SSAT Elementary Level Exam: Here’s a Breakdown

Is your child preparing for the SSAT? Here’s what you need to know about SSAT content for the elementary level exam.

Elementary Level SSAT Format

Section Number of Questions Duration
Quantitative/Math 30 30 minutes
Verbal 30 20 minutes
Break 15 minutes
Reading 28 30 minutes
Writing Sample 1 prompt 15 minutes
Experimental Section 15-17 15 minutes
Totals 89 2 hours, 5minutes

Scoring and Score Reporting–Elementary Level Exam

A free copy of your child’s score report will be available online via your SSAT account. For an additional fee, SSAT will report scores by mail or FedEx. Score alerts via text or email can also be ordered via the SSAT account.

Your child’s Elementary Level SSAT score report will contain the following information:

  • Number of Items: The number of items in the content sections and subsections.
  • Number Correct: The number of correct answers for the content sections and subsections.
  • Percent Correct: The percentage of correct answers for the content sections and subsections.
  • Scaled Score: A score which has a range of values from 300 to 600. The mean value of the content sections’ scaled scores is 450. Your scaled score is listed as “Your Score” on your score report.
  • Scaled Score Percentile Rank: The scaled score percentile rank is a score which has values from 1 to 99. It compares performance to other students taking the same examination.
  • Total Scaled Score: The total scaled score is the sum of the scaled scores for the quantitative, verbal, and reading sections. It has a low value of 900, a high value of 1800, and a mean of 1350.

What to Expect on Test Day–Elementary Level Exam

Be sure to have your child’s printed SSAT admission ticket with you when you travel to the test site. Your child will be checked in to the test site by the administrator and will take a seat in the testing room. Parents are not allowed in the testing room.

Once all students are seated, the proctor will begin. The proctor will read a series of instructions to ensure that students have the correct test booklet and that they understand how to mark their answers in the test booklet. Testers mark their answers directly in the test booklets by coloring in the circle next to their answer choice.

Children will be directed by the proctor throughout the process and allowed to use the restroom or have a quick snack during the scheduled breaks  If your child must use the restroom at another time during the test, please be aware that the time lost cannot be made up. When the test is over, the proctor will collect all materials and excuse the children from the test room.

About Each Test Section–Elementary Level Exam

Quantitative Section

  • Number of questions: 30
  • Scored section: Yes
  • Time allotted: 30 minutes

The quantitative section consists of thirty items that are a mixture of familiar basic mathematical concept familiar to students, as well as a few that may be a challenge. Included are questions on number sense, properties and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, and probability. These questions assume your student understands the following concepts:

  • Basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Place value
  • Ordering of numbers (greater than, less than)
  • Fractions
  • Basic concepts of geometry (shapes and their attributes)
  • Basic concepts of measurement
  • Interpretation of graphs

Verbal Section

  • Number of questions: 30
  • Scored section: Yes
  • Time allotted: 20 minutes

The verbal section of the test has two parts. The first is a vocabulary section and the second is an analogies section. These sections test understanding of language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings by relating them to words with similar but not identical meanings (synonyms).


Synonyms are words with the same or similar meanings. For example, large and big are synonyms, as are beautiful and pretty. The Elementary SSATs focus on vocabulary appropriate to third and fourth grades, pulling words from all areas of study, including science, technology, and social studies.


Analogies are a comparison between two things usually seen as different, but that have some similarities. These comparisons play an important role in the development of problem solving and decision-making skills, perception and memory, communication and reasoning, reading, and vocabulary building. Analogies help students process information actively, make important decisions, and improve understanding and long-term memory. These questions require the student to demonstrate an understanding of nuances in both word meanings and relationships.

There are numerous categories of analogies, including:

  • Opposites or antonyms: up is to down as short is to tall
  • Synonyms or words with identical or similar meanings: big is to large as little is to small
  • Characteristic: pillow is to soft as blanket is to warm
  • Part to whole: trunk is to tree as stem is to flower
  • Uses: broom is to sweep as pencil is to write
  • Users: hammer is to carpenter as brush is to painter
  • Category: robin is to bird as shark is to fish
  • Product to Producer: poem is to poet as sculptor is to statue
  • Degree: snow is to blizzard as rain is to hurricane
  • Homonyms: four is to for as see is to sea

Reading Section

  • Number of questions: 28
  • Scored section: Yes
  • Time allotted: 30 minutes

The reading section consists of seven short passages, each with four multiple-choice questions. These passages may include prose, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from diverse cultures. Students are asked to locate information and find meaning by skimming and close reading. They are also asked to demonstrate literal, inferential, and evaluative comprehension. The reader must demonstrate an understanding of key ideas and details to determine the main idea of the text. Additionally, the reader must determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

Writing Sample

  • Number of prompts: 1
  • Scored section: No
  • Time allotted: 15 minutes

The writing sample gives the student a chance to express him/herself through written response to a picture prompt. The student is asked to look at a picture and tell a story about what happened and to be sure his/her story includes a beginning, a middle, and an end. This writing sample is not graded but a copy is provided to schools along with the student’s score report.

Experimental Section

  • Number of prompts – 15-17 (varies)
  • Scored Section: No
  • Time Allotted: 15 minutes

The experimental section is one section of mixed content questions (verbal, reading, and math). This section does not count toward reported scores. The SSAT test development team continuously tests new questions to make sure they are reliable, suitable, and acceptable for the SSAT. These questions may be used on a future SSAT form.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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