The CAT4 Cognitive Ability Test

The CAT4 cognitive ability test is an examination designed to measure a student’s academic progress.

When the CAT4 test is scored, teachers and parents will be given a summary of the academic potential of the student.

Any student taking the test will be asked questions that will measure their non-verbal reasoning abilities, verbal reasoning skills, quantitative reasoning abilities and spatial awareness.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what types of questions are asked to examine these skills.

In addition, there will be further details on the different types of CAT4 test levels. This will help you understand how the CAT4 test is scored across different age ranges.

After this information, general advice and tips will be given to help your child perform well. Frequently asked questions are also provided that are usually asked by teachers, parents and the students taking the CAT4 test.

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What Kind of Questions Are on the CAT4 Test?

As discussed above, a student will be examined in four areas.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Students will be usually asked to determine a pattern from various forms of shapes. These questions do not include words or numbers.

Verbal Reasoning

Students will be given a sentence or a block of text. They may have to spot errors or be asked to interpret what the text means.

Quantitative Reasoning

These types of questions are mathematical. A student will be given a set of numbers or a calculation.

They are like the questions that you will answer on an IQ test. Usually, they do not require comprehensive background knowledge of a mathematical formula.

Spatial Awareness

These questions are like the ones presented in the non-verbal reasoning sections of the CAT4 tests.

The students will be given a visual image, and they will have to point toward a rule or a recognizable sequence.

Three Sections of the CAT4 Test

The student will answer questions in these areas throughout the test. They will be spread across three sections: figure classification, verbal classification and number series. 

Each section has a subsection that evaluates the skills listed above. 

Each section takes around 45 minutes to answer; two hours and 15 minutes in total. They are allowed to take breaks between the sections of the exams.

The total number of questions depends on the CAT4 level of examination the student is sitting. Generally, the older the student is, the more questions they will have to answer.

Part 1: Figure-Based Questions

The questions in this section can be separated into figure classification and figure matrices.

The student will be presented with questions that will primarily examine their non-verbal reasoning and spatial awareness skills.

Students will be asked to identify a pattern or a sequence from a selection of shapes.

Figure Classification Example Question

An example from this section is as follows:

Which is the odd one out? 

a) + – X &
b) ? ! : ;
c) £ $ € ¥
d) A E I O

The correct answer is: a) 

All of the other answers follow a distinct pattern, whether it is currency signs, vowels or punctuation. a) has an ‘&’ symbol that disrupts the pattern of mathematical symbols.

Part 2: Verbal-Based Questions

In the second section, students will be challenged in the areas of verbal classification, verbal analogies and number analogies.

Verbal classification includes questions that primarily test the candidate’s verbal reasoning abilities. These questions ask students to spot a connection or pattern between a set of words. 

In contrast, the verbal analogies will ask a student to identify and use a pattern. The biggest difference is the use of the connection in the answer.

Verbal Classification Example Question

An example of this question is as follows:

What is the next word in this list?

Knife, fork, spoon, ___

a) Plate
b) Salad
c) Family
d) Dinner

The correct answer is: a) 

‘Plate’ follows the natural progression of items. The other questions are only indirect associations.

Part 3: Number-Based Questions

In the final part of the examination, students will be tested in the areas of number series, figure analysis and figure recognition. These areas primarily challenge the student’s quantitative reasoning abilities. All of these questions are mathematical.

The number series and number analogy questions will ask students to identify patterns and rules in a sequence of figures.

A student does not need a deep knowledge of any specific formulas, but they must know how to read graphs and follow basic mathematical rules.

This part is usually the longest section of the CAT4 test, as there are more areas to test

Number Series Example Question

An example question from this section is as follows:

Which number follows this sequence?

2, 4, 3, 9, 4, ____

a) 12
b) 5
c) 16
d) 3

The correct answer is: c)

The number in the sequence is squared each time before an addition is made.

CAT4 Test Levels

There are a total of seven different levels of CAT4 tests. They range from A to G, and, as they move towards G, they become more challenging.

The tests are split into three parts:

Part 1

  • Figure Classification: 24 questions in 10 minutes
  • Figure Matrices: 24 questions in 10 minutes

Part 2

  • Verbal Classification: 24 questions in 8 minutes
  • Verbal Analogies: 24 questions in 8 minutes
  • Number Analogies: 18 questions in 10 minutes

Part 3

  • Number Series: 18 questions in 8 minutes
  • Figure Analysis: 18 questions in 9 minutes
  • Figure Recognition: 18 questions in 9 minutes

It is worth mentioning that there are also the CAT4 level X test and the CAT 4 level Y test. These are administered to students who are at the beginning of their education.

Level X is given to children who are aged between six and seven. Level Y is given to students who are aged between seven to eight.

Both tests are very simple, and they follow the basic CAT4 pattern. However, they are used more so to prepare the student for future tests.

Levels A to G are administered at different stages of a student’s education.

All of the tests are split into three categories and the structure of the assessment is the same from level A to level G.

As the levels increase, the difficulty is also increased to match with the age of the student sitting the examination. This keeps the test focused on the four testing areas discussed above.

  • Level A Students sitting this level will be between the ages of seven and nine (Year 4 in the UK). 
  • Level B Students sitting this level will be between the ages of nine and ten.
  • Level C Students sitting this level will be between the ages of ten and 11.
  • Level D Students sitting this level will be between the ages of 11 and 12.
  • Level E Students sitting this level will be between the ages of 12 and 13.
  • Level F Students sitting this level will be between the ages of 13 and 15.
  • Level G Students sitting this level will be aged between 15 to 17, but they can be older depending on the stage of education they are at.

How Is the CAT4 Test Scored?

Like the structure of the CAT4 test, the way it is scored is the same format across all of the different levels.

There are three sets of results taken, and these are then compared with each other to judge how a student has performed across the country.

The first set of the results taken is known as the raw score. This is how many questions the student has answered correctly.

Once this number has been calculated, three other scores are calculated to allow the results to be compared and analysed.

Standard Age Score

In each level, the average score is set to 100, and there is a standard deviation of two.

This means that if two pupils from two different levels sit the exam and receive the same score on their CAT4 exams, they will have done as equally as well as each other in comparison to their age brackets.

The standard age score focuses on the age of the pupil and does not concern the different levels of difficulty across the CAT4 tests.

National Percentile Rank

This is a calculation that compares a student’s score with other students who have sat the CAT4 across the country.

The national percentile rank indicates how many students achieved a better or worse result.

For example, if a pupil does very well on the test and falls into the 5th percentile, this means that only 5% of pupils across the country have achieved better results.

In contrast, if the student struggles and falls into the 95th percentile, this means that 95% of students have performed better.

Stanine Grade

The stanine grade is a division. There are a total of nine divisions, with each one corresponding to a different level of performance and score.

A student is categorized into a stanine from the results received on the national percentile and standard age score.

There are nine divisions separated into five bands. This is a breakdown of what they look like.

Very high stanine

  • Stanine nine
  • National percentile of 4% and above
  • Corresponding standard age score of 127 or higher

Above Average Stanine

  • Stanines seven and eight
  • The percentile range is between 12% and 7%
  • Corresponding standard age score ranging from 112 to 126

Average Stanine

  • Stanines four, five and six
  • Percentile range between 17% low percentile (meaning 17% scored lower than the pupil or 73% scored higher) and 17% high percentile (meaning 17% scored higher than the pupil)
  • Standard age score ranging from 89 to 11

Below Average Stanine

  • Stanines two and three
  • The percentile range is between 7% low percentile and 12% low percentile
  • Standard age score ranging from 74 to 88

Very Low Stanine

  • Stanine one
  • Low percentile of 4% or under
  • Standard age score of 73 or under

Most students will fall into the average stanines, whether it is above average, average or below average.

This scoring system allows teachers to determine how well a pupil will perform in the next stage of education. It is a very effective tool to use when putting students into classes that match with their abilities.

Key Tips and General Advice for the CAT 4 Test

These tests can be particularly stressful because of the length and the number of questions a student must answer.

If you are a parent or student who is looking to increase their CAT4 score on the next assessment, these are the best ways you can prepare.

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Revision

As discussed above, you know that the CAT4 exam is separated into three sections.

In each section, four key skills are tested. Knowledge of these areas can help you prepare for the types of questions you will face.

Examine where you think your weaknesses are. These can be identified by taking aptitude tests and practice papers.

Once you have highlighted the weak areas, isolate them and revise questions to do with this area.

Create a revision timetable where your weaknesses are prioritized over your strengths. 

Pay attention to how much time you have before the date of the examination. For instance, if it is in five weeks’ time, then you should have a revision timetable that is based around 35 days.

Remember to not spend more time on your CAT4 tests than your primary subjects. Only revise where you can and do not stress too much if you cannot dedicate that much time to the CAT4 examination.

If you are struggling to identify any weaknesses, speak to other parents, other pupils and teachers to gauge what they may be. It is very likely that they will know details about the CAT4 test and where a student’s academic abilities lie.

Practice Papers

The best way to prepare for any exam is to take practice papers and mock examinations that are usually available online. These can be found in various places, like TestPrepOnline, and are often accessible for free.

It is your choice if you want to sit an entire practice paper or just focus on key areas. This is dependent on your revision strategy.

If you want to improve your weaknesses, then it is best to focus on select questions.

In contrast, if you want to prepare for the overall feeling of the exam, then it is best to sit the whole of an online test. You can also do this under exam conditions if you want to mimic the exam as closely as possible.

Exam Preparation

Once you are a couple of days out from the exam, there is little more you can do to learn more of the material.

At this point, it is best to use the remaining time wisely. Skim over any notes you have made, and write a checklist of key skills and areas to remember.

Ensure that you have a suitable location to sit the examination with stable WiFi, as this is an online test. It is likely you will take this exam whilst at school, but if you are at home, make sure you are in a comfortable spot that is quiet.

Ensure you have eaten and are well-hydrated. It is also a good idea to have built your schedule around the exam. Make sure you are well-rested before sitting the exam.

Exam Temperament

Everyone gets nervous during an examination, and this can cause a great deal of stress. You may forget strategies and some of the key elements you have revised.

Remember to follow these tips to help you curb any anxieties during the examination:

  • Follow an order that suits your strengths
  • Answer easier questions first, so you have more time to focus on difficult questions
  • Keep an eye on the time or have a stopwatch to hand
  • Have paper and pens to write down any calculations and notes
  • Leave yourself five minutes at the end to check through your answers
  • If you do not know an answer, do not leave it blank

Frequently Asked Questions

Schools use CAT4 tests to understand how well a student can perform throughout their time at school.

It is a measurement of academic ability and potential. The CAT4 test allows teachers to understand where a student’s strengths and weaknesses are.

The CAT4 is a complementary examination used to put a student in the right classes and set them the right level of homework.

Although it is not considered as essential as core subjects, it is still a good insight into a pupil’s natural abilities.


Year 12 is an education level in schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. It is a senior year, and it often includes students aged between 16 and 18.

The CAT4 test that corresponds with this age group is CAT level G. This is the last of the CAT4 tests.

The format of the CAT4 level G exam is the same as the other levels, but the questions will be harder at this stage.


The CAT4 test does matter because it measures the academic potential of a pupil.

Understanding how far a student can go helps teachers provide pupils with the right level of material.

Without CAT4 exams, it can be hard to gauge what is either too easy or too difficult for a child.

The CAT4 test is used to put students in the right classes. It can also be a tool used to help students decide which subjects they should take in their future.

However, it is still not as important as a student’s core subjects. A great performance on a CAT4 test may not translate into a great performance in maths, English or any of the science subjects.

More time should be dedicated to these subjects than a CAT4 test, as these still give a better measurement of a pupil’s performance.

 


The best way to prepare is to take any CAT4 practice exams online.

If you want to take any other examinations, then you can take IQ tests and aptitude tests.

Because of the style of the examination and the types of areas that are tested, IQ exams are worthwhile, because they are based on the same types of questions.

If you don’t want to sit any practice papers, then learning the exam structure is still a good way to prepare. Understanding how many questions you must answer and how long you have will still help you perform well.


The CAT4 levels are based on your age and what year of school you are in.

There are a total of nine levels, which range from age six to 17. As the student gets older, the tests generally become more challenging.

Despite all the levels, the structure of the assessment remains the same. This means that the student will become familiar with the examination as they get older.

It also means that teachers and parents can easily monitor any improvements or dips in performance.


If you can reach the above-average bracket or stanines nine to seven, then you will have achieved a good CAT4 score.

Scores between 89 to 111 are considered average. Therefore, any score above 111 will land you in higher grade brackets.

The highest CAT4 score you can achieve is 141.

Remember that a good score to you may not be a good score to another person.

If you improve on your score in the following year, then you can count this as a good score.

Final Thoughts

The CAT4 test is one of the most comprehensive examinations that schools use to measure a pupil’s academic abilities.

If you are a parent, use this guide wisely to prepare your child for the examinations. A good performance indicates their future academic potential.

As a student, you should use this guide to understand what is expected of you. If you have a strong knowledge of the different sections and areas you need to revise for, you will feel more comfortable when you sit the exam.

Remember that the CAT4 test is not a definitive benchmark of your full academic abilities. It is primarily used to judge which classes may suit you and which areas you can improve upon.

Try your best and prepare only if you have the time to do so. Your core subjects are still more important than a good performance on the CAT4 test.

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