How Long Does The SSAT Test Take

How Long Does The SSAT Test Take?

The SSAT is what students in grades 3 through 11 take to get into a private middle or high school. It is structured similarly to the SAT, which is the test most American students know about, and many have taken. With it being structured similarly, it also takes a long time, like the SAT does.

If you need to know how long the SSAT test takes to get yourself prepared, read further on.

How Long Does The SSAT Test Take?

If this test were taken during the school day, the same as the SAT and PSAT, then this exam would take about half of the school day. Makes sense why not many American schools administer this test during the school day.

The SSAT is a 3-hour and 10-minute-long test, but that time changes slightly depending on how a student takes the test and what level of SSAT is being taken. Elementary level SSAT test takers will have a significantly shorter test than upper level SSAT test takers.

How Long Does the Elementary Level SSAT Test Take?

The elementary level SSAT is the shortest test of the three levels. This test takes 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete. There are 110 minutes of test taking with a 15-minute break during the middle of the exam.

With each SSAT test, there are three scored sections and a written passage section that factors into the time that this test takes. In each SSAT test, students have to complete a verbal skills section, a quantitative (math) skills section, a reading skills section, and then a writing sample which is an essay question.

SSAT tests also have an experimental section that students have to complete, which isn’t scored at all but is used to gather data about how students answer certain questions. This experimental section helps the creators of the SSAT test create future versions and collect necessary data.

Here is how long each section takes for the elementary level SSAT:

  • Quantitative Section: 30 minutes for 30 questions
  • Verbal Section: 20 minutes for 30 questions
  • 15-minute break
  • Reading Section: 30 minutes for seven passages and 28 questions
  • Writing Sample: 15 minutes for one prompt
  • Experimental Section: 15 minutes for 15-17 questions
  • Total: 2 hours and 5 minutes

How Long Does the Middle and Upper Level SSAT Test Take?

The middle level SSAT takes a bit longer than the elementary level and is the same length as the upper level SSAT.

The middle and upper level SSAT has two times that it can take:

  1. If a student takes the SSAT in the paper and pencil method, it will take 3 hours and 10 minutes.
  2. However, if a student takes it digitally through a Prometric testing center, it will take 3 hours and 5 minutes.

This difference is due to different lengths of break times. With the paper and pencil method, students only get a 5-minute break, while on the computer, they get a 10-minute break. This break difference is only for the first break, as the middle and upper-level SSAT gives students two breaks throughout the entirety of the exam.

The sections of this SSAT are also broken down differently than the elementary level SSAT. The quantitative section is broken into two different sections, and the writing sample is at the beginning instead of the end.

Here is how long each section will take in the middle and upper level SSAT:

  • Writing Sample: 25 minutes for two prompts
  • Five or 10-minute break, depending on the testing method
  • Quantitative 1 Section: 30 minutes for 25 questions
  • Reading Skills Section: 40 minutes for 40 questions
  • 10-minute break
  • Verbal Skills Section: 30 minutes for 60 questions
  • Quantitative 2 Section: 30 minutes for 25 questions
  • Experimental Section: 15 minutes for 16 questions

What Is The SSAT Test?

Girl Reading Book

The SSAT test is how students get into many private middle and high schools. Like how the SAT helps students get into colleges, SSAT tests get students into private institutions to better their education.

The SSAT stands for Secondary School Admission Test and has been used since 1957. Most private institutions will have a required score range and percentile range that they want their prospective students to fall in. For many students, it is extremely important to do well on this test so they can get into their private school of choice.

Students can begin taking this exam as early as 3rd grade and as late as 11th grade. They can take it every year if they want to as long as they take it between August 1st and July 31st. This time range gives students plenty of time to prepare for the test.

The SSAT is broken down into three levels:

  • Elementary level SSAT Test (grades 3 and 4)
  • Middle level SSAT Test (grades 5-7)
  • Upper level SSAT Test (grades 8-11)

Each level has slight differences in how the test is taken and what is on the test that makes it fair, so each student has an equal advantage.

What Does Each Section Focus On?

To prepare to take the SSAT, no matter what level the student is taking, one must look to see what will be covered in each section.

Verbal Skills Section

The verbal skills section has the highest number of questions for the shortest amount of time. Students are expected to complete this section at a rate of 2 questions per minute.

In this section, students will answer 30 questions on synonyms and 30 questions on analogies for a total of 60 questions. This section tests students on vocabulary (both parts) and their verbal reasoning skills (analogy questions.)

To prepare for this section, go over the common errors that are found in people’s spelling and writing, such as plural forms, spelling mistakes, and take a look at prefixes/suffixes.

Quantitative Skills Section

This math section is commonly one of the hardest sections that students face in this exam. The quantitative skills sections test students on their math computing and reasoning skills throughout both quantitative 1 and quantitative 2. No calculator is allowed for this section, so make sure to have students brush up on basic math operation skills.

Many questions student face in this section are word problems incorporating math operations with real-world thinking.

In this section, different levels of students will have different math areas that the SSAT will focus on. Elementary level SSAT will focus more on basic operations and algebra, while higher levels may have questions on geometry, integers, and more complicated concepts.

Preparing for this section encourages students to practice a variety of math problems, including word problems. It is also a good idea to brush up on multiplication tables and fractions.

Reading Skills Section

The reading skills section has students quickly read seven passages that cover several kinds of genres. Each passage is no more than 350 words, and 40 questions go along with these passages.

The questions asked in this section test students on their reading comprehension and their ability to think critically about the material covered in each passage. Questions can cover locating details described in the text, making inferences, determining the author’s purpose, and much more.

Students find the reading skills section the easiest to study for, especially if they are already big readers. To prepare for the reading skills section, students are encouraged to practice critical thinking with the books and articles they read every day.

Take an article or chapter of a book and dissect it. Determine what the author is trying to say and the tone that they use to say it. Question why the author chose to write things the way they did and delve into the author’s overall style. This will mimic what students are asked to do during the exam.

The Writing Sample


Finally, students will be completing a writing sample that consists of answering 1 or 2 prompts in long form or an essay. The prompts given may be creative or non-creative, and this section will look over the overall writing skills of a student.

Go over how an essay is typically written with its structure and rules. Then, to prepare, look up different writing prompts online and free write your response to them. We recommend you time yourself during this exercise to practice writing an argument/detailed response with the time constraints.


The SSAT is a very long test that takes anywhere from two to a little over three hours, depending on the grade of the student. Not many students enjoy going through this long process, but it is highly worth it to get into their top choice of private institution.

Before a student takes their test, they should prepare thoroughly. We highly recommend heading to Test Prep Online for the most realistic practice resources and tests.

Students should approach the test well-rested and have eaten a fulfilling meal beforehand. Getting enough sleep and eating a nutritious meal will keep minds sharp and help a student get through several hours of testing.

After they complete their SSAT, they will receive a score that will allow them to apply to their private institution or prepare for retaking the SSAT in the future.