books, and online tutoring platforms. Make use of these resources to help you strengthen your understanding and skills. Practice tests are particularly helpful in identifying your strengths and areas that need improvement. We recommend utilizing the breadth of practice resources available on the SSAT official website to get exposure to each section. For high school students, check out our previous post, “The Ultimate Guide to Upper-Level SSAT” which covers the ins and outs of this exam.
Hiring a private tutor can significantly boost your SSAT preparation. Tutors can provide personalized instruction and guidance, helping you grasp challenging concepts and improve your problem-solving skills. They can also offer valuable insights into the SSAT exam structure, format, and question styles. Furthermore, private lessons with a tutor can help you build confidence and improve your test-taking strategies, significantly increasing your chances of achieving a high score. Visit our blog “10 Reasons Why Private Tutoring is Essential” for more details.
Knowing the material is vital, but understanding how to take the test is equally important. Here are our main SSAT test-taking strategies:
For non-native English speakers, the verbal and reading comprehension sections of the SSAT can be particularly challenging. Improve your English vocabulary and reading skills by reading various genres of literature, learning and using new words regularly, and practicing English in day-to-day conversation. Students should also familiarize themselves with how typical classroom English can vary from SSAT English questions, and work on overall reading skills.
Though the essay section of the SSAT is not scored, it is sent to your chosen schools. Treat this section as an opportunity to showcase your writing skills, creativity, and thought process. Practice writing essays on various topics (including standard SSAT writing prompts), and focus on clarity, structure, and grammatical accuracy.
Acing the SSAT as an international student involves understanding the test structure, starting early, using the right resources, mastering test-taking strategies, and (for some) improving your English language skills. Students who want to achieve top scores should also consider the benefits of a private tutor. With determination, patience, and hard work, you can conquer the SSAT and strengthen your boarding school application. Tokyo Academics has 10+ years of experience helping students with boarding school applications, and have SSAT tutors ready to help you achieve your boarding school goals!