A close-up image of a student filling in answers on the SSAT paper test.

Which SSAT Testing Method Should Your Child Take?

November 12, 2021

It’s time for your child to take the middle- or upper-level SSAT. That sounds straightforward enough, but then you cruise onto SSAT.org to register and learn that there are three testing methods to choose from—paper, Prometric, and at-home. Is there an advantage to one method over the others? Will your child do better in a specific format?

These are all great questions to ask, and we applaud you for digging in to put your child in the best situation to succeed. So let’s walk through the decision-making factors for each testing method, bearing in mind that a pro for one family might be a con for another, which is why there are three options to choose from in the first place! 

Before you continue below, let’s clarify upfront that the SSAT testing sections, amount of questions, and time allotted for each section, are the same regardless of the format.

1. The Paper SSAT

The traditional paper-based test is preferred by many students because it resembles a classroom testing experience, which helps alleviate testing jitters. For international students, paper testing is available worldwide.

There are two ways to take the paper test. The most common is the Standard SSAT held on six designated dates at approved locations, typically schools. In contrast, Flex testing is when the SSAT is offered on special testing dates. The test is the same for Standard and Flex testing, and the only difference is the date and location. If your child is applying for testing accommodations, please know that Standard registration closes 14 days before each test date in this scenario.

Our data shows that students who retake the SSAT typically perform better, and in a normal testing year, the paper version offers the most retake opportunities. Please review the SSAT Testing Options section to learn how many times students can take the SSAT in each format. 

The availability of test centers in your area could be a determining factor in whether or not to choose the paper SSAT. Another consideration is your comfort level with in-person testing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

SSAT scores from paper tests are typically released to schools, families, and designated score recipients within two weeks of the examination date; however, it is possible that in some circumstances it may take up to three weeks.

2. Prometric SSAT Testing

Prometric test centers provide a controlled environment to take a computer-based version of the test, significantly increasing access to the SSAT in the United States, Canada, and throughout most of the world. Please note that Prometric testing is unavailable in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Jamaica, and Myanmar.  

The big advantage of Prometric testing is that you don’t have to perform the system checks necessary for the SSAT at Home or referee siblings and other family members to avoid distractions during testing. Prometric administrators will ensure that your child doesn’t have any prohibited items during testing and understands the test-taking regulations.

Testing accommodations are available to qualified students for Prometric testing. Please note that students testing with accommodations must first apply and get approved before registering for a Prometric test.  If you have any additional questions, the SSAT’s accommodations team at ta@enrollment.org can help.

Like with the paper SSAT, you do need to check Prometric availability in your area, and in-person testing is once again a potential drawback due to COVID-19.

SSAT scores from Prometric tests taken on Monday through Sunday are released to schools on the following Wednesday and to families on Thursday.

3. The SSAT at Home

For students in the United States and Canada, the SSAT at Home is an online test that provides the convenience of taking the SSAT in a familiar, non-public setting. Designated at-home test dates are available each month from August through mid-July.

While taking the SSAT at Home is an attractive option for many, parents and guardians must understand their responsibility for ensuring an appropriate testing environment. One aspect of this is closely following the preparation checklist in advance to identify any potential technical issues before test day. 

Most computers, even those several years old, are capable of running the SSAT at Home; however, if you don’t have the technical setup for it, you can request a free equity tech kit that includes a laptop and a mobile hotspot. When requesting an equity tech kit, go ahead and register for the SSAT at Home but don’t schedule your test until you have received confirmation that a kit is available. Please also know that kits must be returned within two business days of your scheduled test.

Online proctors administer the SSAT at Home, monitoring your child virtually through your computer’s webcam to ensure they follow the test-taking regulations. Parents and guardians must keep siblings and family members away from the testing area to avoid interruptions that could invalidate the test. You are encouraged to help your child set up, but once the test starts you also have to leave the room. It’s also best to keep everyone off streaming video and gaming services to maintain internet bandwidth for the SSAT. 

Testing accommodations are available to qualified students for at-home testing. Please note that students testing with accommodations must first apply and get approved before registering for a Prometric test.  If you have any additional questions, the SSAT’s accommodations team at ta@enrollment.org can help.

SSAT at Home scores are released to schools on the Wednesday following your test date and to families on Thursday.

Which SSAT method will you choose?

You know your child best, so you probably have a good idea of whether they will focus better away from home or at home. Or whether they will be more comfortable typing or taking a written test. Trust your instincts. While there’s logic in taking the SSAT more than once in the same format to gain comfort and familiarity, there’s no rule that you have to stick to one testing method. You may find that the at-home option makes sense for a first attempt, followed by the paper version once they understand what to expect.

SSAT fee waivers are also available to qualified families. The Enrollment Management Association provides over $2 million in fee waivers annually to assist students needing access to our admission services. To inquire about getting a fee waiver, please contact an admissions office from a school at which you are applying.

The OFFICIAL SSAT Practice Materials

The SSAT will challenge students at each grade level. Practice is essential, and we recommend starting with the free mini-test that’s part of the official SSAT practice materials developed by the team that creates the SSAT. The free mini-test will quickly identify your child’s strengths and areas for improvement, helping you develop a study plan that’s right for your child.

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