2020-21 Best SSAT Prep Courses Reviewed
The SSAT is probably unlike any test your student has ever taken. That’s because it’s designed to find the best students in a large pool of excellent students. The SSAT’s questions are significantly different—in their difficulty and their content—from questions on other standardized tests, to the point that your student isn’t even expected to know everything that’s on the test! This means that, in order for your student to have the best chance at getting a score that’ll help them get admitted to their school of choice, they’ll need to prepare for the test.
There are a lot of test prep options out there, from tutoring, to books, to online services. We’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best test prep options we’ve found. But first, here are some things to consider before choosing a prep solution:
- How does your student learn best? Some students learn best in a self-paced program where they are in control, while others may benefit from the more rigid prep plan that a tutor or a class can provide.
- Where are you now, and where do you want to go? It’s important to have an idea of your student’s score goals, and to know where they stand at the beginning of the preparation process. That means taking a full-length test that provides scores and quality feedback, and comparing that performance to where they need to be. If you don’t know what score your student needs to aim for, check out the target scoring information that Test Innovators put together.
- How much time do you have to prepare? If you’re coming in at the last minute, then purchasing a multi-hour tutoring package or a thousand-page prep book probably isn’t the right fit. But a few practice tests, and highly targeted feedback and practice certainly won’t hurt. Finding a one-off class aimed specifically at last minute prep can be a huge advantage as well. If you’ve got a few months, then you’ll have a few more realistic options to choose from.
- What’s your budget? Tutoring can get expensive and is sometimes just out of reach or should be reserved as a supplement to another resource. Look for something that will give you qualitative feedback and not just a raw score.
Now that you’ve you’ve thought through those things, check out these test prep options below. One of them might be the right fit for your student!
|Price||In-person services||Online Services||Officially licensed material||Instant normative scoring||Free Trial|
|EMA (SSAT.org)||$59.95 - $99.95||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Test Innovators||$79.99 - $399.99*||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ivy Global||$0 - $210*||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Princeton Review||Starting at $167/hour||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Kaplan||Starting at $299*||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
*for online materials only–tutoring rates depend on the number of hours purchased
Test Innovators’ online platform provides the most powerful diagnostics and best practice tests we’ve found for the SSAT. Students begin by taking a full-length practice test and can then dive into an interactive analysis of their performance. The analysis provides a detailed report of your scores, content knowledge, and test taking skills, including interactive charts that show how long you spent on each question. Through a partnership with EMA, Test Innovators also offers the three official SSAT practice tests that you can purchase at SSAT.org, but with the added benefit of scoring and additional diagnostics.
One unique aspect of the Test Innovators platform is its tight feedback loop. Using information about students’ test-taking performance from the past several years, Test Innovators provides an instant normative score report with percentiles and scaled scores. Students can also flip through a practice test and see this data for each question: how many students answered a question correctly, and what percentage of students selected each answer. In addition, the practice tests are updated on a rolling basis using feedback from the current year’s test takers, which is especially important for a tests like the SSAT that can vary from year to year.
Test Innovators also has some powerful tools to help students learn essential test taking skills. Practice exercises provide additional work for areas of weakness, and a video course covers the key SSAT strategies for each section of the test. They also offer online 1-on-1 tutoring with tutors who specialize in the SSAT & ISEE, and all of their packages come with a free 20-minute tutor consultation. They also offer 3-hour online test-prep crash-courses for families in crunch mode who want to pack as much information as they can into a short time-frame.
Enrollment Management Association (ssat.org)
The Enrollment Management Association (EMA) is the organization that created and administers the SSAT, and they now provide practice tests to help your student prepare for test day.
They have an online portal where you can take full length practice tests that are timed just like the real test, hundreds of study tools (many are free, some are paid), and up-to-date content. You can sign up for a free, truncated, practice test that will give you 10 questions per section on the test and a simple analysis of what you scored the highest and lowest on. You’ll get your raw score (the score that is based off of how many questions you got right and wrong), but they don’t provide a normative score through their online tools like you get when you take their practice tests through Test Innovators.
EMA also offers physical books that you can purchase, and their prep options are easy to order—you’ll see the option to pick these up at the same time that you’re registering for the official test. All families preparing for the test should take the EMA’s official practice tests in one format or another.
Princeton Review (princetonreview.com)
Princeton Review was founded in 1981 with the goal of helping students get into their dream schools. They provide both online and in-person tutoring options in addition to their widely available test prep books. They also provide many test-taking strategies both in their books and in sessions that you can find all around the country. With over 35 years of experience helping students prepare for various standardized tests, Princeton Review has excellent credentials and are well respected.
Their prep books provide self-paced teaching materials to help your student prepare for the test and cover test taking strategies to help students see improved scores. They don’t have materials that are available immediately online, but you can purchase the books from retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
One thing to keep in mind is that their popular prep book covers both the SSAT & ISEE. If you’re preparing for both tests, this may be fine, but it does mean that you’re not getting highly targeted preparation for each test. It also means that the six practice tests are mostly not going to be relevant to the test (and test level) that you’re preparing for. If you choose to take advantage of Princeton Review’s tutoring services, they have a number of different levels that provide guaranteed score increases.
Ivy Global (ssatprep.com)
Ivy Global is ‘a company that focuses on providing clients with premium education services’ and prides itself on having top tier educators to help students get the best scores possible on the SSAT. All of their instructors have scored in the 99th percentile on standardized tests and have a passion for teaching. Their tutoring services are all online using Skype for video-conferencing and whiteboarding. Each tutoring session is customized to prepare your student with the tools they need to be successful on the test.
In addition to their tutoring services, Ivy Global’s primary SSAT prep materials are available to be purchased as a book, but they also offer free sample tests that you can download to take at home. They do not offer an online test portal or any immediate scoring or diagnostics. Their materials are widely considered to be of good quality and accurate to the real test.
Ivy Global also offers a number of free online educational videos that cover topics helpful to the test. You can also find general information about the SSAT, details about their tutoring services, and an option to order their prep books directly. Their books can be ordered in a hardcopy that is sent to your home, or in an ebook format as a PDF.
Kaplan provides blended SSAT and ISEE preparation materials that can be purchased as a book or through their online service. Their book and their online materials provide 6 full length practice tests (1 full length test per level for both the ISEE and the SSAT). Their online materials provide quizzes and practice questions in addition to a virtual test proctor that you can use to emulate the real test. Their online materials are primarily on-demand lessons that you can access from anywhere with an internet connection and are designed to supplement their test prep book.
When utilizing Kaplan’s SSAT prep services online, you can expect to learn the study skills you’ll need to prepare effectively, tips and tricks for navigating the Verbal, Math, and Writing sections of the tests, and full-length practice tests to cement what you’re learning.
Kaplan also provides online or in-person tutoring options to help your student learn the content that you can expect to find on the test. All of their tutors have prestigious educational backgrounds have have been certified in Kaplan’s teacher certification and development program. You can purchase their book on Amazon.
When deciding which service you’re going to use, it’s best to narrow down your options and then ask questions and talk about your specific situation. Each of these offers a different experience and makes different promises about how their services will work for you, so it’s important to make sure you find a good fit so that you can give your student the best chances at getting the scores they want.