Essay Prompts to Practice for the Middle Level SSAT

Although the SSAT essay is not scored, it is still important to do your very best, as it will be sent to the admissions officer of the schools to which you are applying. Practicing ahead of time with some essay prompts is a good idea.

The SSAT includes a 25-minute Writing Sample of one to two pages in length. Middle Level students will be asked to write a story starting with a phrase or a sentence provided by the test. Upper Level students will be asked to choose between writing a story and writing an essay in response to a question. The essay topics tend to be broad and varied. In some cases, you will be asked to take a side on an issue (in other words, you will be asked to write a persuasive essay). In some cases, you will be asked to offer a description or show cause and effect (in other words, you will be asked to write an informative essay).

Although the Writing Sample will not affect your SSAT score, admissions officers consider your Writing Sample an important component of your application. They will look for a strong writing style free from spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. They will also try to get a sense of who you are as a person. With this in mind, choose subjects you would be comfortable talking about during an interview with a principal or admissions officer. Avoid overly dark, violent, or inappropriate subject matter.

The SSAT Middle Level Essay requires students to write a short story in twenty-five minutes. Two sentences will be provided, and students are asked to select the sentence they find most interesting and use it as the first sentence of a short story. Here are some tips to think about when working on the essay:

1. Follow the instructions. Make sure the sentence provided by the SSAT is the first sentence of your story.

2. Budget your time! Make sure to save time at the end to edit for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

3. Decide what point of view you will use and stick to it! Sometimes the point of view is established by the sentence provided:
– First person uses “I”: “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
– Third person uses “he”, “she”, “it”, “they”: “He couldn’t believe his eyes.”

4. Decide what tense you will use for your story and stick to it! Sometimes the tense is established by the sentence provided:
– Past tense: I saw, I went, I did.
– Present tense (rarer and more difficult to maintain): I see, I go, I do.

5. In your first paragraph, establish the setting of your story using vivid description involving sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.

6. In your first paragraph, establish the conflict.
– Conflict is the problem, difficulty, or challenge facing the main character.

7. Every story should have a clear structure: beginning, middle, and end (in other words, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion)

Essay Prompts

Here’s a list of essay prompts with which to practice. You have twenty-five minutes to complete each writing sample.

Schools would like to get to know you better through a story you tell using one of the two topics below. Please choose an idea you find most interesting and write a story using the idea as your first sentence. Please select the topic you find most interesting and fill in the circle next to the topic you choose.

Topic: Where had everyone gone?
Topic: I knew it was dangerous, but . . .
Topic: She opened the door and saw . . .
Topic: I realized he needed help.
Topic: I could not believe my eyes.
Topic: How could I have turned into a . . .

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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