5 Ways To Improve Your SSAT Score 

Bonus Material: Download PrepMaven’s SSAT Practice Question Bank

Planning to be one of the 10% of students who enrolls in a private school? If so, you’ll likely need to submit SSAT scores as part of your private school application. 

But very few students know what to expect when they take the SSAT. In fact, the SSAT is nothing like the tests that students are familiar with, which often leads to disappointment when score reports come out. 

Fortunately, we’ve been helping students avoid disappointment on the SSAT for over two decades. Our team of tutors–hailing from the best universities and trained by our co-founder–have guided countless students to success on the SSAT. 

In this post, we’ll cover 5 specific things you can do to boost your SSAT score. We’ll also offer 3 suggested test-prep timelines so you can most effectively plan your test-prep. 

And we’ll offer another freebie as well: high-quality, free SSAT practice resources are notoriously hard to come by. But click the link below and you’ll get our entire bank of SSAT sample questions!

Jump to section:
1: Drill Vocab
2: Master Analogies
3. Identify the Types of Math Questions
4. Combine Timed and Untimed Practice
5: Take Full Practice Tests
3 Suggested SSAT Prep Timelines
Next steps


While many standardized tests have moved away from pure vocab questions, the SSAT has not. 

We cover the SSAT format and question distribution in more detail here, but here’s the sum of it: 30 SSAT questions will directly test your vocabulary. 

We’re not even mentioning how vocab knowledge can help you with other parts of the test, like Reading Comprehension and Analogies. On the SSAT Verbal Section, you’ll have to answer 30 questions that just test your knowledge of synonyms. 

On one hand, this is the easiest kind of question. All you need to do is know the words, and there’s no thinking required. 

On the other hand, it’s the kind of question that’s almost impossible to just “think your way through.” You either know it, or you don’t. 

That’s why it’s strange that so many students only half-heartedly drill vocab, or don’t do it at all. You can’t assume you’ll just know the vocab. If it were that easy, everyone would be acing the 30 Synonym questions on SSAT Verbal. 

We’ve got 4 SSAT Strategies and 3 Drills for SSAT Vocabulary questions here–check them out, and see how comfortable you are with the material. 

Then, set aside as much time as possible to develop your SSAT Vocab knowledge. 

We recommend a mix of intensive reading (with a dictionary!), flashcarding, and quizzing. Check out our post on the Best SSAT Practice Resources for more info on where you can find the tools to help you master SSAT vocab. 

And, of course, download our free sample question packet below, which will help you test and develop your SSAT vocab knowledge. 


Just like 30 SSAT questions test your knowledge of Synonyms, you’ll get another 30 analogy questions. (This is for the middle and upper level tests; the elementary level SSAT looks a bit different.) 

Together, these 60 questions add up to your entire Verbal Score. So, make sure you don’t just take a look at a couple practice questions and call it a day.

SSAT analogy questions can vary widely in difficulty and are some of the hardest questions for students to master. 

Fortunately, they’re not inherently complicated. It’s really about getting comfortable with this question type and getting lots (and lots!) of practice with them. 

A nice place to start is our post on SSAT Analogy questions, which has 5 strategies and 3 drills for you to practice. But this is only a starting point!

To properly master SSAT Analogies, we recommend doing no fewer than 120 practice analogy questions (not in one day, of course). You want these to feel like second nature before you take the real test. 

Of course, you’ll gain little if you just do countless questions and make the same mistakes each time. 

That’s why having a good SSAT tutor can make all the difference. The best SSAT tutors don’t just assign questions and then go over the right answers with you: they teach you how to think about SSAT analogy questions so that you can tackle them on your own. 

Contact us today, and we can pair you with an experienced tutor from an elite university–all for a fraction of what the big test prep companies charge. 


Regardless of your math skills, you can make a lot of practice simply by learning to identify types of questions on the SSAT Math section.

In fact, there aren’t that many! Depending on which SSAT you’re taking (elementary level, middle level, or upper level), you’ll have a finite number of math concepts to get ready for. 

But we don’t just mean mastering math content (though that helps!). What we really suggest is simply learning to recognize the different kinds of questions they’ll ask, and what each one wants. 

With a bit of time and practice, you can learn to recognize exactly what a question wants from you. This doesn’t just save you time: it lets you predict how the SSAT is going to test key math concepts. 

You can check out our more comprehensive post on SSAT Math here. In the meantime, what we recommend is reviewing the sample SSAT math questions in our collection below. 

For each one, can you quickly identify exactly what math concept the question wants you to use? If so, your life will be a lot easier on test day. 

If not, it’s time to start studying. When it comes to learning question types, nothing can save you time like a talented SSAT tutor. You can lean on their experience to quickly learn math question types, rather than having to figure it out from scratch. 


In our experience, most students fail to strike the balance between timed and untimed SSAT practice drills. 

Some students immediately jump into doing timed SSAT sections or full-length practice tests. 

Others do tons of untimed questions but only take a few sections with timing constraints. 

Neither path is the optimal one for improving your SSAT score! 

While the exact balance will depend on your timeline (see more about suggested test prep timelines below!), you need to mix these two test prep approaches. 

Untimed practice is no less important than timed drills! Your goal at the end of the day is to answer the SSAT questions correctly and quickly. 

But before you can do something both effectively and quickly, you need to learn how to do it effectively first. 

Untimed practice lets you develop the mastery over the content that you’ll need in order to pick the correct answers. It also helps you practice the test-taking strategies that you’ll need to use to score well on the SSAT. 

If you try doing everything at maximum speed from the start, you won’t properly apply the strategies you need to. 

That’s where guided test prep really helps: working through questions with a test-prep expert at your side can help you fully understand everything you need to know about each question and question type. 

Of course, the real SSAT is timed. If you answer every single question correctly but only get to half of them, that won’t add up to a great scaled score! 

So, as you’re developing your untimed mastery, incorporate timed sections and drills. These don’t have to be full practice tests. 

Instead, try taking just a timed Verbal section, or a timed Math section. Low on time? Give yourself smaller numbers of practice questions with less time. For example: do half of the reading comprehension section within half the time. 

Our SSAT tutors can help you on both fronts, improving your content mastery and your speed!


Of course, you need to bring all of these elements together to prepare for the real thing. That always means taking real, full-length practice tests in realistic timed conditions. 

If you think of the SSAT as a sport, then all of the previous strategies are like your training sessions and practices. These full practice tests would be something like scrimmages, where you get to put everything together and see how you play. 

More isn’t always better, though. We don’t recommend just cramming in as many timed practice tests as possible. 

Instead, develop a clear plan. First, focus on building up your skills with practice questions, self-study, and drills. 

Then, begin incorporating timed and untimed sample questions from official SSAT resources. 

Then, begin taking full practice tests. Often a good target is to aim for 1 practice SSAT per week in the month leading up to the real test. 

What’s crucial, however, is what you do after your mock SSAT. There’s no better way to actually learn from your practice tests than by sitting down with an SSAT tutor. 

A good SSAT tutor will push your thinking beyond just “oh, here’s the right answer.” They’ll identify tendencies in your test-taking approach that you might have not noticed. They’ll also be able to offer personalized advice designed to help you overcome your specific weaknesses. 

Before jumping into full practice tests, make sure you build up your skills with our free sample SSAT questions, all of which you can grab below!


The Quick Fix (1 month or less)

If your test date is in under a month, you likely won’t have time to do everything. But you can still significantly boost your score. 

Here’s what we recommend: 

  • 1 full diagnostic practice test at the start to identify weaknesses
  • 2 hours a week of Vocab Practice 
  • 2 untimed practice sections a week (focus on your weakest sections)
  • 2 timed practice sections a week (focus on your weakest sections)
  • 1-2 full timed practice tests in the weeks before your test
  • 1-2 weekly tutoring sessions with an SSAT expert 

Even in one month or less, you’d be amazed at what a difference this can make for your score–especially if you’ve got the right SSAT tutor! 

No time to waste: download our free SSAT practice questions below and get prepping! 

The Late Start (Under 3 months)

If you’ve got under 3 months but more than 1 month before your test date, you can get quite a lot done. 

Here’s what we recommend: 

  • 1 full diagnostic practice test at the start 
  • 1 hour a week of Vocab Practice 
  • 1 hour a week of Analogy Practice
  • 2 hours a week of untimed practice drills (all sections!) until you master the content 
  • 2 hours a week of timed practice drills after you’ve mastered the content
  • 1 full timed practice test each week for the last 4 weeks before your test date
  • 1 weekly meeting with an SSAT expert 

On this timeline, you don’t have to rush, but you will have a lot to do. 

The idea is to first build up your skills, then jump into timed practice and full-length practice tests. 

You’ll need to do a lot of work each week, but it’ll pay off once you hit your target score!

The Early Start (3 months or more)

This is what we recommend: the students who see the biggest score improvements from their diagnostic SSATs usually take 3 or more months to prepare for their test. 

If you’re starting three months or more ahead of the test, here’s what you should aim for: 

  • Month 1: Skills
    • One full diagnostic test 
    • 1 hour a week of Vocab Practice 
    • 1 hour a week of Analogy Practice
    • 4 hours a week of untimed practice drills (all sections)
    • 1 weekly meeting with a SSAT expert
  • Month 2: Timing
    • 1 hour a week of Vocab Practice 
    • 1 hour a week of Analogy Practice
    • 4 hours a week of timed practice drills (all sections)
    • 1 weekly meeting with a SSAT expert
  • Month 3: Practice
    • 1 full-length practice SSAT each week
    • 1 weekly meeting with an SSAT expert to review your test
    • Vocab, Analogy, and untimed practice drills as needed based on your weaknesses

The 3+ month plan gives you the greatest amount of time to practice everything you need to, ensuring you don’t have to sacrifice any points on the SSAT. 

Of course, if your test date is looming soon, there’s no need to worry: most students benefit from retaking the SSAT anyway. Read our post here on how to strategically retake your SSAT to maximize your overall score!


Whether you have 3 weeks or 3 months before your test, now is the time to get started with SSAT prep. 

The more time you give yourself, the better you’ll be able to prepare for this important test, increasing your chance of private school admissions. 

But it’s not just about time: it’s also about getting the best resources and the best help. That’s why we have expert-reviewed articles on both the best SSAT Resources and the 13 Best SSAT Tutoring Services. 

In the meantime, download our free collection of sample SSAT Questions below. And don’t put off contacting us to get started with a test prep expert–the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see your scores increase. 


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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.