Difference between the SAT and SSAT

Confused between the SAT and SSAT? Get to know the key differences here!

High school kids have a lot of pressure these days, what with all the standardized tests they have to take. To master what these tests entail takes time and at first glance all the acronyms like SAT, PSAT, SSAT may seem confusing. Standardized tests may seem never-ending, and all the different exams with different rules can be confusing too. The college application process can be hectic and abbreviations like the ACT, SAT and FAFSA can muddle the student up. The main three exams are- SAT, PSAT and the SATs. These are national level exams and this article illustrated the differences between the SATs and the SSATs. After all, these are some major exams in the lives of students, and getting familiar with the different exam structure and their purposes are the first step to acing them. Here in this article of EduQuest, we will share the key difference between SAT and SSATs.

Comparison between SAT and SSATs

Because the names are so similar, these two exams are often confused with each other. Parents, as well as children, are prone to making this error. To avoid this mistake, it is important to know what these two separate tests are and how they differ from each other.

What is the SAT exam?

SAT is perhaps the most popular standardized test. The administration of this SAT exam is done by the College Board and almost every college in the United States as well as other colleges and universities accept SAT scores in their application. SAT stands for Scholastic Assessment Test and earlier it was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test. This test was developed to test the students on their verbal, mathematical and their writing ability.

Most students who want to complete their undergraduate courses in the United States or Canada want to prepare and sit for the SATs, so most students in their 11th and 12th grade opt for this.  But that is not all, great scores on the SAT exam also lead to scholarships for the students.  Students can opt to give the ACT or the SAT exam, but most do not want to sit for them both.


This exam has four sections in total. There are two sections for Reading and writing and another two for Math. For the Math portion, there are two sections- one where the students will be allowed a calculator and one where one has to manage without. There will be 154 questions in total. The score range is from 400-1600.

The SAT structure has been modified in recent years. The SAT essay has been discontinued.

What is SSAT?

Like SAT, the SSATs or the Secondary School Admission Tests are also a standardized test and it is taken by those students who want to attend private schools. Unlike the SAT, SSATs are offered to students multiple times throughout their high school years. The SSATs are offered to elementary graders, middle graders and upper graders. Like most standardized tests, this one also tests the candidates on reading writing and math skills. But the scores on this SSAT exam has no place on a college application, and this is not used as a test for achievement, but merely to measure the capacity of the students in certain skills. The College Board handles the SATs but the SSATs are handled by the Enrollment Management Association or the EMA.


The SSATs have sections for Quantitative, Verbal, Reading, Experimental and Writing samples. The verbal and reading portions mainly concentrate on analogy questions and reading passages. The experimental section has both verbal, reading and mathematics questions. The writing sample is simply one prompt for writing and it is not scored. But schools use these writing samples to judge the writing skills of their students. This exam can be taken at home only by US and Canadian students.

The time limit for Upper and Middle-level SSAT is different from the elementary level. The upper/middle graders get three hours and ten minutes to complete their test. This time is inclusive of the break of 10 minutes. However, the elementary kids have 15 minutes break and their test time is about ten hours and five minutes.

The SSATs are secure and accessible. They are still relevant too and it is a good indicator of the future success level of students. The test is prepared and reviewed by the educators of schools and experts in testing. 

What is the similarity between the SATs and SSATs?

Both of these exams are considered entrance tests. They help the students get into educational institutions of their choosing. These scores are important but not the deciding factor of acceptance of applications because things like high school grades and extracurricular activities still hold merit.

What are the ways in which these tests are different?

There are a few ways in which the SAT and SSATs are different. The important differences are listed below for the benefits of students and parents alike.

  • Entrance exams

Even though both are entrance exams, SATs are taken because they help in college applications. Thousands of colleges in United States and Canada accept the SAT scores for admission in their undergraduate courses.

On the other hand, the SSATs have nothing to do with college applications. These are taken by students who are looking to get into the private schools. Schools accept SSATs scores from grade 4 to 11. 

  • Administration-

As mentioned before, the entities responsible for the administration of these two exams are different. The SAT are administered by the organization of College Board while the SSATs are managed by the Enrollment Management Association.

  • Vocab portion-

Both the exams have a vocabulary testing portion but the nature of accessing the students is a bit different. The SAT exam tests the students through questions of sentence completion. However, the SSATs are focused more on the analogies and synonyms. The SSAT also does not have evidence backed questions in their syllabus but the SATs do. The SSATs also have a writing portion whereas the SATs have discontinued the optional essay part of their exam.

  • Use of calculator-

The SATs allow their test takers to sue the calculator for one section of their math portion. But the SSATs do not have that rule. The math sections for SSATs have to be solved without the aid of a calculator.

  • Difficulty level

It is obvious that the SATs are more difficult than the SSATs because the SATs are taken by students who are about to enter colleges. If a student uses SAT preparation material for the SSATs then he or she will definitely be over-prepared.

In conclusion, these tests are used for widely different purposes. But both of these exams are reliable and they have a solid reputation for evaluating students correctly.

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