SSAT Test Prep: Thomas’ Test Taking Tips

There’s an old saying: “The lawyer who is best prepared is the one who wins the case.” In the same way, “The test taker who is best prepared will be the one who scores high and then applies for a college and goes to Harvard as a political science major but finds out a year in that he wants to be a lawyer, so he goes to law school after graduating and has to take a side job as a waiter but eventually becomes a lawyer and is then best prepared and then wins the case.” Uh … I think my metaphor got out of hand. The point is, nothing takes the place of being prepared and well-rested during the test day, which is why those pieces of advice are so commonly given. For the actual SSAT test day, here are five lesser-known strategies that should be helpful:

  1. Be calm. This often overlooked piece of advice is truly very helpful — the test goes faster and you do better when you are calm. Don’t turn test day into stress day.
  1. Write one or two essays in advance. Think about it — the SSAT has many similar prompts. If you were to write and memorize an essay that could fit with multiple prompts, then you could use that instead of writing one from scratch on test day, and in that way, avoid the possibility of writer’s block on a timed test.
  1. Read the question twice. The chance of misreading a question is great, especially when you are racing the clock. This technique has saved me more than once from making a mistake.
  1. Because the SSAT gives a scoring penalty for wrong answers, it is better not to guess on a question if you have no idea. Wrong answers aren’t just passively wrong — they actively try to make you think that they are right or anticipate common mistakes that you might make. Even if you have decided that the right answer is between two choices (which are both sometimes wrong), the odds of getting the penalty is often greater than 50/50 because the wrong answer may look especially plausible and attractive.
  1. Answer all of the easy questions first. Each question is worth the same number of points. Therefore, you may do better by getting the easier questions done first, and then spending more time tackling the tougher questions.

To learn more about the SSAT or register for the SSAT, visit

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