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About the SSAT Reading Comprehension

The SSAT Reading Comprehension section consists of grade appropriate passages and follow-up, multiple-choice questions. The passages and their respective follow-up questions assess a student’s ability to comprehend what s/he has read.

The passages on the SSAT consist of two different types of writing: narrative (excerpts from novels, prose, poetry, essays, etc.) and argument (presenting a clear point of view about a topic). In the follow-up questions, students are asked to find certain pieces of information and to interpret the text. Additional questions require students to demonstrate an evaluative, literal, and inferential understanding of an assortment of texts. Students are asked to identify details and key ideas as well as to figure out the text’s main idea. Other questions may ask the reader to define words or phrases found in the text.

The SSAT Elementary Level Reading Comprehension section is made up of seven passages, each with four follow-up questions. It is to be completed in 30 minutes. The SSAT Middle & Upper Level Reading sections contain passages, each between 250-350 words in length (the amount of passages on these levels vary) and have a total of 40 follow-up questions. This section must be completed in 40 minutes. Practicing different questions and texts can help you improve your performance so that the day of the test you do not have to be pressured by the time constraints.

Possible Passage Topics Possible Follow-Up Question Types
Literary fiction Recognize main idea
Humanities (biography, art, poetry) Find details
Science (anthropology, astronomy, medicine) Make inferences
Social studies (history, sociology, economics) Definitions of words
Author’s purpose
Understand and evaluate opinions/arguments
Make predictions based on text

Some of these follow-up questions can be easier to answer than others, but nonetheless, they are all equally important to succeed. A key skill involved in answering all these questions is the ability to contain the information read and to be able to locate it in the text for later reference.

Start by quickly reading the text, paying special attention to the overall tone of the text. What kind of idea does it express? After you are done reading the text, look at the questions. Try to understand where the answer should be located, if the question addresses something discussed in the introduction, body, or conclusion. 

You can also underline parts of the text that you feel could have more importance or that play a key part. In time and with practice, you will understand that some words are indicative of the author's point of view (for or against an idea), or an opinion or argument.

After having read many texts, you will recognize that some questions are very typical when discussing a text and therefore, will already understand that you have to be wary of certain connecting words. As a form of extra practice, you can also try to answer these typical questions about each text even if the test does not specify it. Practice by taking different texts and start by determining the topic (science, humanities, fiction, social). Then, you can try to determine the exact topic and theme of the text (is it a report? an essay? is it aimed at a specific audience? why is it written like that?). After that, ask yourself if the author has a particular view related to the topic.

SSAT Practice Test

Help your child succeed on the SSAT test! Make sure to set aside time to prepare with TestPrep-Online. We currently offer child-friendly upper SSAT practice tests and soon we will offer packs for the other two levels, to help your child succeed on the test. The SSAT prep packs include realistic practice tests and helpful study guides, allowing your child to become familiar with the test structure. Your child can start preparing for the SSAT test with TestPrep-Online today! 

Our detailed explanations, study guides, and large array of questions can help your child gain confidence and learn the right strategies to succeed in the SSAT. Our practice packs often include a parent guide with all the information about the test, and a recommended strategy for how to use our pack in the most efficient way.

You can retake any of our tests as many times as you want, so you may become more familiar with the logic that needs to be used when you are answering one of the questions, or when approaching a composition. Try paying a lot of attention to the explanations given for each question. You can also answer a question by ruling out answer choices. Sometimes you will find that it is easier to find where the text mentions the opposite of an answer choice and rule it out than to find the correct answer.

The SSAT and other trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with TestPrep-Online or this website.

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