According to Statista, private school enrollment in the US is high, with 1.3 million high school students and 3.45 million elementary school students in private schools. The best SSAT prep books help students get high scores on the SSAT so they can get into top private schools in the US. The SSAT, or Secondary School Admission Test, assesses students’ verbal, math, and reading skills from grade three to 11 and is required by most private schools in the US.
There are plenty of free SSAT prep books and resources for elementary, middle, or high school level students preparing to take the SSAT, but it can be hard to decide which ones to use. In this article, we’ll share our picks of the best SSAT prep books and resources that can help you get your best score.
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Should I Take the SSAT?
You should take the SSAT if you are a student in grades three through 11 who is going through the application process to a private or independent school. The SSAT is a standardized test with three difficulty levels for different age ranges that most independent schools use to assess a range of students. A high score on the SSAT can get you into a top private school and set you up for one of the highest-paying careers.
Common SSAT Sections You Need to Prepare For
- Quantitative section. The quantitative section of the SSAT assesses basic math skills. In the elementary level SSAT, students have to solve questions related to addition, subtraction, multiplication, basic geometry, and graphs. The middle and upper-level SSAT has two quantitative sections, each with 25 questions related to arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. The upper-level SSAT questions are more difficult.
- Verbal section. The verbal section of SSAT tests vocabulary and reasoning skills through synonym questions and analogy questions. The main difference between the verbal section of the elementary, middle, and upper levels of SSAT is difficulty level and length.
- Reading section. In all three SSAT levels, students are given written passages and asked to answer questions about the material. There are six to seven short elementary level passages, while the middle and upper levels have to answer 40 questions from various passages about science, social studies, literature, and humanities.
- Writing section. In the writing section, elementary-level students are asked to write an essay in 15 minutes based on a picture given in the writing task. Middle and upper-level SSAT test takers have 25 minutes and can choose between a creative writing task or an opinion essay on a given topic.
- Experimental section. The 15-minute experimental section is the shortest section of SSAT. It may include questions on math, reasoning, verbal, and reading skills. The scores of the experimental section are not included in the overall SSAT result.
The 10 Best SSAT Prep Books to Help You Get Ready
1. The 2020–21 Official Study Guide for the Upper Level SSAT
- Best for: Official practice tests
This study guide is published by the organization that administers the SSAT. It is a great book to start preparing for SSAT and get an overview of all the sections. The book has four official tests, study tips, information on preparing for upper-level SSAT, and scoring information. It also has descriptions and exercises for all the question types.
2. The 2020–21 Official Study Guide for the Middle Level SSAT
- Best for: Official practice tests
The official study guide for middle-level SSAT is designed for test-takers from grades five through seven. Like the upper-level official guide, this book also has four practice tests and information on preparing for the SSAT. Students can also find detailed explanations of SSAT scoring.
3. 900 Practice Questions for Upper Level SSAT & ISEE
- Best for: Practice test questions for all sections
The Princeton Review’s 900 Practice Questions for Upper-Level SSAT & ISEE is a fantastic book to practice test questions. It has questions very similar to the actual exam and can help students evaluate their performance. This is a great book to use once a student has reviewed the material for all sections.
4. Cracking the SSAT & ISEE
- Best for: Practicing the verbal section
The Princeton Review’s Cracking the SSAT & ISEE has five practice tests with detailed scoring instructions. It is one of the best SSAT prep books to improve your vocabulary and practice the verbal section. It is one of the few books with a downloadable elementary-level practice test. It also includes effective test-taking strategies to improve your SSAT scores.
5. SSAT & ISEE Middle and Upper Level Prep
- Best for: Math and verbal section
The latest edition of SSAT & ISEE Middle & Upper Level Prep by Kaplan Test Prep has two SSAT practice tests, one for each level. Students can take the test and use the score conversion table to determine their score. There are hundreds of additional practice questions and essay prompts, and the answer key includes detailed answer explanations to each question.
6. Barron’s SSAT/ISEE: High School Entrance Examinations
- Best for: Writing section practice
Barron’s SSAT/ISEE: High School Entrance Examinations is a comprehensive book to help students with the essay sections. It helps students improve their writing skills with tips and techniques for writing SSAT essays. This book also has a comprehensive review of the other SSAT sections.
7. McGraw-Hill Education SSAT/ISEE
- Best for: Test-taking strategy
McGraw-Hill Education SSAT/ISEE is a complete guidebook for all three levels of SSATs. Inside the book, you will find six practice exams, additional practice questions, and 30 tips for the official test day. Included in the review materials are mind maps with detailed explanations of how to solve different types of questions.
8. SSAT Upper Level Math for Beginners
- Best for: Quantitative Section
If you are looking to sharpen your math skills and score high in the quantitative sections of the SSAT, then you should consider SSAT Upper-Level Math for Beginners. The book has a step-by-step guide on solving complex math problems quickly. It also has 500 sample questions in multiple-choice and grid-in formats.
9. Upper Level SSAT: 1500+ Practice Questions
- Best for: Diagnostic practice tests
The book has a diagnostic test to help you identify which areas you need to practice. It also has two additional full-length practice tests to help students hone their test-taking skills. It includes hundreds of reading comprehension and math questions with detailed answers available online for each question.
10. Elementary SSAT: 1000+ Practice Questions
- Best for: Elementary reading comprehension and quantitative sections
Elementary SSAT: 1000+ Practice Questions is one of the few books dedicated to the elementary level SSAT. It is designed for students in grades three or four. It has two diagnostic tests and three full-length tests. This book can be used by parents or with an independent tutor.
Free SSAT Books and Resources to Help You Get Ready
- Elementary grade 3 and grade 4 official SSAT study materials from SSAT.org
- Official mini-practice test from SSAT.org
- Kaplan’s SSAT practice from kaptest.com
- SSAT sample questions from eTutorWorld.com
- Varsity Tutors’ practice test from VarsityTutors.com
- Practice tests and flashcards from test-guide.com
Best SSAT Prep Books FAQ
To improve your SSAT score you should make a study plan that includes many practice tests. Set your study goals to the SSAT score requirement of the school you want to attend. If you can’t get the SSAT score you need, you should consider enrolling in an online high school. Some online high schools have made SSAT scores an optional part of the admission process.
Most students spend between three to six months studying for the SSAT, but some students study for up to a year. It depends on how much time you take to learn new concepts and whether you have already taken the SSAT. An easy way to get started preparing for the SSAT is to write every day to improve your writing skills.
You should spend one to two hours every other day preparing for the SSAT exam. Once you have taken a practice test, you’ll know which subjects you need to spend more time on. A study plan will help you set and achieve your goals. If you start early, you can enroll in online school and other elearning sources to sharpen your skills.
You should guess on a multiple-choice question if you can eliminate one or more wrong answers. In SSAT, you get one point for every correct answer, and you lose a quarter of a point for every wrong answer. You don’t lose any points for questions that you’ve skipped. When you don’t know an answer, understanding standardized tests is the secret to acing exams.
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