Taking the SSAT
When you begin to apply to independent schools, you will find that many of the top American and Canadian schools will ask you to submit a report of your scores on the SSAT, an admission aptitude test used by more than 600 independent schools and given in 76 countries.
Admission officers use the SSAT as a common measure for evaluating the abilities of all students, regardless of background or experience.
The SSAT measures student ability in basic math, verbal and reading comprehension, and it evaluates the student’s ability to think logically and to solve problems systematically. The SSAT does not measure creativity, artistic or athletic talent, or motivation. Admission officers value these qualities as well, and they find evidence of them in a student’s writing sample, essay, grade history, letters of recommendation and interview. SSAT scores are just part of the student’s whole application for admission.
Many students experience anxiety about taking exams. If you are anxious about the SSAT, be assured that you are not alone, and that slight anxiety about taking a high-stakes test like the SSAT is normal. In fact, a little bit of anxiety is useful because it helps focus attention.
Too much anxiety, however, is not helpful. Some students score lower on a test because they are nervous. While test anxiety cannot always be eliminated, there are ways to help keep it at a manageable level. A fuller understanding of the nature of the SSAT, as well as an understanding of the ways you may prepare for the test, should help eliminate unnecessary anxiety.
Contrary to what many people believe, students can and should prepare for the SSAT. In fact, you are probably preparing to take the SSAT every day—by rigorous daily application to regular school study, and by extensive reading outside the classroom.
In addition to these daily activities, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the test’s organization, layout, format and time constraints. You may do this three ways: by reading over the free SSAT Student Registration Guide, by answering sample questions on the SSAT website www.ssat.org, and by ordering the SSAT publication, SSAT: Preparing and Applying, which contains four full, disclosed practice tests and which offers advice to students and their families about applying to independent schools.
Complete practice questions in a quiet room, free of interruptions, and work within the time allotted for each section of the SSAT.
It is also helpful to become familiar with test directions. When you take the real SSAT, you will not need to waste time reading directions if you have done so in advance.
When you have completed a practice test, score your answers and review your errors. Where did you make mistakes? If you find that your skills are weak in a particular area, such as division of fractions for example, you may want to spend some time reviewing that area.
Remember, some tension is normal and can help you focus. Relaxation exercises or breathing techniques can help keep tension at an acceptable level. Good luck!
Tips for Minimizing Test Anxiety
- Become familiar with the test’s organization, format and time constraints.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the testing center, find a seat and get settled. Don’t rush—that may increase anxiety during the exam.
- Do not cram (spending a lot of time trying to master information at the last minute).
- Take good care of yourself prior to the test by getting a good night’s rest and eating well. Have a protein-filled dinner the night before and a meal high in complex carbohydrates before the test. Caffeine and sugar-filled snacks before and during the test can increase anxiety.
- Relax before the test. Because anxiety is easy to spread, consider avoiding your friends if you’re feeling tense—if you are not already anxious, you might become so.
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