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When is the best time to study for and take the SSAT?

Daren Worcester
Feb 6, 2024
3 minute read

Let’s start by recognizing that preparing for the SSAT is a matter of timing for many families. Those who learn about the necessity of taking the SSAT while actively applying are looking for the right test-taking window to balance preparation with the student’s academic workload and extracurricular schedule.

Families in this situation will want to create a manageable plan that builds test-taking confidence while not overstressing the student. That may mean setting aside an hour or two on Sundays for SSAT preparation and planning testing after holiday breaks when the student can focus more on studying.

For those on a tight schedule, immediate access to the Official SSAT Online Practice upon purchase (free with a fee waiver) makes it the preferred studying resource over waiting for delivery of the SSAT Study Guide Books. When planning ahead, the books do provide valuable insight and help replicate the paper testing experience.

Start with the free online Mini-Practice Test to pinpoint subject areas the student should prioritize. Time permitting, taking an SSAT at Home assessment (students in the United States and Canada only) or at a Prometric Center can also help set a baseline and provide SSAT test-taking experience that reduces anxiety and improves results when taking the paper test. 

For those with the luxury of planning ahead, consider the following best-case SSAT preparation and testing scenarios.


<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">SSAT preparation and testing during the summer.</span>

Summer SSAT preparation is ideal to avoid the hustle and bustle of the school year. Carving out time to study for the SSAT during the school break also reduces the likelihood of summer learning loss

Moreover, if necessary, there is plenty of time to take a second SSAT assessment in the fall. Students typically perform better when retaking the SSAT.

EMA doesn’t offer a Standard paper SSAT testing date in the summer, but SSAT at Home and Prometric testing remain options.


<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">SSAT testing in the spring of seventh grade.</span>

The majority of SSAT test-takers are students applying to high school. The early birds who begin this preparation during seventh grade reap several significant benefits.

First, students testing in the spring of seventh grade can register for the eighth-grade SSAT. Testing up a grade compares their results with eighth-grade students currently applying to private high schools, providing a better sense of their academic progress and areas for growth relative to their global peers as they prepare to apply the following year. Gaining this insight provides a blueprint for tutoring if necessary.

Best of all, students who take the eighth-grade SSAT in the spring of seventh grade can submit the results to schools on their high school applications the following fall if they are happy with their scores.


<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">SSAT testing during fifth and sixth grade.</span>

Taking the SSAT during fifth and sixth grade provides a valuable benchmark with plenty of time to prepare for high school applications. 

Grading standardization is sorely lacking within schools—let alone on a national or global scale—making it a challenge to understand how a student is progressing from good grades alone. This issue is why private schools utilize the SSAT to better understand whether students are prepared for their programs, and parents eyeing private school education can do the same.

Having students take the SSAT in fifth and sixth grade shows parents their child’s cognitive progress compared to their global peers in the same applicant pool. Families can then take a slow and steady approach to areas of growth, possibly through tutoring.

There’s one other often overlooked benefit to SSAT testing early in the middle school years—students gain experience and a comfort level with standardized testing. This experience will help them feel prepared and more relaxed when taking the SSAT for high school admissions.

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