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An eight-grade student studying for the SSAT.

6 Stress-Reducing Tips for Feeling Good About the SSAT

April 5, 2022

When preparing for the SSAT, it’s easy to focus on the potential impact of studying and practicing for students to achieve their best results. However, what we often overlook is the influence of a student’s feelings on their performance. Stress, anxiety, jitters—everything that can keep a student awake the night before the SSAT—also play a role in standardized test results.

The good news is that you can plan for potential stress-inducing factors by adhering to the following tips, helping your child stay in the right frame of mind to do their best. 

1. Start SSAT preparation early.

Application deadlines for most private schools are typically in mid-January. As a result, many students are trying to squeeze studying and taking the SSAT amongst their end-of-term schoolwork, winter concerts and recitals, sports, and holiday festivities. It’s already a stressful time of year without the pressure of a standardized test!

Best-case scenario: Get your child started in the previous spring, giving them nearly a year to turn in a satisfying result. In other words, if your child is planning to apply to ninth grade, have them take the Upper Level SSAT assessment during the spring of their seventh-grade year. If the best-case scenario isn’t feasible, the earlier you can get your child started, the better.

Simply knowing they have plenty of opportunity to retake the SSAT if need be is liberating, helping students relax during their first testing experience. And there’s no better practice for the SSAT than actually taking the SSAT. Our data shows that students who retake the test do better on their second assessment.

2. Use the official SSAT practice materials.

When it comes to studying for the SSAT, you have options. What’s the difference between the official SSAT study materials from The Enrollment Management Association or those from other organizations? As the creator of the SSAT, we know it best, and our practice tests fully replicate the experience of taking the actual SSAT.

Only the Official SSAT Practice Online utilizes an interface nearly identical to the actual SSAT at Home. The practice tests found in the Official SSAT Study Guide books also replicate the paper test layout and appearance. [Please note: Computer-based testing at a Prometric center has a unique interface.]

Gaining experience with the types of questions found on the SSAT in the same format as the actual assessment is an advantage that helps alleviate potential anxiety caused when students have to reorient themselves during the test. 

3. Don't worry about the time.

Yes, each section of the SSAT is timed, but the allotment is intentional to provide most students with adequate time. Students with disabilities that prevent them from finishing in the allotted time can request an accommodation before registering for additional time.

Reassuring students that they have enough time is helpful, but it’s also something they may need to experience for themselves to feel good about it. Timing them while taking an official SSAT practice test is the best simulation. 

It’s also good to strategize. Since there’s no penalty for unanswered questions, students should skip questions they are having trouble with and return to them after answering the questions they are confident about. When taking the paper test, make sure to put a notation on the answer sheet when skipping questions to avoid accidentally putting the answer to the next question in the previous row.

4. Outsmart Murphy’s law.

What are your child's chances of encountering a technical glitch when taking the SSAT at Home? It’s best to avoid finding out by carefully adhering to the Preparation Checklist and Test-Day Tips. More often than not, Support requests on test day are because at-home testers didn’t perform the system check and install the secure browser three to four days in advance as recommended. If your setup isn’t conducive to taking the SSAT at Home, you can request an Equity Test Kit or an alternative test mode.

It’s also essential for the SSAT at Home to familiarize yourself and your child with the Tech and Room Requirements. Remember: The at-home administrator that ensures everything goes smoothly is you! As such, it’s also a good idea to plan an activity for siblings and other family members that is away from home during the test time and doesn’t risk draining internet bandwidth. 

Likewise, you can plan for potential traffic delays when going to a paper or Prometric test site by mapping the route in advance and leaving at least a half hour earlier than what seems necessary.

5. Healthy habits, healthy minds.

Regular exercise, well-balanced meals, and a good night’s sleep fuel mental and intellectual acuity. So, skip the fast food, put the devices away before bedtime, and get outside for some fresh air and activity. Building healthy habits as a regular part of daily life is more apt to positively impact performance than adjusting behavior the night before taking the SSAT.

For a healthy, low-stress approach to SSAT preparation, help your child develop a study plan that spreads the work out over time. Trying to cram during the days and night before taking the SSAT is a sure-fire recipe for stress and exhaustion.

6. Be mindful of the moment and set expectations appropriately.

As parents, it’s easy for us to get caught up in a stressful situation such as a technical glitch or a traffic delay. Try to take a deep breath and remember that our children are following our cues, and if we’re stressed, they likely will be, too. 

If something does go awry, there’s almost always a pathway to an amicable outcome. Technical issue preventing an at-home test? Don’t worry, you can contact our Support team and they’ll work with you to reschedule. But what if there isn’t time to reschedule before the application deadline? Call the school and explain the situation.

Lastly, and most importantly, set expectations appropriately with your child. The SSAT is one of several factors that schools use to assess whether a student is a good fit for their program. It’s not the sole deciding factor for getting in, and treating it as such risks putting undue pressure on your child that could impact their test performance. 

Instead, reinforce that the SSAT is one piece of the admissions pie. Students also have their essay, interview, recommendations, transcripts, and Character Skills Snapshot results to showcase their special qualities and talents. If they’re feeling anxious, remind them that they’re much more than a standardized test score. 

The right school for them will see that.

SSAT study plans start with our free 30-minute practice test.

Time management is key to SSAT preparation. Start with our free 30-minute online practice test covering all essential aspects of the SSAT, and you’ll get an instant report showing the areas with room for improvement in which to focus studying. Take the free practice test.

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