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What is the difference between the SAT and the SSAT

The difference between the SAT and the SSAT

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) have a lot more differences than just the additional letter in one of their names and this article explores some of them. When it comes to the numerous assessments that College Board offers, it can be a little confusing on what each test deals with.

Hence, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into so that you can make an appropriate decision on which exams to register for.

In this article, we will break down the differences between the two exams that are often mixed up by students and parents. 

What is the SAT?

The College Board administers the SAT, which is a standardized test that is broadly recognized for admissions in the United States. It is a three-hour-long multiple-choice test with two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

The total score for the SAT is 1600, with each section scored out of 800. In order to ease your way into the Ivy League, it is highly recommended to ensure that your SAT score is above 1450. 

The general SAT consists of two major sections, math, and evidence-based writing and reading. As of 2021-22, the general SAT costs $55 for students residing in the United States.

However, this fee can vary based on whether you register by phone, make alterations to an existing registration, if you are admitted to administration through the waitlist or if you register during the late registration period.

Students taking up the SAT outside the United States must pay additional regional fees. 

What is the SSAT? 

The Enrollment Management association administers the SSAT, which is a standardized test for those looking to apply to private schools.

The tests are offered in three levels: elementary, middle level, and upper level.

The verbal and reading section focuses on analogy questions and reading passages.

The experimental section has both verbal, reading and mathematics questions.

Schools also use writing samples to judge the writing skills of their students, however, it is not scored. 

The SSAT registration costs $149, and if registered late there will be an extra $45.

Students taking the test correspond to their current grade and not to the grade they will be applying for. 

Also Read: Proven SAT Study Plans [1, 2, 3, and 6-Month Schedules]

What are the differences? 

Some of the key differences between the SAT and SSAT are:

Entrance exams

The major difference is the type of school the test taker is looking to apply to. While both tests are entrance exams, students take up the SAT for admissions in universities, especially in the US and Canada.

It has become optional during the last year as a result of the pandemic, however, it is highly encouraged to take it up as it can contribute a lot to your overall application.

SSATs are taken by students from grades 4 to 11, for those who are looking to study at a private school. So this has nothing to do with college applications which already makes it completely different. 


While students from all over the world can take up the SAT for admissions to the university, the only US and Canadian students can take the SSAT. 

Calculator usage

The SAT allows for calculator usage for one part of the math section, whereas the SSAT does not allow you to use a calculator throughout the test. 

Level of difficulty

The level of difficulty greatly differs due to the difference in age groups of the students who take both tests.

The SAT is evidently much tougher than the SSAT as it is usually taken by high school students looking to go to university.

However, with a good amount of preparation, it will not seem as difficult. As the SSAT is used to get into schools and not universities, it will be relatively easier. Using SAT study material for the SSAT could be highly beneficial and could help you excel in it. 


The non-profit entities that administer the two exams are entirely different. While the SAT is administered by the College Board, the SSAT is administered by the Enrollment Management Association. 


While both tests have sections that test your vocabulary, the way of assessment differs. The SSATs are much more focused on analogies and synonyms, whereas the SAT one’s vocabulary is through sentence completions.

The SAT used to have an optional essay, however, it has been discontinued recently. The SAT essay being an optional component already establishes the fact that it is not a necessity to take it up.

With college requirements and the needs of students constantly fluctuating, the College Board decided that in order to adapt to the changes, discontinuing the optional SAT essay would be a good option. The SSATs also have a writing section which can also be used further to test vocabulary. 

Duration of the exam:

The total duration of the SAT is 3 hours and 15 minutes. For the SSAT, the duration varies based on the level.

For elementary students, it is 2 hours and 5 minutes, whereas for middle and upper-level students it is 3 hours and 5 minutes. 

What are the similarities? 

However, the SAT and SSAT can be similar in more ways than you think. Some of the similarities between the SAT and SSAT are:

  • Both tests are entrance exams. While they both help students get into educational institutes of different levels, they ultimately serve the same purpose. 
  • Both tests play a vital role in the admission process, however, they are not the only factors that come into play. They also assess you based on other grades and extracurricular activities.
  • Both tests have similar content, such as vocabulary, reading, and mathematics. 
  • They are both highly reputable and reliable tests for the evaluation of students’ capabilities in English and math. 
  • Regardless of whether students are looking to apply to college or private schools, both tests are beneficial to building students’ skills, such as good study habits, time management, critical thinking, quantitive, grammar, and vocabulary. 

In conclusion, while both the SAT and SSAT have a couple of similarities, they are two entirely different tests taken to apply to different types of schools. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the SAT?

A: The SAT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. It assesses students’ skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, and is usually taken by high school juniors and seniors.

Q2: What is the SSAT?

A: The SSAT is a standardized test used for admission to independent and private schools. It assesses students’ skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and reading comprehension, and is usually taken by students in grades 3-11.

Q3: How do the SAT and SSAT differ in terms of content?

A: The SAT primarily assesses skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, whereas the SSAT assesses skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and reading comprehension. The SSAT also includes a writing sample, whereas the SAT includes an optional essay.

Q4: How do the SAT and SSAT differ in terms of format and timing?

A: The SAT consists of a reading section, writing and language section, math section, and optional essay, and is approximately 3 hours long (3 hours and 50 minutes with the essay). The SSAT consists of a verbal section, quantitative section, reading section, and writing sample, and is approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes long.

Q5: What is the difference in score reporting for the SAT and SSAT?

A: SAT scores are typically reported to colleges and universities as part of the admissions process, whereas SSAT scores are typically reported to independent and private schools as part of the application process. Additionally, SAT scores are valid for up to 5 years, whereas SSAT scores are only valid for the current application season.

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