While planning for independent school applications, one of the many things to consider is your student’s timeline for taking the SSAT. As we’ve written before, we recommend students take the SSAT twice to take advantage of score improvements and increased familiarity with the test.
SSAT Testing Options – Digital versus Flex Tests
In the wake of the pandemic, the maker of the SSAT test moved away from large-scale, paper-based administrations at test centers in favor of online, computer-based testing. Now, students applying to independent middle and high schools will have the option of taking their entrance exams online, either from home or at a Prometric test center. Elementary level testing will continue to be paper-based.
The SSAT Flex test is the same as the version administered at school test sites, and your student’s reported score is not reflected differently in their application if they take a Flex test. The key differences are that the SSAT Flex test offers additional options for test dates, which may better accommodate your schedule, and the SSAT Flex test is paper-based, which can be beneficial for students who struggle with online testing.
Below are the options for taking the middle and upper level SSAT:
- Paper-Based Standard Test Dates administered at school test sites.
- Computer-Based SSAT at a Prometric test center with daily availability.
- Computer-Based at Home administered remotely via live, virtual proctor. The digital “SSAT at Home” is offered at set times on weekends every 3-4 weeks.
- Paper-Based Flex Tests administered by test centers and educational consultants, with a limit of 2 flex tests per testing season–one test within the Flex window of August 1 – November 14 and one within the Flex window of November 29 – July 31.
- There are two categories of Flex tests:
- An “Open Flex Test” is a test administered by a school with registration open to the public via the SSAT website.
- A “Closed Flex Test” is a test hosted by an educational consultant or member school that is not open to public registration. To register, you need to obtain an access code directly from the group or individual administering the test. Flex tests administered by educational consultants are typically closed. Note that there is an additional administrative fee associated with Flex testing by educational consultants.
Reasons for Taking the SSAT Flex Test
SCHEDULE CONFLICTS – The Flex test can be used in place of a standard test date for which the student has a scheduling conflict.
TESTING ENVIRONMENT – Often, the Flex test is given to a small group or individually, offering the advantages that a smaller setting provides, such as less noise and fewer distractions. Students with learning differences who require accommodations as part of their exam setting may benefit from taking the Flex test.
PAPER-BASED – The SSAT Flex test is a paper and pencil test, which can be beneficial for students who struggle with online testing.
FLEXIBLE TIMELINE – The Flex test might be the best option for a family facing a compressed admission timeline, or in the midst of a school change or entrance mid-year.
STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY – The Flex test can give students the chance to take the test one more time, which may be especially important when applying to selective schools. For example, if they took the test on the standard test dates in November and December and don’t want to wait for the January test date (which could put them up against the application deadline), they can use the Flex test. Remember that students can take only one Flex test in a testing year.
Taking SSAT Practice Tests with Summit
We highly recommend that students start by taking one of our free practice SSAT or ISEE (both, if you are given the choice). We generally recommend taking a paper-based practice test at first to get students comfortable with the experience of sitting for the test and working with the problem types. After every practice test with Summit, you’ll receive a detailed Score Report that will pinpoint strengths and areas for development. As a complimentary service, we’ll walk you through the analysis, answer your questions, and provide guidance for test planning.
Summit also offers computer-based practice SSAT and ISEE tests. Our digital testing platform provides an excellent simulation of the format and test-taking tools that appear on the official computer-based tests. It is crucial that students become familiar with the digital testing experience prior to their testing day. Summit’s digital practice tests are a good way to build that familiarity with a low-stress practice test.
Summit works hard to keep you current on all of the changes in the testing environment. In addition to providing exceptional test preparation and personalized tutoring, we strive to be a trusted, expert resource for counselors and families navigating the process. If you are looking for professional, thoughtful, personal guidance, experienced tutors, and customized test preparation, we are here for you. Our commitment is to your testing success, on your terms.