SSAT Math: The Content You Need to Know

High school math curriculums can be fairly variable.

Depending on the school, math programs can differ widely in their content and sequence. Some schools may offer more (or fewer) accelerated math classes than others.

This doesn’t necessarily put SSAT test-takers at a disadvantage.

But it is important to prepare appropriately for SSAT Math. Knowing what to expect in this section, especially in terms of content, can mean the difference between a low and a high SSAT score!

In this post, we break down the most common math topics you can expect to see on the SSAT.

Here’s what we discuss:


SSAT Math: The Basics

Before we plunge into SSAT Math content, let’s start with some basics.

  • There are two Math sections: a Quantitative 1 section at the beginning of the test after the writing sample, and a Quantitative 2 section at the end of the test after the Verbal section.
  • Scores from these two sections are added together to give you your overall SSAT Math score.
  • Both sections comprise 25 multiple-choice questions. Students have 30 minutes to answer these questions.
  • You are NOT allowed to bring a calculator, and the test is designed to solve problems without one!

The SSAT.org online portal provides a list of math topics that appear in both quantitative sections:

Upper-Level SSAT Math Middle-Level SSAT Math
Algebra Pre-Algebra & Algebra
Computation Data Analysis
Geometry Geometry
Number Sense Measurement
Pre-Algebra Number Concepts & Conversion
Statistics and Probability Statistics and Probability

You can see that Upper and Middle-Level Math content is fairly similar!

The difference is that the Upper-Level SSAT deals with more advanced questions within the given topics.  

(Note: Students must create a paid account with SSAT.org to access the portal.)


Upper-Level SSAT Math Topic Sub-Lists

Now let’s actually delve into the more detailed sub-lists the SSAT.org online portal provides. This can serve as a topic checklist for reviewing and identifying where you might need some additional practice and preparation.  

Algebra

Algebra Topic Concepts
General Problem Solving Problems using rate = (distance)(time) formulaInterpreting variables

Inequalities

Ratios & Proportions

Quadratic Equations & Functions Finding the roots/solutions of quadratic equationsFunctions
Equations Based on Illustrations  Solving for an unknown length of a line segment
Equations Based on Word Problems Questions provide a formula with variables and ask the student to solve for a value
Exponential Expressions Exponent product rule, negative exponents
Polynomial Expressions FOILFactoring
Radical Expressions Rationalizing the denominator, nested radical expressions
Rational Expressions Multiplying rational expressions
Linear Equations

Use of the y = mx + b equation

Finding slope using coordinate points

Perpendicular/parallel slopes

Slope

Here’s a sample Upper-Level SSAT Math algebra question:

SSAT Math_ All You Need to Know (1)

Correct Answer: B

Computation

A typical SSAT computation problem will likely test any (or all) of the following:

  • Estimation
  • Fractions, Decimals, and Percents

Here is a sample computation problem:

SSAT Math_ All You Need to Know (2) (1)

Correct Answer: E

Geometry

Geometry Topic Concepts
Coordinate Geometry

Finding the midpoint of a line

Dilating a shape

Perimeter, Area, & Volume

Area and circumference of a circle

Area of triangles, rectangles, squares

The volume of a cylinder

Problems Using Shapes & Angles

 Sum of interior angles in an n-sided polygon

Parallel line transversals

Pythagorean Theorem

Transformations

Rotating points, lines, angles, and vertices of shapes about the origin

Here is a sample SSAT Geometry problem:

SSAT Math_ All You Need to Know (3) (1)

Correct Answer: E

Number Sense

A typical SSAT number sense problem will likely test any (or all) of the following:

    • Basic Number Theory
    • Prime and composite numbers
    • Rational numbers
    • Greatest Common Factor, Least Common Multiple
    • Computation/Order of Operations

Here is a sample SSAT number sense problem:

SSAT Math_ All You Need to Know (4) (1)

Correct Answer: E

Pre-Algebra

A typical SSAT pre-algebra problem may involve any of the following concepts and content areas:

Place Value Concepts

Time/Money Concepts Computation with Whole Numbers
Computational Clue Problems Sequences, Patterns & Logic Unit Analysis
Systems of equations Reading Charts/Line Plots Rules of Divisibility
Interpret & Solve with Division Reading Charts/Histograms Reading Charts/Line Graphs
Multiples in Word Problems Operations with Negatives Reading Charts/Bar Graphs
Operations with Decimals & Fractions Word Problems with Computation

Radius and Circumference

Here is a sample SSAT Pre-Algebra question:

SSAT Math_ PreAlgebra (1)

Correct Answer: C

Statistics and Probability

Statistics and Probability Topic Concepts
Counting Arrangement problems
Mean, Median & Mode

Weighted averages

Calculating the average of a set of numbers

Probability Calculating the probability of independent and dependent events
Set Theory Union and intersection questions/terminology 

Here’s a sample SSAT Statistics and Probability problem:

SSAT Math_ Mode (1)

Correct Answer: E


Middle-Level SSAT Math Sub-Topic Lists

Algebra Topic Concepts
Fundamental Algebra
  • Interpreting Variables
  • Multi-Step Word Problems
  • Solving Equations & Inequalities
Data Analysis
  • Interpreting Bar Graphs
  • Interpreting Histograms
  • Interpreting Line Graphs
Geometry
  • 2- and 3- Dimensional Shapes
  • Geometric Transformations
  • Geometry of Circles – including area and circumference
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • The Coordinate Plane 
Measurement
  • Area, Perimeter & Volume
  • Length/Width Problems
  • Time/Money Problems
  • Working with Angles
Number Concepts
  • Basic Computation
  • Decimals
  • Fractions
  • Order of Operations
  • Percent
  • Place Value
  • Properties of Operations
  • Whole Numbers
  • Word Problems
Number Conversion
  • Decimal/Fraction/Percent
Pre-Algebra
  • Estimation
  • Ratios & Proportions
  • Sequences, Patterns, & Logic
  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Unit Analysis
Statistics & Probability
  • Basic Probability
  •  Compound Events
  • Mean, Median, & Mode

Additional SSAT Math Question Types

There are some additional math question types that appear in many SSAT practice materials. These may or may not appear on the official exam.

These additional question types include:

  • Identifying which figure can be drawn without lifting a pencil
  • Figuring out how many small cubes will fit in a big cube
  • Long division problems with a portion of the numbers represented by letters
  • Absolute value
  • “Weird symbol problems” where the SSAT includes a symbol such as * or # instead of x

Here is a sample “weird symbol problem” based on SSAT materials: 

If a@b = 3a + b, what is 2@4?

Solution: sub in 2 for a and 4 for b. 3(2) + 4 = 10.


What’s Next?

As you can see, these are BIG checklists. What are the key takeaways with SSAT Math?

1. Start your test prep early. 

Many students have not covered these math topics in school yet, so leave time for learning some new skills.

This is especially the case with some of the more advanced algebra and geometry topics such as factoring, polynomial expressions, quadratic equations, radical expressions, rational expressions, and even the Pythagorean Theorem. 

2. Try a range of practice materials. 

The SSAT does not release its tests, so exploring a variety of sources will provide you with the most coverage. 

The SSAT itself offers online practice by purchasing an Official SSAT Guidebook or Official SSAT Practice Online subscription. Other recommended resources include texts by Tutorverse

3. Focus on what you can do. 

You might not have time to learn absolutely all of these topics. That’s totally fine! 

Just focus on the major skills and spend less time on the esoteric questions that might only show up once per test. You can still get a good score even if you don’t answer a few questions.

4. Work with a tutor.

A tutor can help teach you important study habits and problem-solving approaches that you can use even beyond the SSAT. SSAT tutors can also hold students accountable by establishing a regular, effective study schedule.

Curious about what else is on the SSAT? Check out our general guide to SSAT content now!


Jess Welsh

Jess is a Princeton graduate who majored in English and minored in Visual Arts (Film). She has worked as an SAT/ACT/AP/SSAT/ISEE/HSPT tutor as well as a college counselor and loves getting to know students through her work. When not tutoring, she enjoys reading, writing, running, adding to her classic rock music collection, and exploring the West!