Knowing what to expect on SSAT paper test day helps reduce anxiety, putting students in the right frame of mind to do their best. Set those expectations with our test-day tips, prohibited items list, and test center procedures.
Paper SSAT Test-Day Tips
Test day has a knack for coming quicker than you may think. Preparation is key, and the following tips will help your student get ready and avoid unexpected surprises. Reading our SSAT advice articles and setting students up for success with the official SSAT practice tests and quizzes is also a good idea.
Proper sleep and regular exercise can help students feel mentally sharp for testing. Have them eat a balanced breakfast on test day, but not so much that they feel tired afterward. Dress for success in comfortable clothes and footwear to avoid distractions.
Remember the Admission Ticket
Parents should save the admission ticket to their phone or print it out under "My Tests" in your account. Those approved for accommodations must also present the accommodations approval page of the ticket.
Items to Bring (And Not Bring)
Students should have at least three #2 pencils with good erasers (no mechanical pencils or pens). Pack snacks in a clear plastic bag and a drink in a clear bottle; put the student's name on both. Equally important, don't bring prohibited items such as watches or calculators.
Testing usually begins promptly at 9 a.m. Arrive 30–45 minutes early for check-in; late students cannot get admitted once testing begins. The "Special Instructions" section of the admission ticket will note the official start time and provide transportation and parking info.
Check your email and the SSAT Alerts page before leaving in case there's a cancellation. In the rare case of a cancellation, you can attend the rescheduled date, transfer to another date and location, or get refunded.
Please carefully review the list of prohibited items and the cell phone policy below. If prohibited items are brought, students must place them in the prohibited items area upon entering the test room. While students should have empty pockets, they are allowed hand sanitizer, a mask, a reasonable amount of tissues, and feminine hygiene products.
- Cell phones (MUST BE OFF)
- Fitness tracker wristbands
- Media players
- All watches (clocks will be visible in testing rooms and proctors will provide timing cues)
- Large Jewelry
- Hats (Head coverings worn for religious reasons are NOT prohibited. Hooded sweatshirts may be worn; however, the hood must remain down at all times.
- Mechanical Pencils
- Notes or Paper
SSAT Cell Phone Policy
Cell phones are prohibited, and we strongly discourage students from bringing one to a test center; however, we understand that a phone may be necessary for coordinating transportation. Students that bring a phone must strictly abide by all cell phone rules:
- Ensure the phone is off.
- Place the phone in the prohibited items area when prompted.
- Do NOT attempt to access or use the phone, including during breaks.
Students possessing a prohibited item during testing will be excused, have their test canceled without refund, and may not be allowed to retest.
Test Center Procedures
Select the items below to learn what to expect at a paper SSAT test center.
Once you arrive at the test center, look for SSAT signs to guide you to the check-in area. All staff associated with the test wears an SSAT nametag should you need assistance.
You'll start by showing your admission ticket at the check-in area. Some international sites require identification; please check your admission ticket notes to see if identification is required at your location.
The student will then be directed to the test room, or you'll be asked to wait patiently until all test takers arrive. Parents and guardians may escort students to the testing room at most locations; however, you may NOT enter the testing room.
Upon arrival at the testing room, the proctor will ask students to:
- Form a line at the prohibited items area and place all prohibited items in there
- Turn off cell phones and put them in a provided zip-top bag with the student's name written on it
- Roll up their sleeves to show that they don't have a watch or fitness tracker on
- Turn out their pockets to show they don't have any prohibited items
- Place snacks in the snacks area
- Sit in a seat chosen by the proctor—students aren't allowed to choose their own seat
- Wait quietly and patiently for all others to be admitted
Metal detectors (magnetometers) may be used for security at select international locations.
Once students have completed the admissions process, they will only be permitted to have pencils, their admission ticket, and their identification (only at the locations where it is required) at their testing seat.
The proctor will explain the testing rules and pass out answer sheets. In most cases, students receive an answer sheet preprinted with their information on the first page.
The second and third pages of the answer sheet are for the writing sample, and the fourth page is where students mark their answers. Students will verify that the information on their answer sheet is correct, or they will fill in their name, grade, gender, and registration ID (from the admission ticket).
Testing will then begin, starting with the writing sample section. As with all sections, the writing section is timed, and students will receive a five-minute warning before the time is up. Students can utilize a piece of scrap paper to organize their thoughts, but the complete writing sample must be written on the answer sheet.
A five-minute break is provided after the writing section when students can visit the restroom and have a snack, but they aren't allowed to access prohibited items.
After the break, the proctor will distribute test books, and the multiple-choice sections will begin. Students must carefully mark their answers and attempt each section—tests cannot be scored if an entire section is left blank.
It's important to remember that students don't have to answer every question. They will receive 1 point for each correct answer, lose 1/4 point for each incorrect answer, and neither receive nor lose points for skipping a question. When skipping a question, they must be careful to also skip that space in their answer sheet.
Students may use the blank space in the test book as scrap paper to help them determine the answers during each multiple-choice section. The allotted time for each section varies, but a five-minute warning is always provided. Students aren't allowed to move ahead or return to a previous section if they finish a section early.
View the Middle Level and Upper Level pages for a more detailed breakdown of the SSAT sections than what is shown below.
The proctor will explain the testing rules and pass out test books. In most cases, students receive a test book preprinted with their information on the first page.
Students will verify that the information on their test book is correct, or they will fill in their name, grade, gender, and registration ID (from the admission ticket).
The multiple-choice sections are administered first, and students may use the blank space in the test book to help them determine the answers. The allotted time for each section varies, but a five-minute warning is always provided. Students aren't allowed to move ahead or return to a previous section if they finish a section early.
When taking the Elementary Level test, students should answer each question, even if they aren't sure what the answer is. One point is awarded for each correct answer, and no points are lost for wrong or skipped questions. Tests cannot be scored if an entire section is left blank.
After the multiple-choice sections, testing continues with the writing sample, where students write about a picture they see on the test sheet.
Visit the Elementary Level page for a more detailed breakdown of the test sections and break periods.
Students can access snacks in the snacks area and use the restroom during breaks. They are NOT allowed to access any prohibited items.
Depending upon the test center, they might be allowed to access the hallways.
When and how long are the breaks?
Middle and Upper Level (Grades 5–7 and 8–11)
- One 10-minute break after the writing sample
- One 10-minute break between multiple-choice sections two and three
Elementary Level (grades 3-4)
- One 15-minute break between multiple-choice sections two and three
Students approved for 1.5x time (50% extra time) will have additional five-minute breaks on all testing levels.
Students are permitted to use the restroom during testing, but the time missed cannot be made up, so it's best to wait until a scheduled break if possible. During testing, students raise their hand if they need to use the restroom; only one student is allowed to go at a time, so there may be a short wait.
After the final section ends, students are to wait quietly and patiently while the proctor collects and confirms all test materials. They will then be dismissed and allowed to collect their prohibited items and snacks. We ask that they be quiet exiting as others may still be testing.
Practice for the SSAT.
The Official SSAT Practice Materials from the assessment team that creates the SSAT include Online Practice and Guide Books. Both have four full-length practice tests mirroring the SSAT experience. Get started with the free online Mini-Practice test to identify where to focus studying.
Rescheduling a Paper SSAT Appointment
- You can reschedule paper SSAT appointments to a new paper date and location, SSAT at Home, or a Prometric test.
- Paper rescheduling must be complete by 72 hours (11:59 p.m. ET) before your original test date (not your test time).
- There is a $45 fee for rescheduling a paper test.
- Reschedule on the “My Tests” page in your EMA account.