SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

Bonus Material: PrepMaven's SSAT Guidebook

The Secondary Schools Admissions Test (SSAT) is a common requirement for students applying to select private schools.

There's a lot that goes into preparing for the SSAT, which we do our best here at PrepMaven to assist with.

But there's one part of SSAT prep that students may not be aware of: the SSAT Character Skills Snapshot. This additional, twenty-minute assessment gives schools yet another benchmark with which to assess applicants.

The Snapshot is a free add-on for students sitting for the SSAT. Those who aren't taking the SSAT must pay a fee to take the assessment.

What exactly is this Snapshot, and what do you need to know about it? We answer these questions and several more in this comprehensive post. Plus, we give you access to our free SSAT Guidebook. You can grab this now by clicking the button below.

Here's what we cover:


The SSAT Character Skills Snapshot: The Nutshell

There's more to the SSAT than just the test itself. Students have the option of taking the SSAT Character Skills Snapshot, an additional online assessment that is meant to give schools a "richer holistic view" of an applicant.

Here's what SSAT.org says about the Snapshot on its website:

It measures your student's view of his/her character skill development and is meant to complement more traditional cognitive assessments such as the SSAT. The Character Skills Snapshot gives admission teams additional information and illuminates areas where their schools can help your student grow, thrive, and shine. 

Also according to SSAT.org, the SSAT Character Skills Snapshot tests a wide range of character traits, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Teamwork
  • Social Awareness
  • Resilience
  • Self-Control
  • Openmindedness
  • Initiative
  • Intellectual engagement

You can check out the Character Skills Card for more details here.

This online assessment takes approximately twenty minutes to complete, and can be completed in one sitting at home. Students who are in grades 5 through 11 applying to grades 6-12 are eligible to take the Snapshot.

SSAT.org admits that the Snapshot may not be representative of the full scope of a student's character:

The Snapshot is meant to provide a snapshot in time of your student's view of his/her character skills - it is not a fixed, absolute measure.

While we agree that it's pretty challenging to assess a person's full character in twenty minutes, the Snapshot can provide potentially valuable information not otherwise able to be gleaned from other parts of an application.

Want more information on preparing for the SSAT? We discuss the Snapshot and more in our detailed SSAT Guidebook, which you can download for free below.


SSAT Character Skills Snapshot Sample Questions

This may all sound well and good, but what do students have to do in those twenty minutes it takes to complete the assessment?

Luckily, the SSAT.org does provide some sample questions students can peruse in anticipation of taking the Snapshot. Students can expect to encounter two types of questions on this assessment:

  1. Forced-choice
  2. Situational judgments

Forced-choice questions ask students to choose responses to certain statements based off of what they feel describes them best. Here is an example:

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

Students shouldn't overthink these questions--simply identify what you feel best reflects you!

Situational judgments present a general situation and ask students to assess the appropriateness of responses to this situation. Here is an example:

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

Once again, don't try to overthink these questions--simply identify what you personally feel represents an appropriate / inappropriate / neutral response to the described situation.


Who Uses This?

The SSAT Character Skills Snapshot gives schools supplemental information about applicants that may or may not be present in other application materials.

It is essentially designed to complement existing materials, which include the following:

  • application essay(s)
  • SSAT scores
  • transcripts
  • and interviews

However, not all schools require that applicants take the Snapshot! In fact, it's best to consult your schools of choice prior to taking the Snapshot to see what role it plays in the admissions process. SSAT.org does provide a School List of private institutions, but still encourages applicants to contact admissions offices to see if the Snapshot is required.

If a school does require applicants to submit the Snapshot, admissions officers are likely to use Snapshot Reports very differently. Some may place a lot of emphasis on it, while others may not--similar to the way that officers analyze SSAT scores!

For example, the Lawrenceville School strongly recommends that applicants take the Character Skills Snapshot. Here's what it says on its website:

All applicants to Lawrenceville are strongly recommended to submit the Character Skills Snapshot. Lawrenceville is more than just a place where you will learn math, English and science. We believe the reason you are considering Lawrenceville is because you’re interested in an education that goes beyond the classroom and encourages personal growth. Similarly, we know that you are much more than grades and test scores. That’s why we’re asking you to take the Character Skills Snapshot, which looks at eight non-cognitive areas, and will hopefully be a fun, exploratory exercise for applicants. For the applicants who submit it, the CSS will provide us with richer information about you, and show us areas where our community can help you grow, thrive, and shine. 

Want more information on preparing for the SSAT? We discuss the Snapshot and more in our detailed SSAT Guidebook, which you can download for free below.


Registering for the Snapshot

It's relatively straightforward to register for the Character Skills Snapshot.

If you are registering for the SSAT exam, simply click the "Snapshot" link on the homepage of your parent/guardian account to register for this as well.

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

Parents will have to review a consent form and candidate agreement form to complete Snapshot registration.

Registration is free if you are an SSAT test-taker. You can still take the Snapshot if you aren't signed up for an SSAT exam, but you'll have to pay a fee of $35 to do so.

Please note: You can only register for the SSAT Snapshot through a parent/guardian account. You can only take the Snapshot via a student account.


Taking the Snapshot Assessment

Once you've registered for the Character Skills Assessment, you can essentially take it whenever you wish. The assessment is on-demand, meaning it is designed to be taken at leisure.

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot

We recommend that students take the Snapshot as soon as possible, to ensure on-time reporting. Getting it out of the way will also free up time for your SSAT prep!

When you're ready to take the assessment, all you have to do is log in to your student SSAT account. On your homepage, you'll see a "Take the Snapshot" icon. Click this, submit the integrity statement, and begin the Snapshot. It's as easy as that!


Sending Snapshot Reports to Schools

Students receive a Snapshot Report after they've completed the Snapshot, but this doesn't necessarily happen right away. Reports are released according to a very specific schedule SSAT.org outlines on its website:

SSAT Character Skills Snapshot_Reports

So, as an example, if you take the Snapshot on February 7th, 2020, you'll be able to view your Report on February 13th, 2020.

To view reports, navigate to the homepage of a parent/guardian SSAT account. Click "View Results Details" under the section that states that Snapshot Results are ready to view.

We encourage parents to download a PDF of these reports, in case schools request (for any reason) a paper copy.

From here, you'll be able to search for schools that accept the Snapshot and submit the Report directly through this portal. For more information, view SSAT.org's guide to sending Snapshot Reports here.


Download PrepMaven's SSAT Guidebook

The SSAT Character Skills Snapshot gives schools a greater sense of applicants' perspectives of the world and others. It can also be a valuable addition to other required application materials, such as application materials and SSAT scores.

Remember that taking the Snapshot is free if you're registered for an SSAT exam. We recommend that families register for the Snapshot when signing up for the SSAT itself, just to be safe.

At Prep Maven, we are here to help students experience success on the SSAT and beyond. That's why we created our free SSAT Guidebook, an excellent resource for families navigating secondary school admissions.

SSAT Resources_Guidebook

Here's what you'll get:

  • 90+ pages of valuable SSAT guidance
  • Details about SSAT scoring, content, testing options, and more
  • An introduction to PrepMaven's SSAT strategies for all 5 sections of the test
  • Information about SSAT prep resources
  • Application essentials for the top U.S. private high schools
  • and much more!


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


Tips for Mastering SSAT Vocabulary_PrepMaven

7 Tips for Mastering SSAT Vocabulary

7 Tips for Mastering SSAT Vocabulary

Bonus Material: The Top 100 SSAT Vocabulary Words You Need to Know

The SSAT Verbal section can be one of the most challenging sections for test-takers.

This is because the section’s Synonym and Analogy questions require students to have strong working knowledge of advanced vocabulary.

This can be tricky and overwhelming for test-takers. Vocabulary isn’t always a part of middle school curriculum. Plus, it can be difficult to build vocabulary in a short amount of time.

In this post, we offer our expert tips for mastering SSAT vocabulary. 

Plus, we give you access to the top 100 SSAT Vocabulary Words you need to know (with definitions). Grab this valuable resource below before we get started.

Here’s what we cover in this post: 


The SSAT Verbal Section: A Recap

We outline the specifics of the SSAT Verbal section in a separate post

In the meantime, here’s a recap of the essentials:

  • 30 minutes /  60 multiple choice questions
  • 2 sections: Synonyms and Analogies

The Upper-Level SSAT will test higher-level vocabulary than the Middle-Level SSAT. While both Verbal sections test students’ vocabulary range, the Analogy section has an extra element of identifying relationships between words.

Synonym Questions

In the Synonyms section, students are given a word in capital letters and asked to find a word or phrase with the closest meaning.

Here’s a sample Synonyms question:

IRATE:

A) angry

B) nervous

C) elated

D) shy

E) thoughtful

Correct Answer: A

Analogy Questions

In the Analogy section, students are given two words that demonstrate a certain relationship.

They are then asked to select the choice that best completes the meaning of the sentence.

Here’s a sample Analogies question:

Gargantuan is to big as:

A) hot is to steamy

B) thirsty is to dry

C) pleasant is to melody

D) clumsy is to coordinated

E) ecstatic is to happy

Correct Answer: E

Explanation: Just as gargantuan means very big, ecstatic means very happy. Their relationship is one of degree. 

Because it involves identifying relationships, the Analogy section is more skill-based than the Synonym section.


7 Tips for Mastering SSAT Vocabulary

Success on the SSAT Verbal section does have a lot to do with strategy. So, if you haven’t done so already, check out our SSAT Verbal Section Strategies post.

But one skill will definitely prove valuable on this section: a strong working vocabulary. At the end of the day, the more words you know, the greater your odds are of succeeding on this challenging section.

How do you master SSAT vocabulary? Follow these tips.

1. Give yourself a generous timeline

Students may be tempted to try to learn 500 new vocabulary words a week as they prepare for the SSAT. This is ambitious and understandable, but we strongly encourage test-takers to allocate as much time as possible to build their SSAT vocabulary bank.

This is because it takes time to acquire new words and recognize them accurately in a variety of contexts.

Set aside a generous timeline for SSAT vocabulary prep--at least three months (during which students should also be preparing for the test’s other sections, too). If you don’t have three months, check out these hacks for building SSAT Vocabulary quickly.

2. Sign up for a word of the day service

Exposure to new terminology is essential when it comes to building SSAT vocabulary. Sign up for a free word-of-the-day service to ensure you’re digesting new words on a daily basis. 

Just make sure to add these to your vocabulary bank (instead of just reading through the email and then forgetting about it)!

Try out Merriam Webster's word of the day email service or the Word of the Day app.

3. Use the words you learn

We can’t emphasize this tip enough! Simply memorizing a word is unlikely to prove useful come test time. 

As you build your vocabulary, integrate the terms you use in daily conversation and writing. Practice crafting sentences of your own that utilize new terms accurately, for example, or consciously using a new word during a dinner table discussion.

Be consistent in this practice, and don’t be shy when it comes to creativity. We’ve had our SSAT students, for example, integrate new terms in songs, poetry, art, screenplays, and more. You can also try integrating SSAT vocabulary terms into your SSAT Writing Sample practice responses. 

In our Top 100 SSAT Vocab Words You Should Know download, you’ll have an opportunity to create your own unique sentences utilizing each word.

4. Read regularly

Reading offers students another channel for vocabulary exposure. It also enables test-takers to boost recognition of terms that they’ve already learned in various contexts.

In fact, that’s the great value of reading when it comes to vocabulary building--it trains your brain to infer meaning based off of context. And putting words in context is essential to success on the SSAT verbal section.

What should you be reading? We encourage students to consider advanced materials, such as journals, newspapers, editorials, nonfiction, and literature. 

The New York Times has an excellent learning section that also includes weekly reading challenges, an excellent opportunity to improve your fluency in current events and vocabulary.

5. Learn and recognize word parts

This is one of the hacks we discuss in our guide to learning SSAT vocabulary with a limited test prep timeline

Learning and recognizing common word parts--suffixes, prefixes, and roots--can give you the capacity to infer general meaning of a new term (even if you’ve never seen it before).

For example, the prefix “ambi-” means “both.” Thus, “ambidextrous” means having the capacity to utilize both your right and left hands equally to complete a task. “Ambivalent” means having mixed feelings about a subject, i.e., being on “both sides of the fence.”

An excellent resource for learning word parts is Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder. This is a resource we always recommend our SSAT students work with when beginning their prep.

6. Categorize learned words into synonym groups

Sometimes it’s easier to memorize categories of words (as opposed to individual definitions of select terms). After you’ve acquired some new SSAT vocabulary, categorize your new words into synonym groups.

Example categories based off of common SSAT Vocab words include:

  • Positive feelings or qualities (i.e., “elated” and “benevolent”)
  • Negative feelings or qualities  (i.e., “malignant” and “virulent”)
  • Difficulty (i.e., “arduous” or “onerous”)
  • Light (i.e., “translucent” or “lucid”)
  • Dark (i.e., “obscure” or “furtive”)
  • Wordy (“verbose” or “loquacious”)

7. Use flashcards wisely 

Just knowing the definition of a word isn’t apt to get you too far on the SSAT Verbal section. You still need to understand a term's nuance, especially within different contexts.

For this reason, use flashcards (digital or paper) wisely.

When testing your knowledge of a new term, challenge yourself to come up with a unique sentence utilizing that term before flipping that flashcard over and reading the definition.

You might also want to try adding a visual element to your flashcard game, including sketches, images, and colors. Such visual components can aid in memorization techniques.

Download the Top 100 SSAT Vocabulary Words You Need to Know

You can get started on your SSAT Vocabulary practice right now by downloading these 100 SSAT Vocab Words you should probably know.

We’ve analyzed official SSAT practice tests and materials to create this list of the most likely to be tested vocabulary terms. 

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • The top 100 SSAT vocabulary words (based on our research)
  • Precise definitions for every word
  • Opportunities to craft your own custom sentences to solidify knowledge


Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


No Time to Prep for SSAT Vocab_ Try These Hacks_PrepMaven

No Time to Prep for SSAT Vocabulary? Try These 6 Hacks

No Time to Prep for SSAT Vocabulary? Try These 6 Hacks

Bonus Material: Top 50 Word Parts for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

When it comes to the SSAT Verbal Section, we encourage our SSAT students to work on the following:

  • Strategies
  • Vocabulary building

We’ve outlined our favorite strategies for succeeding on SSAT Verbal in another post

But when it comes to vocabulary building, the test prep path might not feel so straightforward. The key to building a robust vocabulary? Time. 

And time is exactly what many SSAT students don’t have enough of

We’ve already discussed some general tips for mastering SSAT vocab. Now we’re here to offer our expertise in building your SSAT vocabulary quickly and effectively within a limited timeline.

You’ll also get access to our Top 50 Word Parts for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly, which you can grab below.

Here’s what we cover:


6 Hacks for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

1. Learn by word parts

This is the most essential hack for quickly and effectively building your vocabulary, whether you’re prepping for the SSAT or English exams.

Every word in the English language consists of specific parts:

  • Prefixes
  • Roots
  • Suffixes

By learning the general meaning of these word parts, you can infer the general meaning of a vocabulary term, as in the following examples.

Vocabulary Word Word Part and Meaning General Meaning of Word Actual Meaning of Word
ambivalent ambi: both sides Both sides of something Having or showing simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward something or someone
vociferous voc: voice, speak Something to do with speaking or voice Marked by insistent outcry
lucid luc: light, clear Having the quality of clarity or lightness Clear; intelligible; coherent

Notice how knowing the word part and its meaning for each of these three terms does not necessarily create a precise definition. But it allows one to get fairly close, which can be helpful when eliminating answer choices on SSAT Verbal (both synonyms and analogies). 

We’ve compiled the top 50 word parts you should know for the SSAT here:

We also recommend that students check out Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder for a full range of word parts, associated vocabulary terms, and definitions.

2. Learn by category

As you build your SSAT vocabulary, try grouping new words into categories.

This has 2 benefits:

  1. It trains your brain to think in terms of synonyms (valuable for the Synonym questions on the SSAT Verbal section)
  2. Learning by category can help you work through large numbers of words relatively quickly

Here are some examples of word categories based off of common SSAT vocabulary:

  • Positive feelings or qualities (i.e., “elated” and “benevolent”)
  • Negative feelings or qualities  (i.e., “malignant” and “virulent”)
  • Difficulty (i.e., “arduous” or “onerous”)
  • Light (i.e., “translucent” or “lucid”)
  • Dark (i.e., “obscure” or “furtive”)
  • Wordy (“verbose” or “loquacious”)

3. Learn by visual or auditory memorization

For some students, new vocab terms are more likely to stick if they have visual or auditory elements. 

If you are a visual learner, try associating new words with specific colors or images. Your flashcard for “serene” might be blue, for example, or you might draw a picture of a clear window next to the word “translucent.” Some students might also wish to create a memory palace, a memorization technique utilized by ancient Greeks.

This can be an especially valuable trick when paired with category learning, discussed in the previous tip. 

Auditory learners might want to record themselves reading full sentences incorporating new vocab terms or work through flashcards by reading words and definitions out loud.  

4. Learn by speed rounds

Students only have thirty minutes to work through 60 questions on SSAT Verbal. To prepare for this time crunch and build a robust SSAT vocabulary in a short amount of time, practice learning through speed rounds.

Have a friend or family member test you with flashcards, for example, in 1-minute, 3-minute, and/or 5-minute speed rounds. See how many words you can get right in these shorter increments, and try to beat your record on subsequent rounds!

To take things up a notch and practice for the Synonyms section, try Synonym speed rounds. When a flashcard with a given word appears, instead of providing the definition, offer a word with a similar meaning.

5. Learn by repetition

Yes, repetition is vital when it comes to developing vocabulary! It is particularly essential if you are working with a shorter test prep timeline.

When learning new SSAT vocabulary terms, return to these words several times throughout a given day. 

And once you feel that you truly know a word, don’t relegate it to the back of the flashcard stack! Keep cycling through familiar words on a daily basis so that they don’t lose their grip in your memory.

These repetition rounds do not have to be intensive. Spend three minutes flipping through flashcards on the bus, for example, over breakfast, or right before falling asleep.

6. Learn by cross-definitions

When looking up definitions for new words and adding these to flashcards or vocabulary banks, consider using vocabulary terms you’ve already learned in these definitions! This improves your capacities to:

  1. Recognize new words in different contexts
  2. Learn by synonyms
  3. Solidify new vocabulary terms

Here are a few examples of cross-definitions:

torpor Dullness; apathy; a state of mental and physical inactivity
lucid Clear; intelligible; coherent; filled with light
virulent Full of malice; harsh or strong; malignant

Notice how apathy, coherent, and malignant are all SSAT vocabulary words in themselves that surface in the definitions for torpor, lucid, and virulent.


Download our Top 50 Word Parts For Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

We recommend incorporating all of these strategies into your vocabulary practice.

Yet of the hacks in this post, the most effective is the first one: learning by word parts. We’ve compiled the top 50 word parts you should know for learning SSAT vocabulary on a limited timeline.

Here’s what you get in this free download:

  • The top 50 word parts that surface in SSAT vocabulary
  • Their definitions
  • Three example words per word part


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.



SSAT Verbal Strategies

SSAT Verbal Strategies From the Experts

SSAT Verbal Strategies From the Experts

Bonus Material: FREE SSAT Verbal Practice Questions

The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) tests reading, writing, quantitative, and verbal skills.

One of the most challenging sections for SSAT test-takers is the Verbal section, and for good reason! With 30 Synonym and 30 Analogy questions, the Verbal section requires a strong vocabulary and solid reasoning skills.

It also rewards the efficient test-taker. The SSAT Verbal section gives students only 30 minutes to answer all 60 questions.

However, like all standardized tests, the SSAT can (and should) be approached strategically. In this post, we discuss the SSAT verbal strategies you need to succeed on this section. You can apply these strategies right away to our free SSAT Verbal practice questions, which you can grab below:

Here's what we cover:

Note: for the purposes of this post, we will be referring to the Upper-Level SSAT Verbal section.

The SSAT Verbal Section in a Nutshell

On the Upper-Level SSAT, the Verbal section is the 4th section of the test. Here's a quick visual of the entire SSAT format:

SSAT Test Format
Source: SSAT.org

Remember that the SSAT is a virtual marathon of a test. Students are likely to be fairly fatigued by the time they get to the Verbal section! That's why it's doubly important to have some solid strategies in place before getting there.

The SSAT Verbal Section

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Format: 60 multiple choice questions, divided into Synonyms and Analogies sections of 30 questions each

Synonyms

Students will encounter Synonyms questions first on the SSAT Verbal section. In general, these questions will be arranged in order of increasing difficulty.

What does this mean? The first 10 questions will be generally easier than questions 11-20. Questions 21-30 will likely be the most difficult of the entire set.

For each question, students must choose the answer that has the closest meaning to the word provided. Here is an example SSAT Synonyms question:

SSAT Upper Level Verbal Section_Synonyms
Source: SSAT.org Upper-Level Sample Questions

Analogies 

The 30 Analogy questions will come after the 30 Synonym questions on the SSAT Verbal section. Just like the Synonym questions, Analogy questions are generally arranged in order of increasing difficulty.

An analogy is a comparison of two things.

On an SSAT Analogy question, these two things will have a very specific relationship. Students must determine what this relationship is and select the answer choice that most closely features that same relationship.

Vocabulary is still essential for Analogy questions: students will not necessarily know all of the words in the analogy described and/or the answer choices, especially on higher-difficulty questions.

Here is a sample SSAT Analogy question:

SSAT Verbal Section: Analogies
Source: SSAT.org Upper-Level Sample Questions

General SSAT Verbal Strategies

Before we dive into specific tips for Synonym and Analogy questions, we'll cover some general SSAT Verbal strategies that apply to the section as a whole.

1. Prioritize low-difficulty questions first.

This may sound obvious, but it's a great strategy to use on SSAT Verbal because of the way the section is structured.

Remember that those 30 Synonym questions and 30 Analogy questions are arranged generally in order of increasing difficulty. What's more, students do not get more points for correct high-difficulty questions. Every SSAT Verbal question is essentially worth the same number of points.

What does this mean? SSAT students should spend more time on those easier questions to ensure they are getting those easy points before they navigate harder ones. This can also give them a chance to get their vocabulary brains warmed up for those medium- and high-difficulty questions.

This can be especially important for higher-achieving students who might be more prone to moving too quickly on those initial, easy questions and making careless errors.

We understand that "easy" is a relative term, so be sure to cater to your own personal order of difficulty, tackling those questions that are easiest for you first.

2. Know your guessing strategy.

On the SSAT, students lose 1/4 point for every question they answer incorrectly. They do not lose points for leaving questions blank. That's why we don't necessarily encourage all SSAT test-takers to answer every question on the test, as doing so could hurt rather than help their score!

Because of this, we encourage students to have a solid guessing strategy in place for each SSAT section. You can read more about guessing on the SSAT in our guide to SSAT scores.

3. Use context and connotation.

If you don’t know a word in an answer choice or question, use context (where you may have heard the word before) or connotation (a word's positive or negative charge).

If you see the word jubilation, for example, you might remember that you have seen it in the context of the name of a celebratory Fortnite dance. You may also reason that it has something to do with feeling happy and triumphant, a positive connotation.

Or if you see the word miserly, it might remind you of something miserable, leading you to pick an answer choice with a negative connotation or charge (miserly means a person who is ungenerous with his/her money).

4. Watch out for homonyms.

Homonyms are words with the same spelling but different meanings. If you see foil in an SSAT Verbal question, for example, it could mean a “thin sheet of metal” or “to prevent." Be on the lookout for homonyms in both questions and answer choices.

If you do identify a homonym situation, ask yourself which meaning makes the most sense based on the answer choices. You can and should use SSAT Verbal answer choices to your advantage, which we discuss at greater length in the next 2 sections of this post.

5. Sometimes, you have to pick the best of the “bad” options. 

The correct answer choice might not reflect the direct way you would define the word, which can confuse some students. In these situations, imagine your task is to pick the best of the “bad” options.

Here is a sample question that demonstrates this:

THWART
A) approve
B) facilitate
C) confuse
D) conceal
E) forgive

Correct Answer: C

You may feel pretty confident that “thwart” means preventing something from happening, but that choice doesn’t seem to be listed here.

However, if you go with the word that most closely expresses this idea – “confuse” – you would choose the correct answer.

6. Think like the test-maker, not a test-taker.

This is a tenet we encourage all of our standardized test-takers to embrace. Test-makers write standardized tests with predictable test-makers in mind. In other words, each question will contain traps designed to trick the average test-taker.

Once you can start learning about these specific traps and tricks, you'll start to think like the test-makers themselves. Doing so gives you the upper hand (and often a lot of points!). We'll be discussing ways to think like the SSAT test-makers in the next 2 sections as we cover strategies for Synonym and Analogy questions.

Ready to apply these strategies to some sample SSAT practice questions? Grab our free SSAT Verbal worksheet below.


Approaching SSAT Synonym Questions

Synonym questions appear first on SSAT Verbal (questions 1-30). If you feel more confident with these questions, we recommend beginning with these.

If, however, Analogies are more your jam, we recommend starting with question 31 (the first of the Analogy questions set) and completing the Synonyms set second. Remember: play to your strengths on SSAT Verbal, and prioritize the questions that are easiest for you first.

The key to approaching SSAT Synonym questions successfully lies in remembering that they are just that: Synonym questions.

What do we mean by this?

With Synonym questions, your task is to find the answer choice that is most similar in meaning to the question word.

It's important to remind yourself of this simple fact on each question, as the test-makers love trapping students with answer choices that may be associated with the question word but, in fact, do not share a similar meaning. What's more, a "synonym" is not the same as a straight-up "definition" of a word!

We'll apply these thoughts to the sample Synonym question we mentioned above:

SSAT Upper Level Verbal Section_Synonyms

With this question, students must choose the answer that is most similar in meaning to the word "incognito." This doesn't mean that we're looking for the definition of "incognito," merely a term that most closely matches that definition.

The word "incognito" might suggest someone going undercover, like a ninja in a crowd. Be careful, though: answer choice (D) at first glance looks a lot like "undercover," when, in fact, it means the opposite (uncovered). But the idea of being undercover has a connotation of being hidden from sight, which leads us to answer (C): concealed.

Be careful with answer choice (A), which might be tempting for some students. "Lost" is a good example of an answer that is an association but not necessarily a synonym of a question word. Something that is incognito may not be very visible, but this doesn't mean it is lost.

Here are some other tips for approaching SSAT Synonym questions.

1. Put the question word into a sentence of your own.

This is an excellent, tried-and-true way to situate a question word in its context, especially if you don't know the full meaning of a term. Put that word into a sentence, even if it's the most basic sentence you've ever written.

Using the sample question above, that sentence might look like this:

The ninja chose to go incognito, moving casually through the crowd without attracting attention.

In this sentence, we can gather that "incognito" is a behavior or attitude of some kind that the ninja adopts in this crowd. Would it make sense for someone to choose to be "lost"? No! "Lost" is not a behavior or attitude, and the same goes for "replaced" or "distinguished."

Context tells us that the ninja is choosing to be somewhat invisible, so (C) is the best answer yet again.

2. Apply your knowledge of word parts.

Remember all those word parts and roots your teacher taught last year? Those will definitely prove valuable on SSAT Verbal, particularly with those Synonym questions.

Identifying word parts in answer choices and question words can be vital. It can be a straight-up life-saver on those questions full of vocabulary students may not know.

Be on the hunt for specific prefixes, roots, and suffixes that can give at least partial meaning for a term.

For example, if you see the word "benevolent" in a Synonyms question, you might recognize the prefix ben / bene, which means well or good. This has a positive connotation or charge, which can be useful for elimination purposes.

3. "Plug in" your final choice.

Much like plugging the answer to a math question into the original problem to check your work, "plug in" your final choice on a Synonyms question to the sentence you've created.

This serves as a double-check mechanism and a means of catching careless errors. Using the example sentence and question above, this would look like the following:

The ninja chose to go concealed, moving casually through the crowd without attracting attention.

Yes, "chose to go concealed" sounds a bit awkward, but it still fits in meaning and context.

4. On higher-difficulty questions, the weirder the better.

Remember: the SSAT test-makers will create specific traps on each Verbal question designed to trick the predictable test-taker.

What are predictable test-takers likely to do on harder Synonym questions? They are probably not likely to choose an answer they don't know. They will likely avoid those really weird, foreign-looking terms. However, on really tough Synonym questions, these answers can be correct.

Here's an example of this in action, modeled after a sample SSAT.org practice question:

ZEALOUS
A) heartfelt
B) fervent
C) irritating
D) praiseworthy
E) interested

The "weirdest" answer choice here, the one many students are not likely to know, is fervent. This happens to be the correct answer choice.

We do want to offer this tip with a caveat, however: students should still adhere to their established guessing strategy, regardless of the difficulty level of the question. It may still be worth your while to leave a question blank if you generally have no clue about the question word and the answer choices.

Ready to apply these strategies to some sample SSAT Synonym questions? Grab our free SSAT Verbal worksheet below.


Approaching SSAT Analogy Questions

Analogy questions appear second on SSAT Verbal (questions 31-60). If you feel more confident with these questions, we recommend beginning with these.

If, however, Synonyms are more your jam, we recommend starting with question 1 (the first of the Synonym questions set) and completing the Analogy set second.

The key to succeeding on Analogy questions lies in your capacity to identify specific relationships. Each question will provide students with two words that demonstrate a certain relationship. Students must then select the choice that best reflects that relationship, thus completing the meaning of the sentence.

Here's our strategy for approaching an Analogy question on SSAT Verbal:

  1. Identify the specific relationship between the two question words
  2. Search for the answer that shows the same relationship
  3. Eliminate accordingly

Sounds easy, right? Well, not necessarily. It can be really tough to identify a specific relationship, particularly between words you don't know (or only have partial meanings for). Those answer choices will also be chock-full of associative words, terms or pairs that might have a similar connotation but not necessarily similar relationship.

That's where the following tips come into play.

1. Start noticing Analogy categories.

Every SSAT Analogy question presents a specific relationship between the two ideas presented. As you continue to work with these questions, start noticing the various "categories" of these relationships, such as size (one word is smaller than another), time (one thing happens before another), or cause and effect (one thing causes another).

Take a look at this sample Analogy question and see if you can identify the "category" of the relationship presented:

Gargantuan is to big as:
A) hot is to steamy
B) thirsty is to dry
C) pleasant is to melody
D) clumsy is to coordinated
E) ecstatic is to happy

If you guessed a relationship of degree or size, you're correct! Gargantuan is a larger or more extreme version of big. Their relationship is one of degree, making the correct answer (ecstatic is a more extreme version of happy).

"Degree" is an example of just one “category” of relationships you will start to see in the Analogy section. Just as there isn’t a finite list of words on the Synonyms section, there is no complete list of categories for the Analogy section. However, the list below gives some common relationship categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Size
  • Material
  • Part and Whole
  • Example and General Category
  • Cause and Effect
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Degrees
  • Actor and Action
  • Product and Producer
  • Tool and User
  • Tool and Use

This can be essential as an elimination strategy, too. Once you've identified the category of the relationship, you can eliminate any answer choices that fit other relationship categories.

2. Create a specific relationship sentence for the question words.

Much as we encourage students to put Synonym words into their own sentences, we also recommend crafting a "relationship sentence" for SSAT Analogy question words. You can then eliminate answer choices that don't "fit" the sentence.

When creating this sentence, try to be as specific as possible.

Using the above sample question, for example, a relationship sentence like “If you’re gargantuan, you’re big” is too broad – if you plug in the answer choices, they might all sound right! “Gargantuan is a stronger version of big” is more specific and will lead you to the correct answer.

3. Eliminate answer choices that have no relationship or are "conditional."

The right answer to an Analogy question will demonstrate the specific relationship of the question words. If you can’t establish a relationship between two words, that answer choice is automatically wrong! The same goes for any answer choices that may show a conditional relationship, one that is only true some of the time.

Here’s a sample question that proves this point:

Insult is to offense as:
A) laugh is to joy
B) fabricate is to falsehood
C) injure is to prepare
D) innocent is to child
E) forge is to creation

In choice C, “injure” and “prepare” have no relationship, so you can eliminate C immediately. Similarly, a "child" may be "innocent," but not necessarily 100% of the time (it depends on the child, the definition of innocent, etc.). You can eliminate D as well.

4. Focus on relationships, not synonyms.

It can be really easy, especially if you tackle SSAT Synonym questions first, to start identifying synonyms for the Analogy words rather than relationships. As best you can, remind yourself that your task on this set is to classify the relationship between the words presented and select an answer choice that reflects a similar relationship.

On the plus side, those answer choices that contain synonyms to words in the question are most likely incorrect. So if you do spot some synonyms in the answers, be very skeptical.

5. Think of all possible relationships.

You may find that some questions have multiple reasonable answers. If this is the case, try to think of additional possible relationships between the question words. Here is a sample question that demonstrates this:

Carousel is to horse as:
A) hospital is to waiting room
B) anthology is to story
C) sun is to planet
D) bike is to wheel
E) fleet is to ship

Correct Answer: C

At first glance, you might feel stuck with this question. A “horse” is a “part” of a “carousel.” With this relationship in mind, don’t multiple answer choices here fit the “whole and part” category?

However, if you think of additional ways to specify the relationship, you could reach the correct answer by reasoning that the horses revolve around a carousel just as a planet orbits the sun.

With these tips in mind, let's work through the sample Analogy question mentioned in the first section of this post:

SSAT Verbal Section: Analogies

It will be easiest to craft a relationship sentence with these words. We might say that "an epidemic is the spread of disease." Plugging in the answer choices, we can see that only (A) fits this sentence: "a famine is the spread of hunger." Our answer is (A).

You can apply these strategies to some sample SSAT Analogy questions by downloading our free SSAT Verbal worksheet below.


SSAT Verbal Strategies: Study Tips

Now that you have some great SSAT Verbal strategies in place, it's time to talk study tips. What's the best way to prepare for success on the SSAT Verbal section? Here are our top recommendations.

1. Prioritize learning word roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

We've already highlighted the value of applying your knowledge of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes to words you don't know on Synonym and Analogy questions.

Knowing word parts can also make your SSAT study plan so much more efficient and robust: in many cases, learning just one word part can help you identify 10+ new vocabulary terms!

You can find many lists (some SSAT-focused) of these word roots, prefixes, and suffixes online or in books that focus on vocabulary building. Searching Quizlet for online SSAT vocabulary lists or investing in a Merriam-Webster Vocabulary Builder book are good places to start.

2. Make flashcards.

Flashcards can be an excellent tool for solidifying new vocabulary and word parts. Quizlet is a favorite online flashcard site for many students. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned notecards.

Review these flashcards regularly. If you are a visual learner, try integrating colors or images into your flashcards for improved memorization. For an extra challenge, come up with a unique sentence for every word you review or identify synonyms (using other vocabulary terms!) for the word in question.

3. Don’t try and memorize 500 words at once

You won’t remember them! It is better to focus on 5-10 words at a time (ideally, per week), and keep coming back to vocab sets for review.

More importantly, be sure you are also using those words that you’re learning. Integrate new words into school assignments and personal practice to make them a concrete part of your vocabulary. (Hint: you can also use these words when practicing your SSAT Writing Sample response.)

4. Read widely

Reading can introduce you to a wide variety of new words to supplement your vocabulary building. Aim to digest advanced reading materials, such as higher-level nonfiction texts, editorials and articles, and journal pieces.

More than any other section, the SSAT Verbal section depends on you slowly but surely improving your vocabulary in a consistent fashion.

In this way, studying for the SSAT Verbal section is like putting money in a piggy bank: it might feel like you’re getting nowhere with the little contributions you make each day, but as long as you keep putting in time, you’ll see a big reward in your score going up after a few months.


Download PrepMaven's SSAT Verbal Practice Questions

There you have it -- the SSAT Verbal strategies designed to give you the greatest success on this challenging section. However, the power of these strategies lies in practice, so be sure to apply them regularly to actual SSAT practice questions.

You can do this right now by downloading our free SSAT Verbal Practice Questions worksheet.

SSAT Verbal Practice

With this worksheet, you'll get:

  • 10 Synonyms practice questions
  • 10 Analogies practice questions
  • Answers & explanations


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate M.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University (B.A. in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Humanities) and Boston University (M.F.A in Creative Writing). Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay. She is a Master tutor at Princeton Tutoring.


SAT Reading Passage Walk-Through_PrepMaven

SAT Reading: Passage Walk-Through

SAT Reading: Passage Walk-Through

Bonus Material: Our Top SAT Reading Hacks

Several of the tips we discuss in our 16 SAT Reading Tips for Getting a Perfect Score have to do with the passage.

To do well on SAT Reading, students should get in the habit of actively reading passages. 

This means annotating for main ideas, opinions, and keywords from the questions. Students should also be sure to back up every answer with evidence from the passage.

It’s called the Evidence-Based Reading Section for a reason!

We want to show students what it looks like to approach SAT Reading passages in this way. That’s why we’ve created this SAT Reading passage walk-through.

In this post, you’ll see what successful annotation looks like. You’ll see how every SAT Reading question can and should be based off of what’s in the passage, and you'll get access to our top SAT Reading Hacks, which you can download now.

Here’s what we cover:


Approaching an SAT Reading Passage

The SAT Reading section rewards the strategic test-taker. No outside content knowledge is necessary to succeed in this section!

For that reason, students should do the following:

  • Take passages out of order, starting with the easier ones for them
  • Take questions out of order, starting with the easier ones for them
  • Actively read the passages, annotating for main ideas
  • Back up every answer with hard evidence from the passage

We discuss these tips at length in 16 SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score.

Active Reading & Annotation

SAT Reading passages are complex, dense, and boring. Maintain focus by annotating when you engage with any passage.

What does it mean to annotate?

Pay attention to main ideas as you work a passage. Jot down the main idea for every paragraph in the margins, circle words you recognize from the questions, and underline anything that feels relevant.

Students should focus less on details. They should prioritize big picture ideas and arguments as they annotate, as SAT Reading questions are most interested in these.

These notes can be extremely valuable later on as students answer questions, providing a specific road map for passage ideas.

We also want to emphasize that you don’t have to read every single word of an SAT Reading passage to understand it! Students should prioritize reading for main ideas and moving more quickly through details or elaborations.

We’ve actively read and annotated a social science SAT Reading passage from the College Board’s Official SAT Practice Test #2 below so you can see what this looks like.

You’ll see that our notes prioritize the following:

  • Main ideas of each paragraph
  • Main idea of the passage as a whole
  • Keywords from the questions
  • Topic sentences
  • Conclusions
  • Structure
  • Graph: main idea and trend(s)

(Hint: these are all the things that most SAT Reading questions concern!)

Tackling the Questions

When approaching SAT Reading questions, test-takers should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know the question types
  • Think in terms of main ideas
  • Don’t get lost in the answer choices
  • Find evidence for your right answer
  • Start with easier questions, end with harder ones
  • Get familiar with typical wrong answer choices

We discuss these tips at length in 16 SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score.

Here are the types of questions you can expect to find on SAT Reading:

  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Function / Purpose
  • Main Ideas
  • Detail or Line Reference
  • Inference
  • Character analysis
  • Charts & graphs

Students should get in the habit of finding answers to each of these questions in the passage itself

They should also think in terms of main ideas when they answer these questions. In many cases, it’s possible to employ process of elimination based on which answers are in line with the passage’s central claim, and which aren’t.

Understand that the questions on SAT Reading are not your friends! Students are apt to encounter very tempting trap answers. That’s why we recommend answering questions on your own before wading through those answers, and getting familiar with what makes an answer wrong on SAT Reading.

We work through all questions associated with the annotated passage above to show you what these strategies look like in action!

Save the harder passages and questions for the end--or for guessing. Beginning with your strengths on SAT Reading is the surest way to guide you closer to a high score.

We also recommend taking a look at these top SAT Reading Hacks. We're using many of these right now, in this post!

Question #11

We’d label this question as a high-difficulty one, given that it requires students to have a working understanding of the passage as a whole. We encourage students to save these higher difficulty questions for the end!

With big picture questions like these, it’s vital to think about the passage’s main idea as a whole, which we’ve labeled as “exploring three interpretations of “ethics” in an economic context and offering a promising fourth view.”

This is very much in line with answer choice (D), which is, in fact, the correct answer. Notice how all the other answer choices only describe one thing (a “study” or one “ethical dilemma”) and/or take extreme positions (the “free market prohibits ethical economics”).

Questions #12 and #13

This is a Command of Evidence pair, a medium-difficulty question type.

It’s best to approach question #12 in tandem with question #13. We’ll read question #12 and then select the line reference from question #13 that best answers this question.

Our goal is to identify the lines that reference an objection to “criticizing the ethics of free markets.” 

The only line reference of the four choices offered that discusses an argument in relation to the ethics of free markets is A, lines 3-4, which is our correct answer.

The paraphrase of these lines is answer choice (D) in question #12, which is the correct answer.

Question #14

This is a Words in Context question, which requires very little reading of the passage! For these questions, we encourage students to read the surrounding context of the line in reference and predict their own synonym for the word referenced.

Here’s the full sentence:

A good prediction for “embraced” might be “favored” or “taken on.” Keep in mind that we are discussing a type of responsibility, too. The best match for such a prediction is answer choice (B), “readily adopted.”

Question #15

This is a function question (medium difficulty) that requires precise understanding of this paragraph’s main idea. 

In our annotations, we’ve identified the main idea of the fifth paragraph as the third view towards ethics in economics, as presented by the author. This third view has to do with “actions.”

The exact match for this is answer choice C!

Question #16

Here is another Words in Context question! Once again, these are low-difficulty questions students should attempt first.

The relevant context of the word in question is:

A good prediction for a similar meaning to “clashes” based on context might be “conflicts.” And guess what? That is an exact match for answer (A).

Question #17

This is a medium-difficulty line reference question. Here, pinpoint the reference that discusses common ground in the perspectives the author has analyzed.

We use the term “common ground” in our annotations for lines 57-66. Is there an answer choice that falls within this window?

Yes! Answer choice C. When we read these lines, we see that they do in fact discuss common ground in the form of an example (fair trade coffee). C is the correct answer.

(Hint: this is why annotating is so important!)

Find this helpful? We encourage you to download these top SAT Reading Hacks. We use many of these hacks in this walk-through.

Question #18

This is a straightforward Main Ideas question. Let’s look and see what our annotations say for the final paragraph.

We have two notes: “the rise of behavioral economics” and “author finds promise” in this subject.

The only answer choice that has to do with this idea of behavioral science and the author’s idea that this is promising is C, which is our correct answer.

Question #19

Questions 19-21 have to do with the graph. These questions can be intimidating, but it’s important to approach them from the perspective of main ideas (just like all the other questions).

The graph itself, according to our annotations, compares profits of fair trade versus regular coffee.

Question 19 is only about the data in the graph. Carefully check each answer choice against the trends visible in the graph, and you’ll see that only A is correct--fair trade coffee had consistently higher profits than regular coffee. 

We also wrote this trend down in our annotations.

Question #20

This question is exactly like question 19 in that it solely requires data analysis and careful reading of the question. We’re looking for the greatest difference in profits between the two coffee types, and when this occurred.

The biggest gap between the two lines we see on this graph occurs between 2002 and 2004, when regular trade coffee profits were just above 20 and fair trade profits were at approximately 130.

This matches answer (B).

Question #21

This graph question requires a synthesis of main ideas -- the main idea of the graph and the main idea of the passage.

Remember that fair trade coffee is discussed in the paragraph about finding “common ground” in the three perspectives on ethical economics examined. In general, the author also feels that ethical economics has promise.

This best matches answer C, which is also the broadest of the options. 

Download Our Expert SAT Reading Hacks

Want to know a secret?

Many of the strategies we used in this post have to do with our top SAT Reading hacks, designed to get you started on your path to a great SAT Reading score.

You can download these 8 great hacks right now for free!

Here's what you'll get:

  • 8 of our very best SAT Reading Hacks
  • Examples from official SAT practice tests


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.



How is the SAT Scored? Your Complete Guide

Scoring on the SAT: What You Need to Know

Scoring on the SAT: Your Ultimate Guide

Every year, millions of students take the SAT.

While there are a handful of test-optional colleges out there, test scores can profoundly influence the college admissions decision. They can have an even greater impact on merit-based scholarship decisions and athletic recruiting.

First-time SAT test-takers have much to consider, not least that score report that they get at the end of their test prep journey!

What does scoring on the SAT look like? Most importantly, what do you need to know to get your highest score yet?

In this post, we'll walk test takers through:


Scoring on the SAT: The Basics

In March 2016, the College Board released its newest version of the SAT.

While this version is five minutes longer than the “old” version, it has fewer questions: students now only encounter 155 questions (SAT essay included) rather than 171.

According to the College Board, these questions are better poised to assess "college and career readiness."

This new SAT content aside, the most significant change was to the test’s scoring system itself. Before March 2016, SAT test-takers could earn a maximum score of 2400 and a minimum of 600.

New SAT test-takers now can earn a maximum score of 1600 and a minimum of 400. This composite score is a combination of students’ Verbal and Math section scores.

SAT Section Score Range
Evidence-Based Reading
+ Writing & Language
200-800
Math (No-Calculator)
+ Math (Calculator)
200-800

The SAT Verbal Score

There are two verbal tests on the new SAT:

  • Evidence-Based Reading
  • Writing and Language

A student’s scores on both tests are combined into a Verbal section score on a scale of 200 - 800. The Verbal section score does not include the SAT essay.

How is this Verbal section score calculated?

First, the SAT test graders calculate a student’s test score on each verbal test. This test score is on a scale of 10-40 and depends on the number of questions a student gets correct on each test.

This conversion from a student’s SAT raw to scaled score varies from SAT to SAT: in just a moment we will explain why.

SAT test graders then multiply these two test scores by 10 and add the results to get the student’s Verbal section score.

SAT Verbal Score Calculation (1)

Here’s an example.

Let’s say that a student scored a 28 on the Evidence-Based Reading section and a 31 on the Writing and Language section. Multiplied by 10, these would equate to a 280 (EBR) and 310 (WL), or a 590 Verbal section score.


The SAT Math Score

There are two math tests on the new SAT: a shorter No-Calculator test and a longer Calculator test.

SAT test graders calculate how many total questions a student gets right on both of these tests. They then convert this raw score to a sectional score by using a test-specific algorithm.

(Unlike the Verbal score calculation, there’s no multiplying by 10.)

This conversion from raw to scaled scores varies from test to test. On SAT Math, a student can earn a minimum section score of 400 and a maximum of 800.

SAT Math Score Calculation (1)

Here’s an example of the SAT math score calculation in action.

Let’s say that a student gets 15 questions right on the No-Calculator Math test and 27 questions right on the Calculator Math test. This equates to 42 correct questions total (out of 58).

Depending on the SAT, this could convert to a Math section score between 630 and 700.


The SAT Essay Score

The SAT essay is the fifth and final section of the test. It is technically optional (but we encourage all of our students to take it).

A student’s SAT essay score does not impact their Verbal section score. Some colleges may, however, require the essay for SuperScoring.

Unlike the rest of the test, the SAT essay does not have a composite score. Two separate readers analyze students’ essays. They give each student a score between 1 and 4 for three categories: reading, analysis, and writing.

The SAT test graders then add these two sets of scores together per category. Students can thus receive a score of 2 - 8 on each of the three categories.

Learn more about getting your highest SAT essay score here!


The SAT Bell Curve: Does It Exist?

In this article, we’ve discussed the fact that SAT score conversions vary from test to test.

There’s a myth out there that these mysterious conversions depend on student performance on each individual SAT. In other words, if everyone else does fairly well on a given SAT, this is bad news for test-takers who struggled with the exam (and vice versa).

This is entirely untrue. Individual test scores have nothing to do with overall student performance. The SAT bell curve does not exist!

However, it’s virtually impossible to create SATs with identical difficulty but different content. For this reason, the College Board uses a process called “equating” to adjust scores based off of each test’s difficulty. In their words:

To make sure a section score from any SAT is equivalent to that same section score from any other SAT, regardless of its level of difficulty, we use a method called “equating.” Equating is a universally accepted statistical process used for all standardized tests. It ensures that scores are fair and valid for all test takers.

What does this mean?

Getting 35 Math questions right on one test may result in a different score than getting 35 Math questions right on another. But, the College Board emphasizes, this still results in a fair score.

In the next session, we display a comparison of two previously administered SATs that proves this point.

Sample SAT Scoring Chart

Source: The College Board Practice Tests #1 and #3

Notice how 35 correct Math questions on Test 1 equated to a 570. On Test 3, the same number of correct Math questions resulted in a 610. Roughly speaking, Test 1’s Math sections were likely easier than Test 3’s.

Conversely, 30 correct Writing and Language questions on Test 1 equated to a test score of 29. On Test 3, the same number of correct questions resulted in a 30.

Can you predict the difficulty levels of SATs? No. Nor should you hold out hope for an “easy” SAT.

In fact, an "easy" SAT does not guarantee a higher score. On easy SATs, more test-takers will answer more questions correctly. This means those high-difficulty questions will be worth more.

But you can prepare for difficult SAT questions in your test prep journey. You can also prepare to take the test at least twice to maximize your odds of achieving your highest score.


SAT Percentiles

There’s one more aspect to scoring on the SAT that parents and students should emphasize throughout their test prep: SAT percentiles.

When students receive their SAT score reports, they will also receive percentages based on their performance. Students receive sectional percentiles and composite percentiles.

These are quite different from high school percentages, which often translate directly to how many questions students got right.

SAT percentiles reflect the percentage of test-takers an individual student out-performed.

An SAT composite percentile of 77%, for example, signifies that a test-taker earned a higher score than 77% of all students who took that particular test.

Percentiles are important, especially when assessing eligibility for more competitive colleges. When it comes to test prep, however, it is often more valuable to establish a goal score range rather than a goal percentile range.


Average SAT Scores

Here are the average SAT scores from the last two years of SAT administration. As you can see, SAT averages are actually declining.

SAT Score National Averages for the Class of 2019

  • Verbal: 531
  • Math: 528
  • Total: 1059

SAT Score National Averages for the Class of 2018

  • Verbal: 536
  • Math: 531
  • Total: 1068

Source: The CollegeBoard: 2018 Report and 2019 Report


Scoring on the SAT: Where This Leaves You

There you have it: your complete guide to scoring on the SAT. So what happens next?

1. Set a goal score before beginning SAT test prep.

It’s vital to have a goal score or percentile in mind prior to starting SAT test prep. Doing so can help students more efficiently prioritize specific content areas and strategies. It can also give your test prep journey trajectory and focus.

Some students begin their SAT test prep with a goal score in mind. Others may have no idea what score range to aim for, especially if they are still fleshing out their list of colleges.

Students who have already taken the PSAT, administered to high school sophomores, can refer to their PSAT score report for assessing goals and percentiles. Those who have yet to take the PSAT should begin with a diagnostic SAT practice test.

2. Practice questions of all difficulty levels.

The notion of an SAT bell curve can understandably make students anxious!

However, it is possible to succeed on the SAT despite this curve. It all begins with test prep. Increasing your fluency in all kinds of practice questions, including the most challenging ones, can help combat test fluctuations.

We also strongly recommend that students take the SAT officially at least twice.

3. Understand what a good SAT score looks like.

While a “good SAT score” is a relative phrase, students should have a sense of competitive SAT scoring before they start preparing for the exam.

So, what does a good SAT score look like? Is there such a thing as a “bad” SAT score? What should be your goal SAT score?

We answer all of these questions and more in our comprehensive guide to good SAT scores.

Students can also work with our SAT experts to establish a goal score and concrete steps for achieving it!


Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score_PrepMaven

16 Easy SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score

16 Easy SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score

Bonus Material: 8 Extra SAT Reading Hacks from the Experts

What SAT Reading tips do you need to get a perfect score?

We get asked this question a lot.

The SAT Reading test is the first section of the SAT. With this section, students have a little over an hour to complete 52 questions associated with 5 passages.

This is a tough section for many reasons, but the good news is that a perfect SAT Reading score is in range for students who apply the right strategies and prepare accordingly. 

In this post, we offer 16 easy, expert SAT Reading tips for getting a perfect score on this section. We also have an additional 8 SAT Reading hacks, which you can download below!

Here’s what we cover in this post:


16 Easy SAT Reading Tips to Get a Perfect Score

Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with this strategy-based section

Many students preparing for the SAT assume that the reading section is just that: a section that requires test-takers to read some stuff and answer questions about it.

That is only partially true. 

In fact, the Evidence-Based Reading section is a bit more complex than that. It has a wide variety of reading passages, for one thing, a strict time limit, and tough questions. 

The first thing you should do on your path to a perfect SAT Reading score is understand exactly what this section looks like in terms of the following:

  • Format
  • Scoring
  • Strategy

Format

The SAT Reading section is first in the lineup of sections on the SAT.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the SAT Reading section’s format:

  • Time limit: 65 minutes
  • Questions: 52
  • Passages: 5 (one of these is a dual passage)
  • Genres of passages: History, social science, natural science, literary narrative

The passages can appear in any order, with the exception of literary narrative: that always comes first.

Dual passages, passages that contain two shorter excerpts from different pieces, will always be history, social science, or natural science--never literary narrative.

It’s also worth noting that not all of these passages will be contemporary, meaning that they’ve been written recently. At least one passage will be an “older” text, such as:

  • An excerpt from a nineteenth- or twentieth-century novel
  • A selection from a Federalist paper or other founding document
  • 18th or 19th century speeches

Scoring

Your SAT Reading score is combined with your SAT Writing & Language score for a total Verbal score of 400-800.

On its own, your SAT Reading score is calculated on a scale of 200-400. Basically, the College Board converts the number of questions you get right on SAT Reading (your raw score) into a scaled score of 200-400.

This conversion process is different for every test, due to the fact that no SAT is the same. But it is possible to approximate the relationship between raw and scaled scores.

For example, based on our assessment of the raw score conversion tables for the College Board’s officially released SAT practice tests, we can conclude that students need to get X questions right on SAT Reading to earn a “perfect” score.

That’s right--you don’t have to get every single question right in order to earn a perfect SAT Reading score

This has to do with the College Board’s “equating process,” the process it uses to convert raw scores into scaled scores based on that exam’s difficulty.

Strategy

The SAT Reading section is the only section on the SAT that doesn’t require outside content knowledge. That’s both good and bad news.

The good news is that you don’t have to memorize author names, texts, or dates for this section. You don’t even have to study a lot of vocabulary, necessarily.

The bad news is that you’ve got to learn and implement strategy on this section. For many students, this is an unfamiliar component of test-taking. In a typical high school English classroom, students aren’t tested on their capacity to be strategic test-takers.

But the good news in that bad news is the fact that there are a lot of tried and true strategies out there for succeeding on SAT Reading, many of which we discuss in this post.

What’s more, if you find yourself bringing in outside knowledge to answer an SAT Reading question, that’s a sign that you’re veering towards a wrong answer choice. All of your information should come from the passage, and the passage alone.

Before you keep reading, we recommend that you check out these other 5 things you should know about SAT Reading.

Tip #2: Start by knowing where you stand

Before you start prepping, it’s vital to take an SAT practice test if you haven’t done so already. 

Taking an official practice test under test-like conditions will give you the most accurate reading of where you currently stand on SAT Reading.

A diagnostic score report can also be very revealing in terms of the following:

  • Timing
  • Accuracy with passage and question types
  • Testing habits

Find all officially released practice SATs and advice on self-proctoring a diagnostic test here

After you take your first SAT practice test, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which passages did I have higher accuracy on? Least accuracy?
  • Where might timing have been an issue?
  • What types of questions am I missing consistently? What types am I acing?

Answering these questions can be helpful for establishing goals in your SAT Reading prep. They can also be helpful for pinpointing where your strengths lie on this section (a key point we discuss in Tip #5).

Tip #3: Establish a realistic timeline for increasing your score

Some students assume they can cram for the SAT and boost their score that way. Unfortunately, this is not a solid strategy for earning a perfect score on any SAT section.

SAT test prep takes time. We encourage students to set aside at least three months--and often many more--to prepare for this exam.

This is especially important for SAT Reading, which requires a significant amount of strategy and practice. We discuss SAT goal-setting in more depth in this post here

We also want to reiterate that it’s not necessarily realistic to set your target score as a perfect 400 out the gate, unless you are already very close to this number. Establish incremental goals that can get you closer to that perfect score over time.

When establishing these goals, it can be helpful to think in terms of number of questions correct (as opposed to the scaled score itself). 

For example, if you get 35 questions right on your first SAT Reading section, a reasonable goal would be to get 40 questions right on the next round (then 45, 50, etc.). Think about maximizing your raw score (the questions you get right) and this will maximize your scaled score.

Tip #4: Think like the test-makers, not a test-taker

The test-makers design the SAT Reading section to be challenging. They want students to fall for trap answers and use their time inefficiently. They want students to answer questions in predictable ways.

That’s why it’s important to think strategically on SAT Reading. Be on the lookout for ways that the SAT is trying to trick you--the more you can anticipate these traps, the more likely you are to not fall for them! 

Here’s one example.

The literary narrative passage is always the first passage on SAT Reading. At first glance, this passage sounds easy-peasy. Fiction? Characters? Dialogue? Cool!

But on second glance, the questions associated with this passage are detail-oriented and time-consuming. Many students who start with this passage end up losing a lot of time, especially if the passage is from an older literary text, like Pride and Prejudice.

You guessed it: the test-makers do this for a reason. They want you to waste your time on this first passage so you have limited time to get to the others! The predictable test-taker will do this passage first.

The savvy test-taker will not.

Tip #5: Identify where your strengths lie and always play to these

There is no wrong answer penalty on the SAT. This means that students do not lose points when they answer a question incorrectly.

They simply do not gain any points. 

For this reason, there’s no harm in guessing! Students should never leave answers blank on SAT Reading. 

Every question is also worth the same amount of points on each individual section of the SAT. There is no point value difference between an easy SAT Reading question and a hard one.

Make your life easier from the outset by prioritizing what is easier for you in terms of:

  • SAT Reading passages
  • Questions

For example, if you consistently have high accuracy on questions associated with Science passages on the SAT Reading section, start with those passages. If you always nail Words in Context questions, do those first for every passage.

Save the harder passages and questions for the end--or for guessing. Beginning with your strengths on SAT Reading is the surest way to guide you closer to a high score.

Want even more SAT Reading tips? Check out these additional hacks from the experts.

Tip #6: Boost your fluency in SAT Reading question types

In line with Tip #5, it’s important to recognize the different types of questions you’ll encounter on SAT Reading.

This fluency will help you pinpoint your strengths and cater to these. It can also clue you in to the predictability of SAT Reading. It will have the same types of questions every time, after all. 

And each question type will have its own predictability, especially in terms of wrong answer choices.

Here are the types of questions you can expect to find on SAT Reading:

  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Function / Purpose
  • Main Ideas
  • Detail or Line Reference
  • Inference
  • Charts & graphs

Words in Context

These questions ask students to choose a word or idea similar in meaning to a word or idea used in the passage, as in this example here from the College Board's Official SAT Practice Test #1:

Command of Evidence

These ask students to select a line reference in the passage that best supports their answer to the previous question. Students can expect to encounter 8-10 of these on SAT Reading.

Function / Purpose

Function or Purpose questions are interested in a student's knowledge of the purpose of a part of the passage, whether that's a line, word, paragraph, idea, or passage as a whole.

Main Ideas

These questions are all about main ideas of passages as a whole, a series of lines, or paragraphs.

Detail or Line Reference

Detail or Line Reference questions ask test-takers about specific details in the passage, often with a line reference attached. On the literary narrative passage, these often concern character analysis.

Inference

An inference is a logical conclusion one can make from presented evidence. With Inference questions on SAT Reading, students must make a logical inference based off of a specific part of the passage.

Charts & Graphs

This question type always surprises students. Why do figures and charts appear on SAT Reading, a verbal section? Good question! It's all part of the SAT's effort to test a student's ability to synthesize many different types of information.

Luckily, these questions aren't normally too difficult. Some can be answered without even reading the passage. Others depend on a working understanding of a passage's main idea(s).

Tip #7: Recognize typical wrong answer choices

The more you can learn to recognize typical wrong answer choices, the greater your odds are of avoiding these traps on SAT Reading.

Some common wrong answer choices include:

  • “Extreme” answers, which often include words like never or always
  • Inferences that go too far beyond the passage
  • Distortion of details or keywords from the passage
  • Verbiage that sounds “nice” but can’t be backed with passage evidence
  • References to outside knowledge

Notice a common thread in these? You guessed it -- wrong answer choices are wrong because they can't be supported with direct evidence from the passage.

Students should thus get in the habit of identifying evidence in the passage for every answer choice they select, not just for Command of Evidence questions. That's why it's called the Evidence-Based Reading section!

Tip #8: Don’t get lost in those answer choices, by the way

This is one of the most important SAT Reading tips we pass along to our students. Many test-takers get in the habit of reading through all of the answer choices before coming up with an answer to a question.

Don’t do this! This increases your odds of getting sidetracked by a “shiny” trap answer.

We recommend reading the question first, researching your answer in the passage, making a prediction, and then eliminating answers that don’t match your prediction. 

Tip #9: Divide and conquer on the dual passage

Don’t forget that one of the 5 SAT Reading passages includes a dual passage. This means students will have to read two smaller passages in one, and answer questions about both.

Instead of reading through these two passages before getting to the questions, divide and conquer! Make your life easier by tackling only one passage at a time.

  • Take a look at the questions
  • Tackle the passage that has the most questions first
  • Answer questions for that passage
  • Tackle the other passage and its respective questions
  • Complete questions about both passages

This strategy means that you only have to think about both passages at once for the questions that concern both (arguably the harder questions on the dual passage).

Want even more SAT Reading tips? Check out these additional hacks from the experts.

Tip #10: Annotate, annotate, annotate

SAT Reading passages are complex, dense, and boring. Maintain focus by annotating when you engage with any passage.

What does it mean to annotate?

Pay attention to main ideas as you work a passage. Jot down the main idea for every paragraph in the margins, circle words you recognize from the questions, and underline anything that feels relevant.

Students should focus less on details. They should prioritize big picture ideas and arguments as they annotate, as SAT Reading questions are most interested in these.

These notes can be extremely valuable later on as students answer questions, providing a specific road map for passage ideas (and ultimately answers).

Tip #11: Think in terms of main ideas

This tip goes hand-in-hand with #10. It’s important to consider main ideas when reading an SAT passage.

But it’s equally important to answer questions with these main ideas in mind. In fact, in many cases, it’s possible to employ process of elimination based on which answers are in line with the passage’s central claim, and which aren’t.

In this question, for example, test-takers should first consider the main idea of the paragraph that houses these lines. Odds are that the answer to this question has something to do with that main idea!

Tip #12: Be literal

Once again, this is one of the most important SAT Reading tips we pass along to our students.

Every correct answer to every SAT Reading question can be found in the passage itself. This means that students should be very cautious if they find themselves making assumptions, huge inferences, or other logical leaps.

Approach questions literally! Work only with what you see in the passage and in the question stem. Be very skeptical of answer choices that lead you away from these two things.

Tip #13: Read while you prep

Students will encounter a wide range of passages on SAT Reading, including some genres they might not regularly read.

These especially include older literature and primary documents, scientific articles, and speeches.

That’s why we encourage students to have a reading list on hand as they prepare for this difficult section. This doesn’t have to be intensive! 

It could be as simple as subscribing to a publication like The Economist, reading an article in a scientific journal that interests you, or working through a chapter of Jane Eyre a week.

For added practice, mentally paraphrase the main ideas of what you’re reading--or even annotate!

Tip #14: Prioritize accuracy over quantity

Accustomed to having to answer every question on a high school test, many test-takers race through SAT Reading. They try to answer every question, even if some of these answers are guesses.

This is not a strategy to embrace on SAT Reading or the test as a whole. Speed often leads to inaccuracy. Students are more likely to earn a higher score in general if they prioritize getting more questions right rather than answered.

Playing to your strengths and embracing a guessing strategy can help with this. The same goes for regularly assessing your progress via practice tests, which we discuss in Tip #16. 

Tip #15: Don’t forget about Writing & Language

Your SAT Verbal score consists of your SAT Reading score and Writing and Language score. As you think about boosting your SAT score, don’t forget this crucial point.

If you’re aiming for a perfect or near-perfect score on SAT Verbal, it’s important to devote equal prep time to this other section. 

While the passages on Writing & Language aren’t nearly as complex as those on SAT Reading, your prep on these two sections can be complementary. About 50% of questions on Writing & Language concern your understanding of context, main ideas, and logical argument.

We recommend starting by learning these 13 grammar rules tested on Writing & Language, if you haven't done so already.

Tip #16: Practice close to the source, and practice often

When it comes to standardized test prep, it’s important to utilize practice materials that are as close to the source as possible.

What does this mean? Begin by working with College Board prep materials, as this is the company that produces the SAT. You can find all 10 official College Board practice tests here.

We also encourage students to create a study plan prior to prepping for any section of the SAT. This study plan should include regular, timed practice tests.

Frequent practice tests are vital for SAT Reading prep, given that this section has a particularly tight time limit, and success depends on a variety of strategies we've discussed in this post.

Download 8 Additional SAT Reading Hacks

Want more help on SAT Reading? We've put together 8 of our very best SAT Reading hacks in addition to the awesome tips in this post.

SAT Reading Tips and Hacks

Here's what you'll get:

  • 8 of our very best SAT Reading Hacks
  • Examples from official SAT practice tests


Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


SSAT Analogies_PrepMaven

SSAT Analogies Practice: 5 Strategies & 3 Drills

SSAT Analogies Practice: 5 Strategies & 3 Drills

Bonus Material: SSAT Analogies Practice Drills

The SSAT Verbal section has 60 questions. The first 30 are SSAT Synonym questions, while questions 31-60 are SSAT Analogies.

The key to succeeding on Analogy questions lies in your capacity to identify specific relationships. Each question will provide students with two words that demonstrate a certain relationship.

Students must then select the choice that best reflects that relationship, thus completing the meaning of the sentence.

In this post, we walk students through our 5 strategies for approaching SSAT Analogies. We also give readers access to free SSAT Analogies practice, which you can download now.

Here's what we cover:


5 Strategies for SSAT Analogies

Here's our general strategy for approaching an Analogy question on SSAT Verbal:

  1. Identify the specific relationship between the two question words
  2. Search for the answer that shows the same relationship
  3. Eliminate accordingly

Sounds easy, right? Well, not necessarily. It can be really tough to identify a specific relationship, particularly between words you don't know (or only have partial meanings for).

Those answer choices will also be chock-full of associative words, terms or pairs that might have a similar connotation but not necessarily similar relationship.

That's where the following 5 strategies come into play.

#1: Start noticing Analogy categories.

Every SSAT Analogy question presents a specific relationship between the two ideas presented. As you continue to work with these questions, start noticing the various "categories" of these relationships, such as size (one word is smaller than another), time (one thing happens before another), or cause and effect (one thing causes another).

Take a look at this sample Analogy question and see if you can identify the "category" of the relationship presented:

Gargantuan is to big as:
A) hot is to steamy
B) thirsty is to dry
C) pleasant is to melody
D) clumsy is to coordinated
E) ecstatic is to happy

If you guessed a relationship of degree or size, you're correct! Gargantuan is a larger or more extreme version of big. Their relationship is one of degree, making E the correct answer (ecstatic is a more extreme version of happy).

"Degree" is an example of just one “category” of relationships you will start to see in the Analogy section. Just as there isn’t a finite list of words on the Synonyms section, there is no complete list of categories for the Analogy section. 

However, the list below gives some common relationship categories we’ve seen on SSAT practice tests:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Size
  • Material
  • Part and Whole
  • Example and General Category
  • Cause and Effect
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Degrees
  • Actor and Action
  • Product and Producer
  • Tool and User
  • Tool and Use

This can be essential as an elimination strategy, too. Once you've identified the category of the relationship, you can eliminate any answer choices that fit other relationship categories.

Let’s apply this principle to the following questions. We’ve left the answer choices out here so that you can focus only on the relationship between the two question words.

  1. Lukewarm is to boiling as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Potable is to water as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Socks are to shoes as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Foreign is to domestic as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Botany is to plants as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Soldier is to military as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Tailor is to fabric as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Scene is to play as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Debris is to purity as

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Limb is to body as

____________________________________________________________________________

#2: Create a specific relationship sentence for the question words.

Much as we encourage students to put Synonym words into their own sentences, we also recommend crafting a "relationship sentence" for SSAT Analogy question words. You can then eliminate answer choices that don't "fit" the sentence.

When creating this sentence, try to be as specific as possible.

Using the above sample question, for example, a relationship sentence like “If you’re gargantuan, you’re big” is too broad – if you plug in the answer choices, they might all sound right! “Gargantuan is a stronger version of big” is more specific and will lead you to the correct answer.

Let’s apply this principle to the following questions. We’ve left the answer choices out here so that you can focus only on the relationship between the two question words.

  1. Clasp is to necklace as

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Teacher is to educator as

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Spectators is to audience as

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Disparage is to commend as

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Sad is to devastated as

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

#3: Eliminate answer choices that have no relationship or are "conditional."

The right answer to an Analogy question will demonstrate the specific relationship of the question words. If you can’t establish a relationship between two words, that answer choice is automatically wrong! The same goes for any answer choices that may show a conditional relationship, one that is only true some of the time.

Here’s a sample question that proves this point:

Insult is to offense as:
A) laugh is to joy
B) fabricate is to falsehood
C) injure is to prepare
D) innocent is to child
E) forge is to creation

In choice C, “injure” and “prepare” have no relationship, so you can eliminate C immediately. Similarly, a "child" may be "innocent," but not necessarily 100% of the time (it depends on the child, the definition of innocent, etc.). You can eliminate D as well.

Can you spot the answer choices in the following question that have no relationship or are conditional?

  1. Mindful is to ignorant as
  1. complete is to acceptable
  2. shack is to palace
  3. novel is to idea
  4. amiable is to friendly
  5. road is to highway

#4: Focus on relationships, not synonyms.

It can be really easy, especially if you tackle SSAT Synonym questions first, to start identifying synonyms for the Analogy words rather than relationships. As best you can, remind yourself that your task on this set is to classify the relationship between the words presented and select an answer choice that reflects a similar relationship.

On the plus side, those answer choices that contain synonyms to words in the question are most likely incorrect. So if you do spot some synonyms in the answers, be very skeptical.

#5: Think of all possible relationships.

You may find that some questions have multiple reasonable answers. If this is the case, try to think of additional possible relationships between the question words. Here is a sample question that demonstrates this:

Carousel is to horse as:
A) hospital is to waiting room
B) anthology is to story
C) sun is to planet
D) bike is to wheel
E) fleet is to ship

At first glance, you might feel stuck with this question. A “horse” is a “part” of a “carousel.” With this relationship in mind, don’t multiple answer choices here fit the “whole and part” category?

However, if you think of additional ways to specify the relationship, you could reach the correct answer by reasoning that the horses revolve around a carousel just as a planet orbits the sun. Correct Answer: C.

With these tips in mind, let's work through this sample Analogy question mentioned earlier:

SSAT Verbal Section: Analogies

It will be easiest to craft a relationship sentence with these words. We might say that "an epidemic is the spread of disease." Plugging in the answer choices, we can see that only (A) fits this sentence: "a famine is the spread of hunger." Our answer is (A).


Download Our SSAT Analogies Practice Questions

Now it's your turn to apply these awesome strategies to some SSAT Analogies practice questions. You can download three free practice drills right now if you'd like.

Here's what you'll get:

  • 3 FREE SSAT Analogies Practice Drills
  • Answers to every question


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.



SSAT Synonym Practice _ PrepMaven

SSAT Synonym Practice: 4 Strategies & 3 Drills

SSAT Synonym Practice: 4 Strategies & 3 Drills

Bonus Material: 3 SSAT Synonyms Practice Drills

The SSAT Verbal section has sixty total questions: 30 Synonym questions and 30 Analogy questions.

Synonym questions ask test-takers to select the answer choice closest in meaning to the question word.

These questions can be challenging for SSAT students, especially those who are still building their vocabulary. Yet with some solid strategies and practice in place, test-takers can quickly improve their accuracy on these questions.

In this post, we outline 4 expert strategies for navigating SSAT Synonyms questions. We also give readers access to some free SSAT Synonym practice, in the form of three timed drills. Grab these below.

Here's what we cover:


4 Key Strategies for SSAT Synonym Questions

Synonym questions appear first on SSAT Verbal (questions 1-30). If you feel more confident with these questions, we recommend beginning with these.

If, however, Analogies are more your jam, we recommend starting with question 31 (the first of the Analogy questions set) and completing the Synonyms set second.

Remember: play to your strengths on SSAT Verbal, and prioritize the questions that are easiest for you first.

The key to approaching SSAT Synonym questions successfully lies in remembering that they are just that: Synonym questions.

What do we mean by this?

With Synonym questions, your task is to find the answer choice that is most similar in meaning to the question word.

It's important to remind yourself of this simple fact on each question, as the test-makers love trapping students with answer choices that may be associated with the question word but, in fact, do not share a similar meaning. What's more, a "synonym" is not the same as a straight-up "definition" of a word!

We'll apply these thoughts to this sample Synonym question:

SSAT Upper Level Verbal Section_Synonyms

With this question, students must choose the answer that is most similar in meaning to the word "incognito." This doesn't mean that we're looking for the definition of "incognito," merely a term that most closely matches that definition.

The word "incognito" might suggest someone going undercover, like a ninja in a crowd. Be careful, though: answer choice (D) at first glance looks a lot like "undercover," when, in fact, it means the opposite (uncovered). But the idea of being undercover has a connotation of being hidden from sight, which leads us to answer (C): concealed.

Be careful with answer choice (A), which might be tempting for some students. "Lost" is a good example of an answer that is an association but not necessarily a synonym of a question word. Something that is incognito may not be very visible, but this doesn't mean it is lost.

Here are 4 other strategies for approaching SSAT Synonym questions. We follow each pointer with a guided practice question.

#1: Put the question word into a sentence of your own.

This is an excellent, tried-and-true way to situate a question word in its context, especially if you don't know the full meaning of a term. Put that word into a sentence, even if it's the most basic sentence you've ever written.

Using the sample question above, that sentence might look like this:

The ninja chose to go incognito, moving casually through the crowd without attracting attention.

In this sentence, we can gather that "incognito" is a behavior or attitude of some kind that the ninja adopts in this crowd. Would it make sense for someone to choose to be "lost"? No! "Lost" is not a behavior or attitude, and the same goes for "replaced" or "distinguished."

Context tells us that the ninja is choosing to be somewhat invisible, so (C) is the best answer yet again.

Let’s apply this principle to the following guided practice question.

MALEVOLENT
A) uncertain
B) emphatic
C) generous
D) wanton
E) ill-intentioned

Let’s put the word “malevolent” into a sentence, keeping in mind that that sentence doesn’t have to be complex.

Take a look at the sentence you just wrote. What does it tell you about the word “malevolent”? For example, is malevolent anything of the following?

  • Behavior
  • Attitude
  • Action
  • Description
  • Belief
  • Quality/characteristic

Based on these observations, which answers can you eliminate? Now what’s the difference between the answers that remain, if any? Can you apply any of your other observations from your initial sentence?

What answer did you end up with?

Here’s how we would approach this problem. 

Example sentence: 

The malevolent queen was very jealous of Snow White’s beauty and attempted to get her to eat a poisoned apple.

We can learn from this that someone who is “malevolent” wants to do bad things to others. This eliminates every answer choice except for E, which is the correct answer.

#2: Apply your knowledge of word parts.

Remember all those word parts and roots your teacher taught last year? Those will definitely prove valuable on SSAT Verbal, particularly with those Synonym questions.

Identifying word parts in answer choices and question words can be vital. It can be a straight-up life-saver on those questions full of vocabulary students may not know.

Be on the hunt for specific prefixes, roots, and suffixes that can give at least partial meaning for a term.

For example, if you see the word "benevolent" in a Synonyms question, you might recognize the prefix ben / bene, which means well or good. This has a positive connotation or charge, which can be useful for elimination purposes.

Let’s apply this principle to the following guided practice question.

CIRCUMSPECT
A) livid
B) guarded
C) willing
D) magnanimous
E) wry

There are two word parts in “circumspect:” the prefix “circum-” and the root “spect.” 

Circum: roundabout, around, encompass

Spect: see

From these definitions, a general definition for “circumspect” might be “to see around.” What answers can we eliminate that don’t match this? 

If you have any remaining answers, try creating sentences with them to work the rest of your elimination:

Did you get B, guarded? Great job!

For the record, circumspect describes the quality of not being very willing to take risks.

Livid: extremely angry

Wry: using dry, mocking humor

Magnanimous: generous and forgiving

#3: "Plug in" your final choice.

Much like plugging the answer to a math question into the original problem to check your work, "plug in" your final choice on a Synonyms question to the sentence you've created.

This serves as a double-check mechanism and a means of catching careless errors. Using our first example sentence and question, this would look like the following:

The ninja chose to go concealed, moving casually through the crowd without attracting attention.

Yes, "chose to go concealed" sounds a bit awkward, but it still fits in meaning and context.

Let’s apply this principle to the following guided practice question. Try applying the strategies you’ve already learned to get your answer. Then use the lines provided to plug in your final choice.

OBSOLETE
A) defunct
B) forgotten
C) massive
D) solemn
E) confused

Did you get A, defunct? Great work!

#4: On higher-difficulty questions, the weirder the better.

Remember: the SSAT test-makers will create specific traps on each Verbal question designed to trick the predictable test-taker.

What are predictable test-takers likely to do on harder Synonym questions? They are probably not likely to choose an answer they don't know. They will likely avoid those really weird, foreign-looking terms. However, on really tough Synonym questions, these answers can be correct.

Here's an example of this in action, modeled after a sample SSAT.org practice question:

ZEALOUS
A) heartfelt
B) fervent
C) irritating
D) praiseworthy
E) interested

The "weirdest" answer choice here, the one many students are not likely to know, is fervent. This happens to be the correct answer choice.

We do want to offer this tip with a caveat, however: students should still adhere to their established guessing strategy, regardless of the difficulty level of the question. It may still be worth your while to leave a question blank if you generally have no clue about the question word and the answer choices.

Let’s apply this principle to the following guided practice question.

GLIB
A) determined
B) mythical
C) slimy
D) facetious
E) considerate

Looking at the answer choices, which is our “weirdest” answer choice?

Most students will zero in on “facetious,” a word that may or may not already be a part of your working vocabulary. This is, in fact, the right answer!

For the record:

Glib: fluent and voluble but insincere and shallow.

Facetious: treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor; flippant.


Download Our SSAT Synonyms Practice Questions

Now it's your turn to apply these 4 awesome strategies to some SSAT Synonyms practice questions. You can download three free practice drills right now if you'd like.

Here's what you'll get:

  • 3 FREE SSAT Synonyms Practice Drills
  • Answers to all questions


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.



SAT Reading_PrepMaven

5 Things You Should Know About SAT Reading

5 Things You Should Know About SAT Reading

Bonus Material: Top 8 SAT Reading Hacks from the Experts

Evidence-Based Reading is the first section of the SAT. For many students, it can also be the most challenging.

After all, students have a little over an hour to work through five dense reading passages and answer 52 total questions. 

Students’ reading scores are combined with their SAT Writing & Language scores for their total SAT Verbal score, calculated on a scale of 400-800.

Given that many of our students seek support with SAT Reading, we’ve written an entire post devoted to the essential things you should know about this tough section. You’ll also get access to our top 8 SAT Reading Hacks, which you can download below.

Here’s what we cover:

The Format of the SAT’s Evidence-Based Reading Section

On SAT Reading, students have 65 minutes to complete 52 questions. The section contains five passages that span the following genres:

  • Literary narrative
  • Science
  • History / Social Science

Students will always encounter one literary narrative passage, which will always be first in the passage lineup. They will also encounter 2 Science passages and 2 History or Social Science passages (in generally random order).

One of the Science or History / Social Science passages will be a dual passage. This means that students will encounter two shorter passages within one, and must answer questions related to both passages.

It’s important to note that one of these five passages is likely to be an “older” text, meaning that it is a selection from a work published in a prior century. It’s not uncommon, for example, for students to encounter passages excerpted from the following:

  • Classic literature (18th and 19th centuries)
  • Essays or speeches (18th - 20th centuries)
  • Other primary documents

Here’s an example from an officially released SAT practice test (#2):

Students will also encounter a range of question types, which include the following:

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Main Ideas
  • Purpose / Function
  • Inference
  • Charts & graphs
  • Detail or line reference

In the next section of this post, we discuss what you need to know on SAT Reading beyond these basics.

5 Things You Should Know About SAT Reading

1. It’s 100% strategy-based

The other non-optional sections of the SAT -- Writing & Language and Math -- do require outside content knowledge. SAT Reading, however, does not.

This means that a large part of doing well on this section comes down to a student’s capacity to apply specific strategies, like those in our SAT Reading Hacks, which you can download here.

If you find yourself bringing in outside knowledge to answer a question, stop! This could lead you astray.

2. You don’t have to attempt all 52 questions to earn a high score

In fact, we often discourage students from racing through SAT Reading to ensure they've answered every question! On the SAT, it's important to prioritize accuracy over speed.

This might mean attempting fewer passages, for example, especially for students who struggle with the section's time limit.

Students also don't lose points for an incorrect answer--they simply do not get any points. This means that guessing is to your advantage.

Let's say that Margot decided to answer all 52 questions, while Samantha decided to only attempt 40 questions and guess strategically on the remaining 12. Here's what that might look like:

Margot Samantha
Attempted = 52 / Correct = 32 / Guesses = 0 --> Section Score of 29 Attempted = 40 / Correct = 37 / Guesses = 12 --> Section Score of 31

Samantha attempted fewer questions here but still earned a higher score, as opposed to Margot, who attempted all questions and earned a lower score.

3. Outside reading helps

SAT Reading passages are excerpted from real published works. But students are not likely to have seen most of these excerpts before, especially those that are from older texts.

That's why we encourage SAT students to maintain their reading of certain kinds of texts as they prep. These include:

  • American history documents (speeches, Federalist Papers, etc.)
  • Scientific journal articles
  • Editorials
  • Social science articles

You can find a full reading list with specific titles here.

4. It’s really all about main ideas

While there are many kinds of questions on SAT Reading, they often boil down to the same notion: main ideas. This is because most high school English classrooms focus on students' comprehension of main ideas when reading texts.

If you can train yourself to read for these main ideas--and go a step further in thinking about purpose and structure--then you're already on the right path for succeeding on SAT Reading questions.

In the following purpose question, for example, students can answer this successfully by thinking in terms of main ideas.

We discuss this more in our SAT Reading Hacks.

5. ...and evidence!

It's called Evidence-Based Reading for a reason! Every answer choice should technically be found in the passage itself.

That's right--this is an open-book test!

The Reading section has a certain question type that forces students to select their evidence for questions. These Command of Evidence questions can be tricky, but they are the heart of what this test is all about.

If you can back up every answer with evidence from the passage, you're approaching the test like a strategic test-taker, and poised to succeed on all question types.

Download Our Expert SAT Reading Hacks

As experts in SAT prep, we know what it takes to do well on SAT Reading. We've put together our top SAT Reading Hacks, which you can download for free!

SAT Reading Tips and Hacks

Here's what you'll get:

  • 8 of our very best SAT Reading Hacks
  • Examples from official SAT practice tests


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.