SSAT Reading Strategies _ PrepMaven

6 SSAT Reading Strategies From the Experts

6 SSAT Reading Strategies From the Experts

Bonus Material: SSAT Reading Practice Questions

SSAT Reading is the third section of the Secondary School Admissions Test, which you'll likely need to take if you're applying to private elementary, middle, or high schools.

In this section, students have only 40 minutes to work through 8 reading passages and 40 questions.

For this reason, it’s very common for students to feel up against the clock on this section. SSAT Reading passages can also be fairly dense, especially if they are selections from older texts.

Success on the SSAT Reading section often depends on a student’s ability to apply specific strategies, given that it requires almost no outside knowledge.

Fortunately, we've helped hundreds of students like you succeed on the SSAT. In this post, we'll use our 20+ years of experience to break down what you need to know about SSAT Reading. Plus, readers get access to our sample SSAT Reading practice questions, which you can grab below.

Here’s what we cover:


The 3 Things You Need to Succeed on SSAT Reading

Let’s do a quick recap of what this section entails (you can read more about the SSAT format here).

SSAT Reading is the third timed section of the SSAT. It appears right after Quantitative 1 and right before a brief break:

Section Number of Questions Duration
Writing Sample (unscored) 1 25 minutes
Break -- 5 minutes
Quantitative 1 25 30 minutes
Reading 40 40 minutes
Break -- 10 minutes
Verbal 60 30 minutes
Quantitative 25 30 minutes
Experimental (unscored) 16 15 minutes

Here's what the SSAT Reading section covers:

  • Format: 40 minutes, 40 multiple choice questions
  • Content: 7 passages of about 250-350 words each
  • Genres: Literary fiction, humanities (including poetry), science, philosophy, and/or social studies

SSAT Reading questions test your reading comprehension on both a general and specific level. You can find out more about question types in our Introduction to SSAT Reading post.

Given this format of the SSAT Reading section, success boils down to the following three things: 

  1. Strategy, strategy, strategy
  2. Versatile active reading skills 
  3. Familiarity with the question types

We cover all three of these things throughout the strategies outlined in the next section. 

Of course, the best way to really learn and implement strategies is with a professional tutor. You can read our ranking of the 13 Best SSAT Tutoring Services here.

And, you can learn more about working with a PrepMaven Ivy-League SSAT expert by contacting our team!


6 SSAT Reading Strategies from the Experts

1. Know the test

The SSAT Reading section is fundamentally unlike any test students encounter in middle school. For this reason, a key strategy lies in simply knowing the test’s format inside and out.

Remember: this is a standardized test. For this reason, it is predictable. Students should thus make sure they are very familiar with 2 things:

  1. The passage types
  2. The question types

SSAT Reading passage types include: 

  • Literary fiction 
  • Humanities (biography, art, poetry) 
  • Science (anthropology, astronomy, medicine) 
  • Social studies (history, sociology, economics)

Some passages may also be harder than others. Older texts, for example, or poetry passages may be more difficult to comprehend. 

As you practice, pay attention to what is more difficult for you, and what is easier--this will be helpful with respect to another strategy we outline later.

Question types include:

  • Main ideas
  • Details
  • Inference
  • Words in context
  • Author’s purpose
  • Author’s tone and attitude
  • Evaluation of author’s attitude and opinions
  • Evidence-based predictions

Much like individual passages, certain question types might be more challenging for students than others. At the end of the day, however, every question is worth the same amount of points on SSAT Reading, regardless of its difficulty level.

2. Play to your strengths

This is a great strategy to embrace on any SSAT section, but it’s particularly important on SSAT Reading. The SSAT test-makers don’t necessarily have students’ personal strengths in mind when they create the Reading section.

What does this mean?

It might mean that a difficult passage for you (say, poetry) comes at the very beginning of the section as opposed to the end. It could mean that the easiest passage for you comes at the very end of the section.

The same goes for questions!

For this reason, we encourage students to tackle what is easiest for them first. This might mean taking passages out of order. It could further mean taking questions for those specific passages out of order, prioritizing the easiest ones over the more challenging ones.

Students also don’t have to complete all 40 questions to earn a competitive score on this section. Prioritize accuracy over quantity here.

3. Boost your fluency in wrong answers

It is often easier to pinpoint a wrong answer choice than it is to find a correct one! This is a key part of the process of elimination, which is a vital strategy on any standardized test.

That's why we recommend that students learn what constitutes a standard wrong answer choice on a typical SSAT Reading question. While these wrong answers can vary, in general, students should be very wary of the following:

  • Extreme answer choices (i.e., answers that include words like "never" or "always")
  • Half-right answers (i.e., ones that might be partially but not entirely true)
  • Distorted details (i.e., answers that have keywords from the passage but are misleading)
  • Outside the text answers (i.e., those that take it too far beyond the passage)

4. Have an active reading plan

Most students won't benefit from reading every SSAT Reading passage from start to finish. These passages are often dense, detailed, and simply boring!

That's why it's important to have what we like to call an active reading plan. This means productively engaging with every passage so that you come away with the most valuable information.

What does that mean?

Because many SSAT Reading questions focus on main ideas, it means reading for the following in each passage:

  • Main ideas!
  • Statements of opinion or argument
  • Transition words
  • Keywords from the questions
  • Concluding statements

Try and visualize a map of the passage as you read through it. Where is the thesis sentence stating the main idea? Underline it so you can refer back as you’re answering questions. What is the structure of the passage as a whole? 

We also strongly recommend annotating the passage as you read for main ideas and keywords. This means doing more than just underlining -- try to paraphrase main ideas in your own words in the margin of each paragraph. This will help with passage engagement and recall.

5. Preview questions and predict answers

SSAT Reading questions aren't designed to be your friend. They'll be full of tempting trap answers. For this reason, a great strategy is to handle the questions in a 2-step approach:

  1. Preview the questions before you actively read the passage (so you know what to look for)
  2. Cover up the answer choices and predict your own answer for each question (so you don't get trapped)

If you actively read a passage and annotate for main ideas, you're well on your way to accurately predicting answers to these questions. Once you've made your prediction, simply cross off any answers that don't match.

6. Read, read, read

We encourage students to follow a regular independent reading schedule while preparing for the SSAT Reading section. This will ensure fluency in a wide range of literature.

Here are some of our recommendations for what you could be reading while you prep:

  • Editorials and opinion pieces
  • Journal articles
  • "Older" texts, such as literary classics and primary documents
  • Poetry
  • Creative nonfiction

For examples of what SSAT Reading Passages will look like, download our free collection of practice resources!


8 SSAT Reading Question Types

Let’s look at the SSAT’s list of Reading question types within these Specific and General categories, as specified on SSAT.org.

Question Type 1: Recognize the main idea

These questions test a student's ability to identify the main ideas of individual paragraphs or passages as a whole.

Sample question: Which of the following most accurately states the main idea of the passage?

To answer these questions successfully, think of the passage as a whole. Rule out any answer choices that focus on specific details rather than broad, overarching ideas. 

We strongly recommend that students annotate passages for main ideas when first engaging with the text. This anticipates main idea questions down the road and improves reading comprehension.

Question Type 2: Locate details

Detail questions test students' literal comprehension of specific details in the text. 

Sample question: According to the passage, why did Annie stop writing postcards? 

It's wise to go back and search in the passage to answer these detail questions. 

Look for keywords in the question (in the above example, the keyword is likely “postcards”), and try and find these in the passage. Treat it like a scavenger hunt, and always back up your answers with evidence from the text.

Question Type 3: Make inferences 

An inference is a logical conclusion based on evidence and reasoning.

Sample question: It can be inferred from the passage that…

With inferences, the idea is not directly stated in the text, but there is some clue in the text that leads to a logical conclusion of some kind. 

Make sure you do not make too much of a logical leap in your interpretation! SSAT inferences rarely take too many steps away from the passage.

For example, a text may state that "Bailey enjoys traveling." We can infer from this statement that Bailey finds pleasure in this activity, but we cannot infer that she enjoys traveling in Europe.

Question Type 4: Derive the meaning of a word or phrase from its context

Words-in-context questions can give students lots of quick, easy points on test day. These questions test the meaning of a word in a specific context.

Sample question: In the context of the passage, the word “store” most nearly means…

Keep in mind that these are words in context questions – even if you don’t know the word, you should be able to answer this question by looking for clues about how it is used in the text.

Even if you are 100% sure you know the meaning of the word, you must check the passage to verify that it is not being used in a non-traditional way! 

For more examples of these question types, check out our free collection of sample SSAT Reading questions below!

Question Type 5: Determine the author's purpose

In general, authors often have specific purposes for writing a passage, using a word, or referencing a certain detail. These questions test a student's ability to recognize this intent in a variety of ways.

Sample question 1: What is the author’s purpose for writing this passage?

Answer choices for these questions often include phrases “to describe,” “to identify,” or “to explain," etc.

With Author’s Purpose questions, it is helpful to think about the passage genre and source. If the passage is a scientific research study, it is probably seeking “to explain.” If it’s a newspaper editorial, “to persuade” could be a good choice.

Sometimes these questions are about the author’s purpose in terms of specific rhetorical choices, as in this example.

Sample question 2: The author most likely repeats the phrase “I have longed to move away” in the first stanza in order to…

To answer a question like this, it's vital to look at the context. Identify what the main idea is of the surrounding context--chances are, the right answer will have something to do with this!

Eliminate any answers that distort details, make grand claims, or reference ideas found elsewhere in the passage.

Question Type 6: Determine the author's attitude and tone

These questions are very similar to Author's Purpose questions. In fact, an author's "purpose" and "tone" are often linked in a passage. 

Sample question 1: The author of this passage would most likely agree that...

Sample question 2: The tone of the second paragraph could best be described as…

When answering these questions, look for the author’s specific choice of adjectives and verbs to help determine tone.

For example, if the author uses words like “thrill” and “unexpected,” this might lead you to identify a tone of “suspense" or "urgency."

Keep author's purpose in mind when answering these questions, too. If the author's purpose is to "explain" something, for example, the tone is likely to be "informative," "interested," or "professional."

Question Type 7: Understand and evaluate opinions/arguments

These questions test a student's literal comprehension of an author's opinions.

Sample question: The author uses all of the following claims to prove his point that the pros of vaccines outweigh the cons EXCEPT...?

For this type of question, strike off all the answer choices that you find in the passage until you have one remaining option.  

Question Type 8: Make predictions based on information in the passage

Prediction questions are very similar to inference questions, yet these tend to extend beyond details in the text.

Sample question: This passage most likely comes from…

Answer choices to these questions will include sources such as “an atlas,” “an essay,” or “a speech.”

Other variations of this question type may ask for the appropriate title of a passage or what the author might discuss next.

Ready to see some of these question types in action? You'll find sample passages and questions in our SSAT Reading Practice Questions worksheet, which you can download below.


Next Steps

Preparing for the SSAT can't happen overnight: we recommend at least 3 months of high-quality SSAT prep before going in to take the test.

The best way to ensure all your SSAT prep is effective? Work with an expertly trained tutor. Our experts put together the ranking of the 13 Best SSAT Tutoring Services. Check out the list and make sure you're only working with the best!

PrepMaven's SSAT tutors come from the most selective colleges and are trained with a proprietary curriculum developed by our co-founder. Plus, they're available at rates far lower than those offered by the test prep giants.

Contact PrepMaven today and get paired with an SSAT expert!

Ready to apply these strategies? Download our free SSAT Reading practice questions.

With this worksheet, you'll get:

  • 5 test-like SSAT Reading passages
  • 20 total questions
  • Answers and explanations



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 Score Release Dates and Information

SSAT Score Release Dates - When You'll Get That Score Report

SSAT Score Release Dates - When You'll Get That Score Report

Bonus Material: PrepMaven's SSAT Guidebook (2024)

You've studied hard for the Secondary Schools Admissions Test (SSAT). You've taken the test, and maybe more than once. Perhaps you've even finalized your list of private schools and prepared most of your application.

Now what?

Students have to wait a little while after sitting for an official SSAT before they can receive their results.

According to the Enrollment Management Association, the company that produces the SSAT, it can take up to 2 weeks after test materials have been received for a student to get their online score report. In some cases, however, students can receive scores earlier.

Knowing when to expect your SSAT scores is an important part of the test prep process, especially if you might be retaking the test. At PrepMaven, we've worked with hundreds of students who were able to improve their SSAT score by retaking the test with one of our Ivy-League test-prep experts!

In this post (which we update each year), we'll break down the testing and expected score release dates for the SSAT as soon as they're available. (Typically, the SSAT releases its SSAT calendar each year in August.) Read on for advice on when you can expect your SSAT scores!

Plus, we give readers access to our comprehensive SSAT Guidebook, which includes all of the following:

  • 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!

Here's what we cover:


SSAT Score Release Dates 2024

All SSAT test-takers will be able to review the official results of a recent SSAT online approximately 2 weeks after EMA has received testing materials. This timeline also applies to students who take the SSAT at international testing centers and SSAT Flex Test administrations.

This does not necessarily equate to 2 weeks after Test Day itself, however, and there are exceptions.

For example, students should be aware that sometimes they'll receive scores earlier or later than anticipated, depending on the testing season. In general, if you test during the busiest SSAT testing season, November through January, you can expect to wait those full 2 weeks. If you test earlier, on the other hand, you may expect scores sooner.

SSAT test dates will be announced on August 1, 2024, as the SSAT testing cycle for 2024 has already passed. However, you can expect to have test dates in each of the following months:

SSAT Date
September 2024
October 2024
November 2024
December 2024
January 2025
February 2025
April 2025

Accessing Your SSAT Scores Online

SSAT Score Release Dates 2020

You can view SSAT scores via a student or parent online SSAT account. However, you can only use a parent account to send SSAT scores to private schools.

Once scores are available, login to your SSAT account (either parent or student). Click on the "Check Scores" button. This will populate a page that will list out scores for every date you've taken the SSAT.

To view more information about scores from a given test date, click the red plus sign next to that row. You'll then see a link for "View Score Report," which opens a PDF of the student's full SSAT score report that can be saved and printed if desired.


SSAT Score Release Services

It's free to access your SSAT score report online via a parent account. However, families can purchase additional score release services, including text and email alerts, for an added fee.

Text or Email Score Alert

For $19, parents can sign up to receive a text or email SSAT score alert. This simply involves receiving a text or email notifying parents the instant scores are available online. The text / email won't include the full score report, however, which must still be accessed via an online parent account.

Mail Delivery of Paper Score Report

If you prefer to receive a paper copy of your student's SSAT score report, you can request U.S. mail delivery of one for a fee of $30. These can only be mailed to a home address, not to private schools.

FedEx deliveries of SSAT score reports are $35 (U.S. & Canada) and $65 (international). Again, these deliveries can only be made to home addresses.

Copy of Student's SSAT Writing Sample

Some parents wish to view a copy of their student's writing sample response, which is sent to SSAT score recipients. For $26, you can get a digital copy of this response, available online via a parent SSAT account.

To access the writing sample response, login to your SSAT account, click "Check Scores," and select the red plus sign next to the test date listed. You'll see a link here next to "View Score Report" that says "View Writing Sample."

Should you invest in one of these score release services? It depends on your needs.

For example, some families prefer to have an official paper copy of an SSAT score report or a digital snapshot of their student's SSAT writing sample for record-keeping or test prep purposes. Others may wish to be notified as soon as possible about score availability due to upcoming application deadlines, and thus might choose the text alert option.

Keep in mind that, regardless, your choice of these services won't impact your student's SSAT score submission to schools.

SSAT Scoring Options

You can request a rescoring of an SSAT exam if you suspect that your student accidentally took the wrong level of SSAT (i.e., they were scored at the wrong grade level for some reason). This is rare, but available to Middle and Upper-Level SSAT test-takers for a $59 fee.

Lastly, parents can request a hand scoring of their student's SSAT. This is an option for parents who feel that, for any reason, the computerized grading system might be inaccurate. This service is available for $100 but the EMA cautions that "few, if any, hand scores result in a score change."

If either of these scoring options results in a score change, this change will update in the online portal (for both parents and students) as soon as possible.

Note: It is possible to cancel your SSAT scores, but you can only do so by 5 PM EST of the Tuesday following your Test Day. Unfortunately, you won't be able to view your scores if you'd like to cancel.


Sending SSAT Scores to Schools

Parents can specify SSAT score recipients before or after a student takes an SSAT. Keep in mind that if you identify score recipients before the test, these schools will receive your student's scores before you receive them.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with private schools' application deadlines so that you know how much time you have to submit scores. This is especially important if your student is testing during the fall or winter of an application season.

Regardless of when you choose score recipients, here's how you send SSAT scores to schools:

  1. Log in to your parent/guardian SSAT online account (you can only send scores via a parent's account!)
  2. Click on "SSAT Scores"
  3. Click the red plus sign corresponding with the row of test scores you want to send (if your student has tested more than once)
  4. Use the search function to find the school of choice
  5. Click "Add" to add this school to your score recipient list
  6. Select "Yes, Share Scores" in the confirmation window that appears

If your student has already received their SSAT scores, they will be sent immediately to an added school. If you're still awaiting test results, added schools will receive score reports once your student's test is graded.

It's free to add or remove schools from your list--if you do remove a school, however, you have to be sure to do so before scores are released! Simply follow the steps above but select "Remove" to the right of the school you want to remove.

You might notice an "Advisor" portion of this score submission process. Only "Add an Advisor" if you are working with an educational consultant or organization and wish to add this licensed professional so that they can review your school list. SSAT.org walks you through how to do this on its website.

Our free SSAT guidebook covers everything you need to know about SSAT score reporting, and much more!


Other Tips

Many of our students and parents ask us about other components of SSAT scoring, including what counts as a "good" SSAT score, how SSAT scoring actually works, and whether or not private schools allow "superscoring."

We answer a number of these questions in the following posts, which we encourage our families to read:

With respect to superscoring, the Enrollment Management Association does not allow SSAT test-takers to superscore. This process refers to sending schools your highest scores only across all tests taken, an option that is available for SAT test-takers.

However, many private schools will essentially superscore a student's SSAT scores on their own. If you are unsure whether or not a school of choice does this, reach out to that school's admissions office to inquire.

If you have any further questions about interpreting your student's score report, you can utilize these EMA resources or, of course, give us a shout.


Next Steps

At PrepMaven, we understand that the process of taking the SSAT and applying to private school can be a daunting process. We're here to help with a significant portion of that journey: SSAT test prep.

That's why we've used our experience to put together a comprehensive, free resource to the SSAT. Our SSAT guidebook includes:

  • 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!

If you want more personalized help, our SSAT prep tutors have years of experience helping students develop strategies for success on this challenging standardized test. What's more, all have a proven track record of helping SSAT test-takers maximize their scoring potential.



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 Prep Resources (1)

SSAT Prep Resources: Your Guide

SSAT Prep Resources: Your Guide

Bonus Material: PrepMaven's SSAT Guidebook (2024)

Most students seeking admissions to a private school will have to take the SSAT. And, for many students, the SSAT score will be one of the key factors affecting their chances of admission.

The Secondary Schools Admissions Test may feel like a daunting part of the application process, and for good reason! The test itself spans a broad range of content, including Math, Verbal, Reading, and Writing.

At PrepMaven, we've got over two decades of experience helping students achieve their SSAT score goals. In our experience, two of the biggest factors behind student success are the quality of SSAT tutoring they receive and the quality of the SSAT Prep materials they work with.

In this post, we'll focus on how to ensure you're working with the best possible study materials for the SSAT. While a good tutor--like one of our Ivy League SSAT tutors--can make a huge difference, so can using the right practice tests, study guides, and worksheets.

Plus, we give readers access to our comprehensive SSAT Guidebook, which includes all of the following:

  • 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!

Here's what we cover in this post:


What Makes the SSAT Different (from Other Tests)

Much like other standardized tests, the SSAT is really unlike any test students experience in the classroom. It differs from standard elementary and middle school tests in three ways:

  • Duration
  • Content
  • Strategy

Duration

The SSAT is a veritable marathon of an exam! Students must prepare to sit through 3 hours and 5 minutes of intensive material with only 15 minutes of breaks.

They must also become fluent in answering a large number of questions in a short amount of time, a skill very rarely developed in middle school classrooms.

Here's a breakdown of the SSAT format and duration:

SSAT Section # Questions Duration
Writing Sample 1 25 minutes
Break n/a 5 minutes
Quantitative 1 25 30 minutes
Reading 40 40 minutes
Break n/a 10 minutes
Verbal 60 30 minutes
Quantitative 2 25 30 minutes
Experimental Section 16 15 minutes
Total 167 3 hours, 5 minutes

Content

While some content on the SSAT aligns with what students have already learned in school, especially when it comes to SSAT Math, some of it may feel foreign.

For example, the SSAT Verbal section requires students to complete 30 Synonym and 30 Analogies questions, which largely test vocabulary and the ability to identify relationships between ideas. Some middle schools encourage students to build vocabulary through the study of Latin and Greek word parts, for example, but this is not a required component of most curricula.

Even the SSAT Math section might test familiar content in unfamiliar ways, requiring students to rely more on strategy and logic than rote mathematic principles.

In some cases, students may encounter math principles on the SSAT that they have not yet learned in school, such as exponential equations, radical expressions, and scientific notation.

Take a look at this SSAT Math question here as an example of the way the SSAT tests familiar content:

SSAT Prep Resources_Math

This question is essentially testing a student's ability to complete long division using decimals. But notice how the language of the question itself requires a bit of translation to make this clear! Rather than simply saying "Divide 0.5 by 0.02," the SSAT complicates matters, obscuring a basic math principle with tricky wording.

Strategy

As we discuss in our post on SSAT scoring, students earn 1 point for every correct answer on the SSAT and lose 1/4 point for every wrong answer.

However, if a student leaves a question blank, they neither lose nor gain points. This is why we encourage many of our SSAT students to implement a guessing strategy on the SSAT as a whole. A solid guessing strategy means knowing when to guess on a question and when to leave it blank.

Here's an example the demonstrates this.

Guessing Strategy Example

Let’s compare two students: Guessing Gabby and Skipper Sam. 

They both took a Reading section and answered 25 out of 40 questions correctly. Gabby guessed on any questions she was unsure of, whereas Sam skipped them. Sadly for Gabby, it was not her lucky day, and all the questions she guessed were incorrect.

When we look at their scores, here’s what results.

Gabby: 25 questions correct, 15 incorrect -> 25 - 15/4 -> 21.75 raw score -> ~43 percentile

Sam: 25 questions correct, 0 incorrect -> 25 - 0 -> 25 raw score -> ~57 percentile

While both students got the same number of questions right, Sam came away with a 14% higher percentile score, all because she skipped questions she didn’t know! 

But that's not the only strategic component of the SSAT. The test rewards students who are strategic in other ways, too. Successful students may use specific elimination strategies on Verbal questions, for example, or active reading techniques on SSAT Reading.

This is a departure from traditional classroom tests, which often assess students' mastery of content rather than strategy.


3 Components of Effective SSAT Prep

So, the SSAT is unlike any other test you've taken in elementary or middle school. How do you prepare for it effectively?

Effective SSAT prep boils down to the three following components:

  • Time
  • Goals
  • Practice

These three things all help students master the three aspects of the SSAT that set it apart from other tests: duration, content, and strategy.

Time

We'll discuss the timeline and goal-setting aspect of SSAT prep in more detail in a forthcoming post. In general, however, students should establish a generous timeline for their SSAT prep to give themselves the time they need to master the "language" of the SSAT.

What does this look like?

We recommend that students allocate at least three months of dedicated SSAT prep prior to an official SSAT exam. We also encourage students to sit for at least two official SSATs to maximize their potential for a score increase.

SSAT Prep Resources

Goals

Usually, these months of prep begin with taking a diagnostic SSAT practice test, which can be valuable for establishing target scores, initial goals, and test prep trajectory. As we discuss in our post about SAT Goal Setting, test prep goals should be related to:

  • Average SSAT scores of admitted applicants to your school(s) of choice
  • Your diagnostic SSAT scores (your starting point)

Many students ask us what a "good" SSAT score is. We always answer this question by directing families to their schools of choice. Many secondary schools post information about competitive SSAT scores on their websites.

Otherwise, a quick call to an admissions office can clarify what goal SSAT scores your student should be working towards.

Additionally, we encourage students to think about maximizing their current raw SSAT scores as a means of obtaining a realistic target score. We discuss this in detail in our Scoring on the SSAT guide and What's a Good SSAT Score? post.

Practice

Consistent practice is the key to mastering strategy, content, and timing on the SSAT. The most successful SSAT students are those who regularly apply their learning through practice tests, homework, and timed drills.

When it comes to these practice materials, it's important to choose authoritative SSAT prep resources. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of these resources out there, but some do exist. We discuss these in the next section of this post.


The Best SSAT Prep Resources Out There

What are the best SSAT prep resources available to test-takers? Here are our recommendations.

1) Official SSAT Practice Online*

When it comes to test preparation of any kind, we always encourage students to practice as close to the source as possible. This means working through materials released by the test-writers themselves, if these are available.

The Enrollment Management Association doesn't release a ton of materials, but their Official SSAT Online Practice is ideal for students preparing for the Middle and/or Upper-Level SSAT.

Here's what comes with an SSAT Practice Online account:

  • A mini SSAT practice test (free)
  • 4 full-length practice tests
  • 15 section tests
  • 50+ Quizzes
  • Access to on-demand content
  • Other free resources

You do have to pay for the Practice Online. Currently, a one-year subscription is $80. 

2) Official SSAT Guide Books*

If you'd rather work from a physical book, we recommend that students purchase an Official SSAT Guide Book (Middle or Upper Level).

Each book includes:

One of these texts is $70 The practice tests included in these books are exactly the same as those offered online through the SSAT Practice Online package.

So, which should you choose?

As the SSAT is administered on paper, we always encourage students to have a physical SSAT resource on-hand. However, the SSAT Practice Online can be useful for students who enroll in remote tutoring and/or wish for extra practice via quizzes.

3) Tutorverse Upper-Level SSAT Practice Questions

Tutorverse is a third-party test prep company, but that being said, we do find the practice questions in this text to be more reflective of SSAT questions than other materials.

Plus, there are a lot of them! This book comes with more practice questions than 10 official SSAT tests, spanning all content areas on the SSAT (Verbal, Reading, Quantitative, and Writing). This is the text we recommend our students purchase to complement their work with one of our SSAT experts.

This Tutorverse text does not include any strategies or instructional material. It contains only practice SSAT questions.

4) Success on the Upper-Level SSAT Course Book

Students seeking a supplementary text to official SSAT or Tutorverse content should consider this text by Test Prep Works. It includes content instruction, suggested strategies, drills, practice questions, and one full-length practice test.

While not comprehensive, this book will give SSAT students a great resource for building fundamentals, especially when it comes to basic strategies and content review.

5) SSATprep.com (formerly Ivy Global)

SSATprep.com (formerly known as Ivy Global) provides educational services to a wide range of students, but now focuses on those preparing to take the SSAT. We find their practice SSAT content to be quite reliable and reflective of official content, especially in comparison to content released by other third-party education companies.

Students can purchase workbooks in SSAT English and Math as well as a book of their SSAT practice tests. It is also possible to download free SSAT practice content on their website.

And, of course, there's always PrepMaven's comprehensive SSAT guidebook, which covers everything from the logistics of scheduling a test to the content you'll be expected to know!


Other Valuable SSAT Prep Resources

Remember: the SSAT tests specific content in addition to strategy and comprehension. The SSAT Math section, for example, is the most content-heavy of all the test's sections, so it's wise to supplement your SSAT prep with some straight-up content work!

Here are some great online resources for math content:

Success on the SSAT Verbal section requires a solid working vocabulary. Expand your word bank by making use of these Verbal resources:

  • Merriam Webster's Vocabulary Builder ($)
  • Membean ($)


Next Steps

The most effective SSAT test prep keeps in mind what makes this test unique: duration, content, and strategy. It also makes use of authoritative resources, including practice tests and content instruction.

We do recommend that students make use of official SSAT content when prepping for the test, but it is also possible to supplement preparation with other tools, especially when it comes to content review.

Because we know how stressful SSAT prep can be, we've used our experience to put together a comprehensive, free resource to the SSAT. Our SSAT guidebook includes:

  • 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!

Of course, the best way to set your SSAT prep up for success is to work with professionals! We are always excited to match SSAT students with experts as they navigate this component of secondary school admissions.



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.


Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

Bonus Material: PrepMaven's Summer 2024 Calendar

Many colleges--including Princeton University--ask their applicants to answer the following question:

How did you spend your last two summers?

For most high school students, especially upperclassmen, summertime is a chance to unwind, catch up on sleep, and spend time with friends.

Relaxation is vital and frequently well-earned! 

Yet filling your summers with other meaningful activities, including volunteering, research opportunities, and college programs, can be doubly vital. Rich summer experiences can help you solidify and jumpstart your classroom learning while connecting you with like-minded peers.

Plus, they can make it easier to answer that college application question--when that time comes!

Whether you’re a Princeton local or a student keen to spend time in proximity to Princeton University, this post is for you. Keep reading for insight into the best Princeton summer programs for high school students.

You'll also get access to our Summer Calendar, which can help students organize the programs and activities they'll be pursuing this summer. This calendar also includes information about virtual activities and online programs.

Grab this below.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students
  2. Princeton-Based Summer Programs
  3. Bonus: PrepMaven's Summer 2024 Calendar

Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

There are currently three Princeton summer programs for high school students directly affiliated with Princeton University. These include the Laboratory Learning Program, the Summer Journalism Program, and Princeton Sports Camps.

If you’re eager to learn more about academic year opportunities at Princeton University, check out our post on Princeton courses for high school students

working with a pipette in a laboratory

Princeton University’s Laboratory Learning Program

This “full-time, free research experience in the sciences or engineering” is available to students 16 and older at the time of applying. 

If accepted to this program, high school students participate in a research project with faculty members and fellow researchers for 7-10 weeks in the summer. Research opportunities vary every year.

Here’s a glimpse of summer 2024’s research projects, available in natural sciences and engineering:

Students can specify up to two projects they’re interested in when applying in the spring prior to the Laboratory Learning program’s start. The application period runs from February 15 to March 15, 2024. 

**Note: High school students do not receive any kind of academic credit for participating in this program. Nor does the Laboratory Learning program give Princeton University applicants a greater advantage in admissions.

Princeton Summer Journalism Program

Princeton’s Summer Journalism Program is a free residential summer opportunity for eligible high school juniors. 

Every summer, forty participants spend ten days on Princeton’s campus, learning from professors, journalists, and alumni and collaborating together to produce the Princeton Summer Journal (published at program culmination).

The best part about this program? Its impact extends beyond the summer intensive. Following the program, each student is matched with a college advisor, who helps them navigate the college admissions process their senior fall. 

This program is highly competitive—only 40 participants are chosen from a pool of hundreds.

Applications open each year in November and close in February; the application deadline in 2023 is February 28.

**Note: Preference in participant selection is given to high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds.

rowing practice on a lake

Princeton Sports Camps

Princeton University has been offering summer sports camps and clinics to young athletes since the 1990s. These camps are directed by Princeton University varsity coaches and held on-campus.

Overnight attendants stay in campus dorms and eat their meals at campus dining halls.

Camps are available for the following sports:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross Country
  • Fencing
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Squash
  • Softball
  • Strength & Conditioning
  • Swimming & Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track & Field
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Wrestling

Princeton-Based Summer Programs

There are numerous Princeton summer programs for high school students hosted on Princeton University’s campus. 

While these are not directly organized by the university, they offer high school students a chance to experience the campus and various facilities firsthand.

Many of these programs are geared towards gifted learning, making them ideal for precocious learners eager to dive deep into subjects like coding, debate, journalism, and more. 

Blair Arch at Princeton

W.E.B. DuBois Scholars Summer Institute

At the W.E.B. DuBois Scholars Summer Institute, aspiring young scholars gather on Princeton University's campus to deepen their time management, critical thinking, collaborative learning, and problem-solving skills. The Institute offers Pre-Scholar and Scholar Academies, for rising 8th and 9th graders and rising 10th-12th graders, respectively.

Pre-Scholar Academies are 4-week summer intensives. Participants participate in either the Junior Achievers Academy (for rising 8th graders) or the Fellows Mentoring Academy (for rising 9th graders). Scholar Academies are 5-week summer intensives and include engineering, leadership, business/finance, and pre-med/neuroscience honors programs.

Summer Institute for the Gifted

Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

SIG participants have the chance to live on campus and utilize Princeton’s amazing facilities during this summertime intensive.

The Summer Institute for the Gifted at Princeton brings together talented students from all over the world for three weeks. As an SIG camper, you’ll have a chance to explore multidisciplinary curriculum spanning Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, Humanities, and Fitness and Recreation on Princeton’s campus. 

When not taking such courses, students can explore the Princeton Art Museum, Frist Campus Center, Prospect Garden, and more. Students age 13-17 are welcome to apply to this program.

Admission to the Summer Institute for the Gifted program is on a rolling, first-come, first-served basis for qualified students. The priority enrollment deadline for 2024 is May 20.

Note: Princeton University is not a listed location for SIG Innovators Programs in 2024 , but students can participate in SIG programs on-campus at Yale, UCLA, Emory, Bryn Mawr, Berkeley, and University of Michigan, or online.

Clio Hall at Princeton

JSA Summer School at Princeton University

Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School StudentsNote: JSA is not offering a program on-campus at Princeton in 2024. This summer, programs are offered in California, Washington DC, and even Micronesia There is also an option to participate in some of the programs online.

This “pre-college academic experience” with the Junior State of America (JSA) gives students a chance to build leadership skills, debate with their peers, and participate in civic engagement activities.

JSA offers three-week programs at a variety of college campuses each summer, including Princeton. Princeton participants engage in weekly debate workshops and JSA’s speaker program, which brings students in close proximity to the nation’s best thinkers, lobbyists, analysts, and political leaders.

JSA also has a Freshman Scholars Program at Princeton, designed for rising 9th graders.

If JSA program cost is prohibitive, don’t worry! JSA does offer scholarships to eligible participants.

iDTech

Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

For over ten years, iDTech has been giving students a chance to explore tech in its many forms through a summer intensive at Princeton. At this STEM summer camp, students explore machine learning, coding, artificial intelligence, robotics, and beyond.

iDTech prides itself on its stellar instructors (often industry experts), intimate class sizes, and accelerated, fun style of learning.

Classes are held at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Quadrangle Club, and Cloister Inn. iD tech camps, for students ages 7-17, are each one week long; iD coding and AI academy camps, for students ages 13-18, are two weeks.

Chancellor Green rotunda at Princeton

Program in Algorithmic and Combinational Thinking (PACT)

Aspiring computer scientists and mathematicians won’t want to overlook PACT, a unique summer program that gives students a chance to dive deep into the world of theoretical computer science.

This five-week educational program emphasizes the math and algorithms students need to know to succeed in the computer science field. It’s funded in part by Rutgers University and the National Science Foundation. 

The only requirements for this program? “High school algebra, the willingness to work hard and be challenged, and, above all, the desire to learn.”

Some summer program students may be eligible to continue studying on Saturdays throughout the academic year.

Note: For 2024, PACT will have an option to participate virtually as well as in-person on Princeton's campus. 

Princeton Tutoring/PrepMaven Courses

PrepMaven and its sister site, Princeton Tutoring, have been providing academic tutoring, test, prep, and college counseling services since 2005.

The co-founders of the company are Princeton University graduates, and their team of 150+ tutors/instructors are comprised mostly of Princeton University undergraduates and graduates.

While their office is located within the Princeton Entrepreneurial Hub, they work with students across the country through live & online courses:

Private tutoring is also available if preferred or if students can't make the courses.

We want to reiterate that attendance of any of these programs does not advantage Princeton University applicants in any way. It’s important to apply to these programs for the experiences they offer, first and foremost.

Download PrepMaven's 2024 Summer Calendar

Eligible students have a lot to choose from when it comes to competitive Princeton summer programs for high schoolers. That's why we've created PrepMaven's 2024 Summer Calendar, a helpful tool for organizing this summer's activities, particularly those that are now virtual / online.

With this calendar, you'll be able to:

  1. Identify your experiences of interest and start / end dates (if applicable)
  2. Narrow down this list of experiences to your top 3-5
  3. Block out these experiences on a digital calendar for an easy birds-eye view of your summer
  4. Find extra details and links to all of the summer programs mentioned in this list (we’ve done the work for you!)
  5. Document your time so you can feel confident filling out your college application resume down the road


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.


Cancelling SAT Scores

Canceling SAT Scores: Should You Do It?

Canceling SAT Scores: Everything You Need to Know

Every digital SAT test-taker has the option of canceling their scores for a given test date.

This means that the College Board will effectively erase your scores. They will not appear on your record in any way, and you won't be able to report these SAT scores to colleges.

This is a permanent move! So why might you want to make it?

There are several reasons why canceling SAT scores may be a good idea, which we discuss in this post. If you do opt to cancel your scores, however, you have to act quickly and follow very specific guidelines.

Here's what cover in this post:


Canceling SAT Scores: What It Means

Yes, it is possible to cancel your SAT scores. But what does this actually mean?

Canceling your scores means all of the following:

  • You will not receive official scores for the SAT you've taken
  • The College Board will essentially not score your test 
  • If it has already scored your test, or part of it, the College Board will cancel those scores
  • Colleges won't ever be able to see these scores (and you won't either!)

Once you have submitted your request for cancellation, that's it--you won't be able to change your mind and request a rescoring. Because you'll never see these scores, they are also not eligible for SAT Superscoring or reporting to colleges.

It will be as if you never actually took the test itself! That being said, it usually isn't the right move to make. Your SAT score can be a very valuable piece of information, even if you don't do well: it'll tell you what you need to focus on and give you a sense of your current capacities. 

It's especially helpful when used in conjunction with personalized tutoring from an expert SAT coach: our SAT tutors can look at your score report and help you develop a winning digital SAT prep strategy so that your next score is the kind you want to keep. 

This might sound like a pretty big decision to make, rare as it might be. We'll walk you through how to cancel your scores and then we'll discuss reasons why you might go this route after taking an official SAT.


How to Cancel Your SAT Scores

There are two ways you can cancel your SAT scores:

  • At the test center itself (on Test Day)
  • By 11:59 PM Eastern time one week after your test date

1) At the Test Center

If you decide to cancel your scores on Test Day itself, all you need to do is ask the on-site test coordinator (often a proctor) for a Request to Cancel Test Scores form.

Fill out this form completely and return it to the test coordinator. The form requires students to submit all of the following information:

  • Official test date
  • Name and address
  • Birthdate
  • Registration number
  • Test center number and name
  • Name of the test you are canceling (includes SAT and SAT Subject Tests)
  • Signature and date

If you are canceling your scores due to sudden illness or equipment failure (such as a calculator malfunction), your proctor will have to fill out this little box at the bottom of the form:

Canceling SAT Scores

2) After Leaving the Test Center

Some students decide to cancel their scores after they leave the Test Center, either that very afternoon or within the next few days. You can still cancel your scores at this point, provided you do so by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time within 1 week following your test day.

The College Board encourages test-takers to confirm this deadline with their test coordinator.

Most students take the test on Saturday, so this would mean that you have until Saturday of the following week at 11:59 p.m. to cancel your scores.

If you decide to cancel your stores after you've left the test center, download the Request to Cancel Test Scores form, complete it fully, and submit the form by fax or overnight mail delivery.

Canceling by fax:

610-290-8978

Canceling by U.S. Postal Service Express Mail:

SAT Score Cancellation
P.O. Box 6228
Princeton, NJ 08541-6228

Canceling by any other overnight service:

SAT Score Cancellation
1425 Lower Ferry Road
Ewing, NJ 08618

Why can't you cancel online or over the phone? The College Board requires students' actual signatures for score cancellation, so this necessitates a paper submission.


Should I Cancel My Scores?

Now comes the big question: should you cancel your SAT scores?

On its website, the College Board states that you can cancel your scores "If you feel you didn't do your best on the SAT." This is a rather vague stipulation, however.

What does "your best" look like on the SAT? And how do you know if you've reached it without a score report in front of you?

These are tough questions to answer, especially because it's fairly normal for many test-takers to feel uncertain about their performance after an SAT. It's also virtually impossible to predict test scores based on "how you feel."

You may feel that you've bombed the SAT, for example, when the opposite is the case; conversely, you may feel that you've aced it, when, in reality, you haven't surpassed your goals.

We also like to remind students that many colleges allow students to Superscore, which means that they will only officially review a student's highest SAT section scores across test dates.

You might feel that you haven't performed to your full potential on an SAT. However, you might have done exceptionally well on one individual section (such as SAT Math), which can be valuable for Superscoring down the road. In this case, canceling your scores would be unwise, as it would preclude you from a potentially awesome Superscore.

So is there a situation when a student should cancel their scores?

Yes!

Some students may fall ill during the exam itself or arrive at the test center very much under the weather. While it is possible to take the SAT when sick, illness can profoundly impact student performance. We've seen it happen time and time again.

The same goes for any equipment malfunction, such as a calculator going wonky or testing accommodation supports malfunctioning.

Thus, feel free to cancel your scores due to:

  • Illness or
  • Equipment failure / malfunction

These are unfortunate scenarios, and ones that definitely merit a score cancellation. But if you feel like canceling just because you felt it didn't go so well, hold off for now.


Frequently Asked Questions

Students often have a few more questions about score cancellation. Here are our answers.

Can I still cancel my scores if I took the test with accommodations?

Yes! It is possible to cancel scores from SATs taken with accommodations.

Your deadline for submitting a score cancellation form may be different, however, if you take the SAT on a non-standard Test Date. School-based test dates typically require submission by the Monday after the published test date.

What if I don't have access to a fax machine?

You can still send your cancellation form via overnight mail. Just make sure you use the right address based on the carrier you've chosen.

How many times can I cancel my scores?

The College Board does not state a limit to the number of times you can cancel. However, from a time and cost perspective, we caution students against canceling SAT scores more than once (and only due to illness or equipment failure).

Will I ever get to see the scores I've canceled?

Unfortunately, no. You won't be able to view these scores, and colleges will not be able to do so either.

What if my college(s) do not Superscore?

This is a good question.

However, many colleges encourage applicants to submit all of their official SAT scores. For this reason, we still encourage students to cancel their scores only due to illness or equipment failure.


Next Steps

It is possible to cancel your SAT scores, but we urge students to use this option only if they've experienced sudden illness or equipment malfunction. If you are worried about a poor SAT test score, the best thing to do is to make sure you're prepared for the next retake. 

By working with one of our top-scoring SAT experts, you can make sure that you won't need to cancel your test score! They'll help you go into the test prepared and confident, so that you can get the score you need for your college applications. 

Remember: it's perfectly natural to not feel as confident about one particular Test Day, especially if you are just starting your SAT journey. That's why we recommend that all high school students set aside the right amount of time for preparation and frequent practice tests.

What counts as a "good" SAT score? This is a natural next question to ask. Find our answer in this post here.


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 Testing Accommodations_ Your Guide

Digital SAT Testing Accommodations: A Guide

Digital SAT Testing Accommodations: A Guide

1 in 5 children in the U.S. have learning and attention challenges. Such challenges include ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing deficits, and others.

Such learning and attention challenges can be hard enough in a general education classroom! Many educators simply do not have the resources necessary to support students navigating learning challenges.

When it comes to college admissions, students face a potentially greater challenge: standardized testing.

With tests like the SAT and ACT, students are expected to work through a large amount of material in a short amount of time. For students with learning challenges, this can feel virtually impossible--even if they are well-versed in content and strategies.

The good news is that students with learning challenges and/or documented disabilities may be able to qualify for digital SAT testing accommodations, which can enable extended time, online testing, and more.

Going about acquiring SAT testing accommodations can be a complex process. The College Board requires specific documentation, and there are lots of nuances to the process that most parents are simply unaware of.

We get asked about testing accommodations all the time as test prep experts, and we’re here to give you everything you need to understand and pursue SAT accommodations.

Here’s what we cover in this post:


What are SAT Testing Accommodations?

The SAT is a marathon of a standardized test, requiring test-takers to work through the following four sections in just under four hours, with only 10 minutes of "breaks:"

SAT Section

Timing (minutes)

Questions

Reading and Writing Module 1

32

27

Reading and Writing Module 2

32

27

Break

10

-

Math Module 1

35

22

Math Module 2

35

22

For students with learning challenges, it can be incredibly difficult to get through each of these sections in the time and minimal breaks allotted. 

The generic paper-and-pencil format of the SAT may also be an obstacle for students with sight impairment and/or other disabilities.

To ensure that such students are not at a disadvantage when taking the test, the SAT offers testing accommodations. These may include extended time, for example, or extra breaks, as well as accommodations for seeing and reading.

Here’s what the College Board says, in general, about SAT accommodations:

“The College Board is committed to making sure that students with disabilities can take tests with the accommodations they need. All reasonable requests are considered.”

Accommodations apply to any test the College Board publishes, including the digital SAT, AP exams, SAT subject tests, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT.

One crucial thing to remember about accommodations on the Digital SAT is that they don't necessarily make the test easier. While having additional time can be a huge benefit to your score, you should factor in the additional endurance needed to sit through the test with one and a half time or double time accommodations. 

We've seen many students go into the test unprepared for how the additional length would affect their focus and energy! It's one of the reasons getting high-quality prep in advance of the test is so crucial: our digital SAT expert tutors can help you get ready for the test while also making sure to take any accommodations into account. 


Is My Student Eligible for Accommodations?

Students must meet the College Board’s eligibility requirements in order to apply for (and ultimately receive) testing accommodations.

According to the College Board,

“Some students with documented disabilities are eligible for accommodations on College Board exams. Students cannot take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or AP Exams with accommodations unless their request for accommodations has been approved by Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).”

The College Board boils this eligibility down to four criteria:

  • Applicants must have a documented disability
  • Participation in a College Board exam is impacted
  • Students need the requested accommodation
  • Applicants receive accommodation on school tests

“Applicants must have a documented disability”

This is probably the most important eligibility requirement for College Board testing accommodations. Without documentation, students will not be approved for accommodations.

While the type of documentation depends on the specific disability, examples include a medical report or psychoeducational evaluation.

We’ll talk more about documentation later on in this post. (Jump there now.)

“Participation in a College Board exam is impacted”

Basically, this requirement means that a student’s disability limits “functionality” on some or all aspects of a College Board exam. 

A student may not be able to sit for an extended period of time, for example, or may have trouble reading small-print exam material. Medical issues may require a student to take breaks as needed during a standardized test.

"The student needs the requested accommodation"

Applicants have to show that they actually need (and could benefit from) testing accommodations. Again, this is where documentation comes into the picture.

"The student receives accommodation on school tests"

Most test-takers approved for College Board accommodations already get accommodations on exams in high school. 

But, just because you receive accommodations on school exams does not immediately qualify you for CB accommodations. You’ll still have to provide adequate documentation to support your need and go through the College Board’s request and approval process.


Types of SAT Testing Accommodations

What kinds of testing accommodations are available to students? 

These are the most common:

  • Extended time (time and a half, double-time, or more time)
  • Extended breaks and/or extra breaks (breaks between test sections, breaks as needed)
  • Reading and seeing accommodations (such as Braille or large-print text)
  • Screen reader for the digital test

However, the College Board makes clear that accommodations are not necessarily limited to those they list on their website. It’s willing to provide any accommodation according to documented need.

SAT Testing Accommodations_QUOTE

Keep in mind that accommodations don’t necessarily apply to all sections of the SAT. 

Students must demonstrate a need for individual and/or all sections (Reading and Writing; Math) to receive full test accommodations.

If a student earns reading accommodations, however, they earn accommodations on all sections, given that reading is an inherent component of the entire SAT.


Documentation Guidelines

Proper documentation is probably the single most important component of requesting SAT testing accommodations!

Be sure to follow the College Board’s documentation guidelines carefully, even if you're working with your student's school. 

Basically, this means submitting the appropriate, extensive documentation for the following two things:

Keep in mind that doctor’s notes and/or IEPs don’t guarantee testing accommodations. If you don’t have an IEP, you can still request accommodations with other documentation (this just requires a formal documentation review).

Here’s what documentation is needed for a student with ADHD requesting testing accommodations:

  • Clearly stated ADHD diagnosis by a licensed professional, with reference to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Current evaluations and testing (i.e., no more than five years old for educational evaluations)
  • Detailed history of ADHD, through teacher observations, medical reports, etc.
  • Evaluator’s full report of the diagnosis
  • Common Diagnostic Test results
  • Description of functional limitation
  • Rationale for accommodations
  • Professional credentials (for all evaluators, etc.)

This likely sounds like a lot! For this reason, working with school coordinators/personnel is essential to ensuring you have the documentation needed to get approved for accommodations (see below).

The College Board has different documentation guidelines for different disabilities. Find the full list here.


Requesting SAT Testing Accommodations

Documentation is the hardest part of requesting accommodations. The actual process of submitting a request is relatively straightforward.

1) Work with your school

The College Board strongly encourages families to work with their student’s school to request accommodations. Quite simply, it’s a lot easier to do so and enables a more streamlined process.

(It is possible to request accommodations on your own. Here’s how.)

Parents will work with a school-appointed SSD Online Disability Accommodation Management coordinator, who will submit a request for accommodations (including all viable documentation) using SSD Online.

Please note that parents must sign a parental consent form prior to this process if the student is under 18 years of age.

The College Board notifies the SSD coordinator and the student when a decision is made. If approved for accommodations, you’ll receive an eligibility code, which students will need when they register for a College Board test.

SAT Testing Accommodations_QUOTE (1)

2) Request accommodations as soon as possible

This is a long process--in fact, it can take seven weeks to request and earn accommodations! This is true even if you work with your school to request accommodations.

We strongly encourage families to request testing accommodations as soon as they can, preferably at least three months out from the testing date.


Registering for the SAT With Accommodations

If you are approved for testing accommodations, congrats! Now, it’s important to register for the SAT with those accommodations.

When approved, students receive a seven-digit SSD Eligibility Code. SSD coordinators also have this code on their online dashboards.

When registering for the SAT online, all you need to do is input this code when prompted. Your SAT admission ticket should also specify this code. (If it does not for any reason, contact SSD online.)

On Test Day, it’s essential to bring your SSD Eligibility Letter with you. Depending on the accommodations requested, you’ll either take the SAT at your school or a local testing center.

Once approved for SAT testing accommodations, a student enjoys accommodations until one year after they graduate.

Remember: accommodations apply to any College Board test--not just the SAT!


What Happens if I’m Not Approved?

If you aren’t approved for accommodations, don’t worry! You may still have a shot at getting approved.

The College Board will explain its reasoning for rejection in a follow-up letter. Most often, the CB denies students’ requests for accommodations because of the following:

  • Insufficient or non-supportive documentation
  • "More information is needed"

In some cases, the College Board may partially approve a request. This means that the College Board may grant only some of a student's requested accommodations.

If you need to provide more sufficient documentation, you can resubmit a request with your SSD coordinator. You can also resubmit a request with your coordinator that supplies more information or "appeals" the decision for partial approval.


A Counselor Weighs In

We recognize that the process of requesting SAT testing accommodations can be strenuous. So we spoke with Princeton High School counselor, Nipurna Shah, about the components of the process.

What are the best resources available to parents navigating testing accommodations?

Typically to receive accommodations, a student usually has to have either a 504 plan or an IEP.  A 504 is not special education.

What are the common challenges you see in the process of getting accommodations?  

The most common difficulty is documentation that does not identify the specific diagnosis and reason for the diagnosis.

What is your best advice for getting SAT testing accommodations?

Speak to your school personnel as soon as you can. They can support and advise you throughout the process.


SAT Testing Accommodations: Final Thoughts

Students with documented learning challenges and/or disabilities can apply for SAT testing accommodations. These can enable a student to sit for the SAT with extended time, extra breaks, and other modifications.

The process of requesting accommodations can be fairly involved, even if you work with your school. For this reason, we strongly encourage our families to start this process as soon as possible!

Accommodations are valid until one year after a student graduates.

As the test prep experts, we are here to assist with your student's journey to a competitive SAT score. Learn more about our SAT programs and services here!


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.


Concise Questions on the SAT and ACT

Concision Questions on the SAT & ACT

Concision Questions on the SAT & ACT

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s Concise Questions Worksheet with FREE Practice Questions

ACT English and SAT Writing & Language don't just test grammar rules

These sections are also very interested in your ability to effectively express ideas. In fact, only about 50% of the questions on each test directly concern grammar.

The rest of those questions? They're what we like to call Expression of Ideas questions, which test students' knowledge of concise, precise, and logical writing.

In this post, we discuss one of the most important of these question types: concision questions. You’ll find our strategy for approaching these questions and guided examples from official practice tests.

We also give you a chance to apply these rules in practice with our free concise questions worksheet, which includes practice questions, guided examples from official practice tests, and answers/explanations.

Grab a copy of this worksheet below before we get started.

Here's what we cover:


Where You'll Find Concision Questions on the SAT/ACT

Students can expect to directly answer concise questions on the following sections of these two tests:

  • ACT English
  • SAT Writing & Language

Approximately half of the questions on ACT English and SAT Writing & Language test students' capacity to express ideas effectively. But how many of these Expression of Ideas questions test concise writing? It varies from test to test, but we've assessed officially released practice exams for both the SAT and ACT and come up with the following approximations:

ACT SAT
8-10 concision questions
(out of 75 questions)
3-5 concision questions
(out of 44 questions)

Students should also be aware that the ability to write concisely is a critical skill. They should be prepared to showcase this skill if they choose to take the SAT or ACT essay, as essay readers will pay close attention to a student's use of language in their response.

In the meantime, how can you tell if you're dealing with a concise question on ACT English or SAT Writing & Language?

Take a look at the answer choices. With these questions, you'll often notice the same essential idea expressed in different ways. In many cases, some answers are much longer than others, or you'll see a DELETE option (but this is not always the case).

Here is a preview of the SAT guided example question we'll be working through later on in this post:

Concise Question on the SAT

Notice how the answer choices all contain the word "itself." Three of these answer choices have additional words ("again," "with damage and," and "possibly"). One answer is dramatically shorter than the others (B). This is a Concise question!


What it Means to Be Concise

Some students are familiar with the word "concise." But many ACT and SAT students are new to this word. Concise writing, after all, is not necessarily a staple of high school English curricula (although it should be!).

An easy definition for concise is "to the point." If one is concise, one is very direct.

A better definition is to use as few words as possible to express an idea. This is the definition we want students to keep in mind as they navigate concise questions on SAT Writing & Language and ACT English.

Concise writing is NOT:

  • redundant
  • "fluffy" or
  • overly wordy

But concise writing definitely IS:

  • succinct
  • to the point and
  • brief

We strongly encourage students to practice writing concisely when completing English assignments, as a good way to boost fluency in this question type. Take a look at a sentence from one of your recent essays, for example. Can you use fewer words to express essentially the same idea? Most likely, you can!

In the next section, we discuss tips for approaching concise questions on the SAT and ACT, which require a more specific strategy than concise writing in general.

To get a head start on this question type, download our free Concise Questions Worksheet, which includes additional practice questions and explanations.


3 Simple Rules for Approaching Concision Questions

Keep the following rules in mind whenever a concise question appears on ACT English or SAT Writing & Language:

  • Read the full context
  • Identify the essential idea
  • Eliminate redundant and/or wordy answers

1. Read the full context

This is, of course, the most important step for virtually all questions on ACT English / SAT Writing & Language. Students should never skim these 2 sections or read only the underlined portion of each question! Context can profoundly influence how you approach a question, and whether or not you select the right answer.

With concise questions, the full context can help you out with the next rule: identifying the essential idea! It can also clue you into ideas already expressed in the non-underlined passage so that you can be on the hunt for repeated ideas in the answer choices.

2. Identify the essential idea

Ask yourself: What is the core of the idea the writer is expressing here? How would I express this idea concisely?

You don't have to spend a ton of time answering these questions. But it is vital to answer them, as it can prime you for selecting the answer choice that "trims the fat."

3. Eliminate redundant and/or wordy answers

Now comes the fun part: elimination time. If you've identified that you're working with a concise question, read for full context, and identified the essential idea, it's time to cross off answers that:

  • contain redundant or repeated ideas
  • are just way too wordy

If you aren't sure if an answer choice is too wordy, return to that essential idea you identified. Ask yourself: Is there any way I could say this in fewer words?

You'll also want to pay very close attention to the shortest answer choice (or DELETE, if that's an option). These answers aren't right 100% of the time, but they are often an excellent place to start with concise questions.

Be sure to plug in your final answer choice to ensure that it is, in fact, the right one. This plugging in step can be revealing, especially if you've chosen an answer that is too short (yes, this is possible) or wordy.

We'll apply these rules now to 2 guided example questions.


Guided Examples 

The following two examples are taken from an official SAT practice test and an ACT practice test.

Guided Example #1: SAT Concise Question

This question is from the CollegeBoard's Official SAT Practice Test #1.

              Concise Question on the SAT

The full sentence in question reads: "The pattern Box observed in 2012 may repeat itself again, with harmful effects on the Arctic ecosystem." The essential idea here is the potential repetition of an observed pattern.

As the word repeat is already in context, we can eliminate A, as "again" would make this choice redundant. Context also says that this pattern's repetition would have "harmful effects." We can cross off C as "damage" is a similar and redundant idea. Lastly, because of the word "may" in context, we can eliminate answer D, which also includes the notion of potentiality ("possibly").

Our answer is B! (Notice how this is also the shortest option.)

Guided Example #1: SAT Concise Question

sample ACT English, concision
example ACT English question created by PrepMaven, all rights reserved

The full sentence, as currently written, reads: “Reproduction appeared to remix genes (the mysterious and even astonishing genetic elements that program the physical traits we end up observing) in surprising and confusing ways.” The essential idea concerns how heredity works.

Right away, we might notice that while some of the answers sound a little awkward, they're all technically correct on a grammatical level. That should help alert us to think about concision!

We can then look for the shortest answer, which is D. We check it by reading it in context, and it looks good!

To give a final check, we look at the other options. For choice A, we see that the phrase "mysterious and even astonishing" is a bit redundant, and "surprising and confusing" is also repetitive. Similarly, choice B is repetitive with the phrase "surprising and unexpected." Choice C gives us "mysterious and little-known (at that time)," which is also repetitive.

Having checked those longer answers and confirmed that they all contain phrases that have unnecessary, repetitive words, we can feel good about our choice of D, the most concise answer!

Download Our Concise Questions Worksheet

Now it's time for you to apply our strategy for approaching concise questions on the SAT and ACT to some practice questions. 

You can do this right now with our free Concise Questions worksheet.

Concise Questions on the SAT:ACT

With this worksheet, you get:

  • A recap of the rules and strategy discussed in this post
  • Guided examples of concise questions from official practice tests
  • 10 FREE test-like practice questions with detailed answers/explanations 


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 Superscore_Your Ultimate Guide (1)

What is SAT Superscore? Your 2024 Guide

What Does It Mean to SAT Superscore?

Every fall and winter, thousands of high school students will submit their SAT scores to the colleges of their choice.

Some of these students will superscore their SAT score reports when submitting to the schools on their list. Other students will make use of Score Choice. 

What does it mean to superscore the SAT? What is Score Choice? Most importantly, which SAT score submission option is best for you?

In this post, we discuss the following:


What is Superscoring?

Some U.S. universities and colleges superscore the SAT. In a nutshell, this means that these schools only officially consider a student’s highest SAT section scores.

Given that most SAT test-takers sit for the exam at least twice, this can be a valuable tool for college applicants.

Here’s an example of SAT superscoring in action.

Ery takes the SAT in November 2018 and scores a 580 (Verbal) and 610 (Math). She takes the SAT in May 2019 and scores a 620 (Verbal) and 590 (Math). 

Ery decides to superscore her results for eligible colleges on her list. These colleges will see all of her SAT scores, but they will only officially review the 620 (Verbal) and 610 (Math) section scores, her highest across the two exams.

Keep in mind that most colleges that superscore the SAT will still require students to submit all of their SAT score reports. They will, however, only officially review the highest SAT section scores.

Note: Superscoring is not a CollegeBoard tool, while SAT Score Choice is. We'll discuss this more later.

Some students worry that taking the SAT two or three times may reflect badly on their college applications. 

This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Most students take the SAT at least twice, and many experience a score increase the second or third time around. We discuss the best ways to achieve realistic score increases in our SAT Goal Setting Guide.

There is no evidence to suggest that taking the SAT more than once impacts the college admissions decision. 


Which Colleges Superscore the SAT?

Not all college superscore the SAT. Plus, those that do may have additional requirements for score submission.

The most common requirement is that students still submit all of their SAT scores in order to be eligible for superscoring--no matter how many times they have taken the test.

Thus, it’s vital to check a college’s application requirements before submitting scores. These are almost always specified in detail on the school’s website.

It’s also possible to review a university’s SAT score policies by using BigFuture, a CollegeBoard tool.

Simply enter a school of choice into the BigFuture search bar, select “Applying” on the left-hand side of the school profile, and click “Application Requirements.”

Here’s the profile that appears for Pomona College.

If you scroll down and select "Application Requirements," you'll see how Pomona reviews SAT scores.

Notice how Pomona College accepts a student’s “highest section scores across test dates.” This means that Pomona superscores!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a handful of competitive colleges that do superscore the SAT:

  • Pomona College
  • Duke University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Amherst College
  • Boston University
  • Brown University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Stanford University
  • Wesleyan University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Vassar College
  • Harvard College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Georgetown College
  • US Naval Academy
  • University of Chicago
  • Boston College
  • Pepperdine University
  • Reed College

Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted how colleges are reviewing standardized test scores for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. We discuss this more in our posts on COVID and College Admissions and Test-Optional Schools for 2021.


What is Score Choice?

What is Score Choice? How does it differ from superscoring?

With Score Choice, an entirely free service, students get to choose which SAT scores they send to colleges on their list. That’s right: you can select your best score report and send that one (and that one alone) to colleges.

This doesn’t mean you can individually submit the best SAT section scores achieved on separate SATs. 

You will have to submit a single, full score report from one test date with Score Choice.

Score Choice is Optional_The College Board
Source: The College Board: An Easy Guide to Score Choice

If you don’t opt for Score Choice, all of your SAT scores will be sent to the universities you have applied to. You do not have to use Score Choice.

Just like superscoring, keep in mind that some schools may still require applicants to submit all SAT scores. For example, here’s what Princeton University says under its “Standardized Testing” portion of its admissions portal:

We allow applicants to use the score choice feature of the SAT and accept only the highest composite score of the ACT, but we encourage the submission of all test scores.

Review school score use policies ahead of time to make sure. The CollegeBoard is not responsible for knowing these policies, as it states on its website. Most colleges will have this information on their websites.


Score Choice vs. Superscoring

What’s the biggest difference between superscoring and Score Choice? The key difference lies in what scores colleges officially review. 

With Score Choice, a college only reviews the single SAT score report a student submits from a single test date.

SAT Superscoring_Use Policies (1)

With superscoring, a college may view all of a student’s SAT scores. However, it will only officially review the highest section scores across test dates.

Not all students will have both options for every college. In fact, many colleges will simply require students to submit all official test scores, even if they only officially review the highest section scores. Regardless, it’s essential to inspect a school’s score use policy before applying.


Next Steps

The best way to feel confident in the SAT score submission process is to maximize your score in the first place. 

This ensures that even if a college doesn’t superscore the SAT, you’ll be prepared to submit your most competitive SAT scores!

What can you do to achieve that high SAT score? We recommend working with a private tutor or enrolling in an SAT test prep program. Like any test, the SAT requires time, dedication, and practice.

We also recommend that students sit for the SAT at least twice. This can maximize any test prep program and guarantee the best possible score, regardless of a college’s SAT score use policy.

At Princeton Tutoring, we’re proud to offer over 20 years of experience in helping students succeed on the SAT. Learn more about our SAT offerings here!


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 Testing Dates 2020

SAT Test Dates 2024: Deadlines and More

SAT Test Dates 2024: Deadlines and More

When you take the SAT does matter, especially if you are a rising junior or senior.

In fact, identifying an official SAT testing date is the first step in crafting an effective SAT study plan.

This can also be vital in determining how many times you need to take the SAT. Most of our students take the SAT at least twice, which grants them the opportunity to SuperScore and maximize their sectional and composite scores.

Locating those testing dates on the College Board's website, however, isn't so intuitive. In this regularly updated post, we specify upcoming SAT test dates, registration deadlines, and more so that you can get a jumpstart on your prep.

In this post, we discuss:


Standard SAT Test Dates 2024

Standard SAT test dates refer to SATs administered on designated Saturdays throughout the academic year, at specific testing locations. Typically, the CollegeBoard administers 7 SATs each academic year. 

Below, find all the planned digital SAT test dates for 2024. 

SAT Test Date 2024 Registration Deadline
March 9, 2024 February 23, 2024
May 4, 2024 April 19, 2024
June 1, 2024 May 16, 2024
August 24, 2024 - Anticipated TBD
October 5, 2024 - Anticipated TBD
November 2, 2024 - Anticipated TBD
December 7, 2024 - Anticipated TBD

 

Plenty of SAT test-takers sit for the exam at their schools. "SAT School Days," as they are called, are SAT administrations offered at high schools on weekdays.

Schools and districts get to decide if they want to administer an SAT School Day, so have a conversation with your school counselor to see if you'll be able to participate in one. You do not need to register for the SAT online to participate in an SAT School Day--students sign up with their counselors.

You will, however, have to set up a College Board account in order to eventually submit your scores to colleges.

Because the SAT is now digital, it can be offered on any day within the Spring School Day testing window. For 2024, that window is March 4 - April 26. 

The actual day will vary by school, so be sure to check with your counselor!


How to Register for the SAT

If you are taking a standard SAT administration, you'll have to register either online or by submitting a mail-in registration form.

We recommend registering online, as this will give you the fastest access to scores and submission processes. However, some students may have to register by mail. Find more details about mail-in registration requirements here.

Here’s how you register for an SAT administration online:

  1. Choose your test date.
  2. Create a free College Board account and log in to this account.
  3. Provide your full legal name and other “identifying information.” This information should match your photo ID.
  4. You’ll be asked other questions related to your interests and prospective colleges. These are entirely optional, but may be worth answering if you’re interested in colleges and scholarship organizations finding you.
  5. Choose your test center location.
  6. Upload a photo of yourself that meets specific requirements (discussed below).
  7. Check out and print your Admission ticket!

Depending upon your circumstances, you might need to enter the following additional registration information:

  • If you’re using a fee waiver, enter the identification number on your fee waiver card.
  • If you’ve been approved by the College Board to test with accommodations, enter the SSD number on your eligibility letter.
  • If you’re home-schooled, enter 970000 when asked for a high school code.

Photo Requirements

The College Board is very strict when it comes to the photo that you’ll have to upload for registration. If your photo doesn’t meet these requirements, you won’t be allowed to test.

Here is what the College Board says is acceptable for your photo, which can be recent or taken at the time of registration:

  • You’re easy to recognize.
  • You’re the only one in the picture.
  • There’s a head-and-shoulders view, with the entire face, both eyes, and hair clearly visible; head coverings worn for religious purposes are allowed.
  • You’re in focus.
  • There are no dark spots or shadows.
  • Black-and-white photos are acceptable.

You won’t be allowed to test if any of the following is the case with your photo:

  • One or both of your eyes are not visible or blocked (for example, if you are wearing sunglasses).
  • Photos include more than one person.
  • Poor photo quality makes you unrecognizable.
  • You are wearing a hat or head covering that is not worn for religious purposes.
  • Your photo has been digitally altered or tampered with in any other way.

ID Requirements

ID documents that students bring to at testing center must meet all of these requirements:

  • Be a valid (unexpired) photo ID that is government-issued or issued by the school that you currently attend. School IDs from the prior school year are valid through December of the current calendar year. (For example, school IDs from 2015-16 can be used through December 31, 2016.)
  • Be an original, physical document (not photocopied or electronic).
  • Bear your full, legal name exactly as it appears on your Admission Ticket, including the order of the names.
  • Bear a recent recognizable photograph that clearly matches both your appearance on test day and the photo on your Admission Ticket.
  • Be in good condition, with clearly legible English language text and a clearly visible photograph.

Test Fees

Students will have to pay to register for the SAT. For standard registration, here’s what that looks like:

  • Standard SAT registration fee: $55

Students will have to pay extra fees for the following (full list and specifics on the College Board’s website):

  • Registering by phone
  • Late registration
  • Changes to registration
  • Waitlist fees
  • Score services

Fee waivers are available for many of these! Here’s what the College Board says about fee waivers:

SAT fee waivers are available to low-income 11th and 12th grade students in the U.S. or U.S. territories. U.S. citizens living outside the country may be able to have test fees waived.

You're eligible for fee waivers if you say "yes" to any of the following:

  • You're enrolled in or eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Your annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • You're enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., Federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan.

When Should I Take the SAT?

Our students ask this question a lot, and for good reason. It can be unclear when to begin the college prep journey, especially when it comes to standardized tests.

Most students take the SAT for the first time in their junior year of high school. We further recommend that students sit for the exam for the first time in the fall or winter of their junior year, especially if they have completed Algebra 2 and Trigonometry by this date.

This also allows for second or third testing dates in the spring of junior year and/or fall of senior year, leaving plenty of breathing room for college applications.

Regardless, we encourage students to take the SAT following at least three months of intensive prep. We also recommend at least one more exam after this first official so students can be eligible for SAT SuperScore (and the highest score possible).

We've put together some SAT testing schedules to make it easy for students to determine the SAT test date that makes sense given their prep trajectory.


Next Steps

Now that you know the SAT test dates for 2024, it's time to get ready for your next official SAT. We should mention that 2024 is a special year for the SAT. It's the first year the SAT will be offering its new digital format to all test takers. That means many students, because of the lack of practice materials, might be at a disadvantage with the new test format. 

That can be great news for you: if you take the necessary extra steps to prepare, you can lock in a very high-percentile score while other students are still adjusting to the new format! The best way to do that? Prep, prep, prep! 

You can do this on your own, or you can get started by working with one of our expert tutors. In fact, one-on-one SAT prep can be the most effective way to get closer to your dream score in a short amount of time. There's no better year to take advantage of the benefits of a one-on-one SAT prep tutor: they'll help you adapt to the new format, find the best study materials, and maximize your score. 

Learn more about SAT private tutoring here.


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 to Respond to the 6 Princeton Supplemental Essay Prompts

How to write the Princeton supplemental essays (2023-2024)

How to write the Princeton supplemental essays (2023-2024)

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s 50+ Real Supplemental Essays for Ivy+ Schools

Last year, Princeton admitted just 5.6% of applicants, meaning that if you want a shot at an admission for the 2023-2024 cycle, your application has to be just about perfect. 

One element of the Princeton application that many students struggle with is the Princeton writing supplement. It’s tricky to know exactly how to approach these supplemental essays: what can you write to stand out from the thousands of other applicants? What exactly are Princeton admissions officers looking for?

Fortunately, at PrepMaven, we’ve helped thousands of students craft compelling college application essays. It doesn’t hurt that many of our expert tutors have been admitted to Princeton themselves, and so they know exactly what works. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the 2023-2024 Princeton writing supplement, explaining exactly what you need to do to maximize your chances at a Princeton acceptance. 

As you read on, check out our free resource linked below: it contains real, successful examples of supplemental essays written for Princeton and other top schools. 

Jump to section:


Princeton’s 2023-2024 supplemental essays 

This year, Princeton has three fairly intensive supplemental essays and three short answer questions. 

The supplemental essays are as follows: 

For A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Who Are Undecided

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.) 

For B.S.E Degree Applicants

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

Your Voice (all applicants)

Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you?  (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

The first thing to notice is that these essays all fall into well-known categories of the college essay. 

The first prompt, which will vary slightly depending on whether you’re applying to the engineering school or not, is simply a “Why Major?” essay, which asks you to explain your academic interests. 

What’s the key to a successful “Why Major?” essay for Princeton? We’ve written a comprehensive guide on this essay type here that covers all the ins and outs of what schools really want when they ask this question. 

The second prompt is one you’re likely to see from just about any school, and is a version of a Community/Diversity prompt. 

The third prompt is a classic Service essay prompt, which you can also think of as an Extracurricular essay with a slightly more specific focus. 

Read on below for break-downs of each of these prompts!


How to write Princeton’s first essay: “Why this major?”

The key to answering this supplemental prompt about your intended area of study is to answer three key questions: 

  • What specifically are you interested in?
  • Why, using specific details from your life, are you interested in that subject?
  • How, using the specific resources available at Princeton, will you pursue that subject?

Now, if you’ve read our guide on how to write Why Major essays, then you likely already know that you should have a basic template you reuse anytime a school asks you this question. If you’ve already written a Why Major essay for another school, you should be able to save a lot of time by reusing the basic structure of that essay, and simply replacing the school-specific portions. 

If you don’t already have a template, here’s what it should look like: 

  1. Start with a brief anecdote from your life or academic question that interests you. 

The anecdote should show where your interest comes from, the moment you realized you wished to pursue this subject, or simply dramatize an important learning experience related to your chosen field of study. 

You can use this portion of the template for any school that asks a Why Major supplemental. 

  1. Use that anecdote to launch into a discussion of why the subject matter interests you/why you want to pursue it as a major. 

Do you want to study biology? Explain what about it fascinates you: what are the burning questions you hope to answer? What about the process of research or lab work speaks to you? Is there a practical purpose you hope to achieve through your study?

More of a humanities person who wants to study art history? The same rules apply: what about art history captivates you? Where does this passion come from? Why is it something you’d dedicate your life (or at least 4 years) to exploring?

Whatever your major, the rules of the game are basically identical: convincingly convey your passion for a particular subject to the admissions officers at Princeton, and they’ll be far more likely to see you as someone who will seriously pursue your interests–which is, of course, what they’re looking for. 

As with the anecdote, you can reuse this portion of the essay for any school with a similar prompt.

  1. Explain how you’ll use specific resources at Princeton to pursue your academic interests. 

This is the school-specific portion of the essay, which you’ll have to modify for every school you apply to. And the first step here is research: identify specific, unique offerings of Princeton University that you hope to take advantage of. 

Your best friend here will be the departmental website of the program/major to which you’re applying. Invest time in exploring that website: you’ll find all the information you need about curriculum, research, and work opportunities there. 

Then, you’ll take this specific information and focus on 1-2 key points at the end of the essay, favoring depth over breadth. Don’t just rattle off the first 10 things you see on the website: pick just a couple and spend a few sentences on each, explaining how the particular resource aligns with your academic interests and goals. 

Why do it this way? Well, the goal here is to: 

  1. Show Princeton you’ve done your research
  2. Convince the Princeton admissions committee that you really do think they’re a great fit for you. 

By picking just a few specifics and connecting them with your own interests and story, you’ll be able to do both of these things without coming off as inauthentic. 

Some great things to focus on would be: 

  • Research programs
  • Work/internship/coop opportunities
  • Unique curricular offerings
  • Unusual minors or specializations
  • Service learning opportunities 
  • Thesis/honors opportunities

While you’re doing all this, there are a few things you should avoid writing in the Princeton Why Major essay. Some of the Don’ts we list below are just too cliche; others are actually red flags for college admissions committees. 

Don’t: 

  • Reference money as a primary reason for your major choice.
  • Say you have no idea.

    • It’s fine to be undecided! But even then you should discuss what kinds of things interest you and why. 

  • Randomly Princeton name-drop professors or classes just because you came across them on the website.
  • Forget to include a specific story, question, or hook to get the reader interested.

And that’s it! Do all of the above, and you’ll have the first of Princeton supplemental essays locked down tight–plus, you’ll have a great template for any other schools that ask the same question. 

Ready to get started? A great resource to begin with is our collection of real, successful supplemental essays. For stellar examples of the “Why Major” essay, check out the last supplemental essay for Princeton, as well as the first sample essay for UPenn. 


How to write Princeton’s second essay: Diversity/community

Here’s the second supplemental prompt:

Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you?  (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)

If you haven’t already, you’ll soon come to recognize this essay prompt, as well as the language of “lived experience,” which will come up more and more often. The Oxford dictionary has a pretty straightforward definition here, but all that “lived experience” really means is your first-hand experience of the world, as opposed to things you may have read, heard, or learned. 

At heart, this kind of prompt is asking you to discuss how–based on specific elements of your life–you view your role as a potential member of Princeton’s diverse community. We call this the Diversity/community essay, because those are really always two sides of the same coin. 

With the Princeton Diversity/community essay, there are 2 basic options for structuring your response:

  1. Discuss community through the lens of your identity. 
  2. Discuss community through the lens of other events/activities/pursuits in your life. 

Which path you take will actually be easy to decide: 

If your identity (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, religious, etc.) has significantly influenced your worldview or experiences, go with option 1. 

In other words, if you know you have something meaningful to say about how your identity has shaped you, that should structure your response. This might mean writing an essay about how discrimination or systemic biases have affected you or your family; it could just as well, however, mean writing about specific experiences you’ve cherished as a member of a particular culture. 

A few great examples from recent essays we’ve worked on: 

  • An essay that focuses on a student’s biracial background and how she learned to use others’ ignorant/racist comments as opportunities for starting difficult conversations. 
  • An essay exploring how a first-generation immigrant served as a translator for his parents. 
  • An essay from a young woman exploring how she navigated the contradictions between her feminist views and the emphasis on tradition within her religion. 

If your identity has not significantly experienced how you view the world, go with option 2. 

If you don’t feel particularly connected to a specific identity, or if you can’t think of specific ways that your identity has affected you, you should instead focus on other elements of your life that have shaped your view of community. 

Think about what you want out of a community: then, think about what aspect of your life (an extracurricular, a hobby, a social circle) has shaped that desire. Tell that story. It may sound a bit tough to thread that needle, but it really isn’t so bad: here are a few really successful topics from recent students in response to this kind of prompt:

  • An essay about how a student’s participation in yearly music recitals with strangers shaped how he views community as a place for everyone to share their gifts/talents. 
  • An essay from an avid hiker about how his experiences maintaining hiking trails taught him to think of community as a shared, daily effort in the service of others. 
  • An essay from a student who moved countries multiple times reflecting on what in each place contributed to creating a cohesive community. 

All the examples are different, but share one thing in common: using your personal experiences to reflect on your role in a diverse community. 

For successful examples of Diversity/community essays, check out the first Princeton essay and the first three UMich essays in the free collection below!


How to write Princeton’s third essay: Service

Princeton’s third supplemental essay is an essay on the topic of service and community engagement–another fairly standard kind of supplemental essay you’re almost certain to see pop up again! 

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

You’ll notice the word count here is much shorter than that of Princeton’s second supplemental essay, so you’re really just going to have enough time to tell a short story and then reflect on why/how service matters in your life. 

This essay can be quite difficult if you haven’t directly engaged in service-oriented work. If you have, then your job is a lot easier: as with the other essays, tell the story of the service you’ve done, then reflect on the lesson you learned. Ideally, work in a brief discussion of how you plan to continue this kind of service at Princeton. 

If you don’t have anything that’s directly related to service, you might want to interpret the prompt more broadly: formally or informally, how has your life been affected by service? Have you or your family benefited from someone else’s service? Have you had obligations or responsibility to family or loved ones? Do you feel strongly about a particular social issue? 

Any and all of those would work. For now, though, we recommend taking a look at a real response to this prompt below, which helped get one of our star tutors into Princeton. 

Over the pandemic, I tutored two middle school boys. Now, I love kids, but middle schoolers are not my number one favorites. They are often dismissive of authority and it's very hard to hold their attention for longer than two minutes. So working with them on Zoom for an hour became my new challenge.

I tried many tactics. When fun warm-ups, writing prompts, and Zoom games all failed, I was officially stumped. I couldn't understand why they found me so uninteresting. I decided to pay closer attention to the passions they mentioned. Instead of imposing my own ideas, I listened to what they had to say.

It turned out Lucian loved running. Getting him to read was like pulling teeth, but I found a Jason Reynolds book called Ghost, part of a series about a track team. We would spend ten or fifteen minutes at the beginning of each session reading it aloud to each other, and while he seemed to be engaged, I couldn't tell exactly how much he was enjoying it. But when we finally finished, he asked me shyly, "What did you say the next one was called?"

Sajiah proved to be tougher to please. He wasn't swayed by any books I suggested to him, no matter the topic. He often hummed or rapped while working, which I found to be endlessly annoying, until I started listening to the actual words. I Googled the lyrics and noticed that he particularly enjoyed Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. So we began a project investigating the origins of hip hop, and created a website as the final product. He loved finding out more about the music he listened to every day, and I loved seeing him so happy with his work.

I don't pretend I saved the world by helping these boys, but I am proud of the creative way I found projects and topics they genuinely enjoyed investigating. I hope to continue working with children as a form of civic engagement throughout college and beyond; if I can help students like Sajiah and Lucian, it'll be well worth it.

There’s a few key things to notice with this essay. 

First, it’s about a small, simple act of service. You don’t need to have started a non-profit or spent years volunteering: something as simple as tutoring two students can work perfectly well for this Princeton essay. 

Second, it treats this act with the appropriate level of seriousness. If your act of service isn’t on a large scale, don’t try to make out as if it is: something as simple as “I don’t pretend I saved the world by helping these boys, but I am proud of the creative way I found projects and topics they genuinely enjoyed investigating” will feel much more honest and convincing. 

Finally, this essay is a story. All the best essays are! Don’t just give us the broad strokes: really show us the details of whatever service work you’ve done. Once you’ve shown Princeton’s admissions officers that story, they’ll be far more likely to believe that you actually do take service seriously. 

The third Princeton supplemental essay doesn’t have to be difficult: stay honest, stay direct, and tell your story. 

To read other responses to this very prompt (and many other sample supplemental essays), download our collection below. And if you’d like the guidance of one of our expert tutors (some of whom wrote the very essays in that packet), just contact us


Princeton’s 2023-2024 short answer questions

In addition to the three essays above, Princeton asks you to respond to three short answer questions, each in a bite-size 50 words or fewer. The questions are below: 

  1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?
  2. What brings you joy? 
  3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

For these, the simplest advice is best: be yourself. Don’t overthink these! While the longer essays are quite important and will require multiple drafts and redrafts, you won’t need to put the same level of work into these short answer questions. 

You should, however, use up the 50-word limit they give you. Don’t just give Princeton a one-word answer to these questions. Instead, use the opportunity to show them as much of your personality and character as you can within 50 words, ideally by explaining each of your answers. 

So, for short answer prompt 1, don’t just say, “I want to learn public speaking skills.” Instead, elaborate on why: the explanation is always more interesting than the answer itself. 

The same applies to the other questions: convey your passion, tell us an anecdote, or just show us how your mind works. These are low stakes, but still worth your careful time and attention–this is Princeton, after all. 


Next Steps

If you’re applying to Princeton, the place to start is our comprehensive guide to the Princeton application for the 2023-2024 cycle, which you can find here. That guide doesn’t just cover what Princeton’s application requires of you: it uses the latest statistics and insights from our own Princeton undergraduate tutors to walk you through exactly what you’ll need to do to have a shot at Princeton.

Once you’re ready to start writing supplemental essays for Princeton and your other schools, we have two main pieces of advice. 

First: read real, successful sample supplemental essays that helped get students into Princeton and other hyper-selective schools. Most people don’t really know what schools like Princeton actually want from the supplemental essays, and the best solution is to spend lots of time reviewing sample essays. We’ve collected dozens of these essays in the free resource below. 

Second: get expert help. Whether you’re a brilliant writer or just an okay one, you’ll benefit tremendously from the advice of someone who’s already successfully navigated the college application process. Our college essay coaches aren’t just writing experts who can make your essay shine: they’re trained to know exactly what schools like Princeton expect to see

Check out the free sample essays below, and, when you’re ready to start writing, contact us to get paired with a college essay expert.