How Long Is the SSAT? 

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s SSAT Guidebook

If you’re applying to private elementary, middle, or high schools, you’ll likely have to take the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test). 

A great SSAT score can make a huge difference in a student’s chances of admission–but many students struggle with the format and pacing of this admissions test. 

Fortunately, PrepMaven has worked with SSAT test-takers for over two decades, and we’ve developed a proven, winning approach to navigating this difficult test. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about SSAT timing. 

If you’re looking for more information on SSAT content, scoring, or strategy, we’ve got you covered: below, you can download our free SSAT Guidebook, which offers over 90 pages of advice on everything SSAT.

And, if your child is taking the SSAT and wants support from Ivy-League SSAT experts, we’re always happy to schedule a free test-prep consultation

Jump to section:
How Long Is the Elementary SSAT?
How Long is the Middle Level SSAT?
How Long Is the Upper Level SSAT?
Making Sure You’re Ready for SSAT Timing
Timing Accommodations on the SSAT
Next steps


If your child is in third or fourth grade, they’ll take the Elementary SSAT. This test has a different format from the tests taken by older students; we’ll cover that format in detail below. 

From start to finish, the Elementary-level test takes 2 hours and 5 minutes. This includes all sections and breaks, but doesn’t include the time your child might spend waiting for the test to begin or for the tests to be collected. 

Here’s a helpful table showing you the timing of each individual SSAT section, as well as the general content it covers: 

Elementary Level SSAT Breakdown

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Math3030
Verbal3020
Break15
Reading2830
Writing115
Experimental (unscored15-1715

Of course, just knowing the timing of the SSAT might not actually prepare your child for what it feels like to take the 2-hour elementary-level test. 

That’s why our tutoring experts always recommend that students take full timed practice tests before going into the real thing. You can find our collection of the most helpful SSAT Practice Resources here!

Below, you can also find our free SSAT guidebook, which contains information on SSAT resources and effective SSAT prep. 


The Middle Level SSAT is taken by students in grades 5-8. It’s considerably longer than the elementary level SSAT, clocking in at a total of 3 hours and 10 minutes. 

Take a look at the full section breakdown below: as you can see, it includes more sections than the Elementary SSAT. 

Middle Level SSAT Breakdown

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Writing Sample (unscored)125 minutes
Break5 minutes
Quantitative 12530 minutes
Reading4040 minutes
Break10 minutes
Verbal6030 minutes
Quantitative 22530 minutes
Experimental (unscored)1615 minutes

The Upper Level test is taken by students currently in grades 9-11. Although the questions are harder than those on the Middle Level SSAT, the format and timing are exactly the same

Like the Middle Level test, the Upper Level SSAT is 3 hours and 10 minutes long. The breakdown of each section is below, and is identical to the Middle Level SSAT:

Upper Level SSAT Breakdown

SectionNumber of QuestionsDuration
Writing Sample (unscored)125 minutes
Break5 minutes
Quantitative 12530 minutes
Reading4040 minutes
Break10 minutes
Verbal6030 minutes
Quantitative 22530 minutes
Experimental (unscored)1615 minutes

It’s one thing to know about SSAT timing and length. It’s another to be ready for it. 

So, how can you make sure you don’t run out of time on the test, or burn out and lose focus? 

The answer is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: practice, practice, practice. The only sure way to master SSAT timing is to take multiple practice tests before doing the real thing. 

But does that mean that every time you practice, it should be with a full, timed test? Nope!

We recommend a mix of practice strategies so that you can focus on content mastery while also gradually developing your timing skills. 

While our expert SSAT tutors help each student develop a personalized test prep timeline, something like the following would be a good start for most students:

  • First month: diagnostic and content mastery
    • 1 full timed diagnostic practice test
    • Untimed practice and review of official practice materials with a tutor
  • Second month: timing drills and content review
    • Continue untimed practice and review of high-quality SSAT materials
    • Begin incorporating timed SSAT sections
      • Do each of the sections, timed, each week. 
  • Third month: mock tests
    • Each week, aim for a full, timed test, taking in realistic conditions
    • Review mistakes and add untimed practice as needed. 

While our 90+ page SSAT Guidebook (available for free below) can give you all the information you need about SAT scoring, format, and logistics, we always recommend working with a private SSAT tutor. Check out our list of the 13 Best SSAT Prep Services here!


According to the CDC, almost 10% of K-12 students are diagnosed with ADHD–and many more students face other learning disorders. 

To make the testing process equitable for all students, the SSAT (like many other standardized tests) offers the ability to apply for accommodations. Some of these testing accommodations can affect the length of this test. 

Not all SSAT accommodations have to do with timing: on the list of “Common Accommodations” for the SSAT, you’ll find a long list of options, including: 

  • Alternative testing locations
  • Additional resources (calculator, graph paper, etc)
  • Accessibility resources (Braille, large print, so on)

The most common accommodation granted on the SSAT, however, is extra time. This works by extending the time allowed for each section by 50% and adding several additional breaks. 

While extra time can be a huge help to students, there is one thing people often forget. All this extra time means your student will be forced to focus on the test for quite a bit longer. 

For the Middle and Upper Level SSATs, this means that your student will be testing for 4 hours and 25 minutes. That requires a lot of test-taking stamina and endurance! 

The key to getting the most out of this extra time is, of course, to prepare for it. By using high-quality SSAT resources and working with an SSAT expert on a test-prep plan, you can ensure that the extra time actually benefits your student!

Our fully updated SSAT Guidebook [CU LINK] provides information on SSAT accommodations, as well as: 

  • Fee waivers
  • Registration Process
  • Score reports (including how to interpret raw scores, scaled scores, and score ranges)
  • Different test versions (computer-based versions, paper-based testing, SSAT Flex)
  • Question types (analogy questions, synonym questions, and math questions)

We believe that the right resources can help any student succeed on the SSAT. That’s why we spent hours putting together a comprehensive SSAT guidebook for parents and students beginning the private school application process. 

But we also know from experience that one of the biggest differences between students who reach their SSAT score goals and those who don’t is the quality of SSAT tutoring they receive. 

We had our expert team review and rank the 13 Best SSAT Tutoring Services–take a look and make sure that you’re only working with the best! 

Of course, if you’re ready to start working with our Ivy-League SSAT tutors, you can contact our team today–rates start at $79/hour!


Top SSAT/ISEE Posts


Mike

Mike

Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.