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A Guide to the CogAT Test: Examples & Tips

Updated August 23, 2023

By Edward Mellett
A Guide to the CogAT Test: Examples & Tips
A Guide to the CogAT Test: Examples & Tips

The CogAT is a K–12 assessment comprised of three sections.

The questions are designed to measure a student’s reasoning abilities, and their scores are compared against other students of the same age and grade to identify those who are particularly academically adept.

Schools often choose the CogAT assessment as a way of identifying students who are suitable for gifted and talented programs.

If you know that your child will be required to take the CogAT exam you might be concerned about what this means for their education and if there is any way you can help them.

A List of CogAT Tests Available for Practice in 2023

To give them the best chance of performing well on test day, you need to:

  • Know what to expect
  • Understand what skills The CogAT will test
  • Take time to help your child practice
  • Make sure your child feels well prepared

Here, we will explore the CogAT and offer some tips on how your child can best prepare and how to understand what their test results mean.

What Is The CogAT Test?

The CogAT (abbreviation for 'Cognitive Abilities Test') is a multiple-choice assessment that measures a student’s skills and abilities in three key areas:

  • Verbal
  • Quantitative
  • Non-verbal

It is a K–12 assessment published by Riverside Insights, an industry leader in developing research-based educational and clinical assessments.

The CogAT is usually administered in a multiple-choice format.

There are 14 levels of the CogAT cognitive abilities test that are set for different age groups throughout the K–12 age range.

Schools use CogAT tests to measure academic ability and to identify particularly gifted students.

They are routinely used as an entrance exam into a school’s gifted and talented program. Low scores can also help to identify students who require some additional support.

The test is administered twice a year, during fall (September to November) and again from January to April.

What Is The CogAT Test Format?

The CogAT has 10 levels, each with a number that corresponds to the age group that the assessment is aimed at. For example, the CogAT kindergarten test level is 5 to 6.

The test is split into three sections, sometimes referred to as 'batteries'.

The verbal section tests a child’s reading and understanding of words and sentences in English and their ability to memorize, make judgments and make inferences.

  • Picture/verbal analogies – Can the student understand the relationship between two concepts? This might be depicted through a picture or a word, and this depends on the age of the student
  • Picture/verbal classification – Does the student know how to group concepts together based on how they relate to one another (again, this might be represented through pictures or words depending on the test level and age of the student)
  • Sentence completion – Is the student able to complete a set of sentences after reading or hearing them?

The quantitative section tests a child’s knowledge of basic numerical concepts, relationships between numbers and solving equations.

  • Number Analogies – These questions are similar to those found in the picture analogies portion of the verbal battery, except here, students have to find relationships between numbers
  • Number Puzzles – Children will have to solve an equation and determine the number of an unknown digit
  • Number Series – Can the child spot patterns in a number series to work out which comes next or is missing?

The non-verbal section measures a student’s reasoning abilities and logic using shapes and icons. Can they identify patterns using pictures, icons and shapes and find which fits next in the sequence?

  • Figure Matrices – This section tests the same skills as in the verbal and quantitative analogies section but this time with shapes. They will have to select which figure from a selection relates to the figures in the question by analyzing the similarities and differences between the figures in the question and the possible answers
  • Paper Folding – Amongst the trickiest CogAT questions, based on 2D pictures on the screen, students have to be able to envision what would happen if pieces of paper were folded in a certain way, had holes punched in it, or a portion of it cut out. Students have to be able to think critically and imagine the process happening, then select the appropriate piece of paper that, once unfolded, displays the shapes/cuts/holes that correspond directly to the folded paper in the instructions.
  • Figure classifications – Similar to the other classification questions, here, students need to select images or figures that relate to a set they are shown. They need to identify how the set they see corresponds to one another (for example, they are all facing, pointing upwards). Then, from the multiple-choice selection, they have to find the one that best fits the group.

Some students may find having to read the questions provides added pressure.

The non-verbal battery eases this to a degree as language skills are not the primary focus here (although some reading is still involved in ascertaining what is being asked of the student).

However, the questions in the non-verbal battery might also be the most unfamiliar to students, as verbal skills and mathematical skills are routinely taught in the classroom, but some may never have seen questions like these at school.

This is where paid for or free CogAT practice tests can be extremely valuable as preparation.

What Are The Cognitive Abilities Testing Levels?

The different CogAT test levels for students in kindergarten to 12th Grade are as follows:

Test Level Grade Number of Questions Exam Duration
Level 5 to 6 K 118 122 minutes
Level 7 1st Grade 136 112 minutes
Level 8 2nd Grade 154 122 minutes
Level 9 3rd Grade 170 90 minutes
Level 10 4th Grade 176 90 minutes
Level 11 5th Grade 176 90 minutes
Level 12 6th Grade 176 90 minutes
Level 13/14 7th to 8th Grade 176 90 minutes
Level 15/16 9th to 10th Grade 176 90 minutes
Level 17/18 11th to 12th Grade 176 90 minutes

You should refer to your child’s school to see which test they will be using, as they have some discretion to administer a higher-grade test to look for exceptionally gifted students.

They might also choose to set a lower grade exam if testing is close to the beginning of an academic year.

CogAT Practice Test: Examples

The questions on the test will increase in difficulty corresponding to the age group the test is aimed at.

However, all tests are in multiple-choice format and all cover content from the three same categories:

  • Verbal
  • Non-verbal
  • Quantitative

Cognitive Abilities Test Examples – Verbal Battery

Example Question

Mark joined a choir because he likes ________

a) Running
b) Reading
c) Singing
d) Swimming

Cognitive Abilities Test Examples – Quantitative Battery

Example Question

6 + 6 = 3 x ?

a) 3
b) 4
c) 8
d) 2

Cognitive Ability Test Examples – Non-Verbal Battery

Example Question

Which icon completes the grid below?

Cognitive Abilities Test

How Is the CogAT Test Scored?

Once the number of correct answers on your child’s CogAT assessment is counted, this will generate a raw score for them.

Their raw score is then converted into a Universal Scale Score (USS) for each of the three batteries of the test.

This can then be used to generate the following:

  • Standard Age Score (SAS)
  • Percentile Rank
  • Stanine Score

The SAS is calculated by comparing students’ results against their peers. Once this is known, a percentile rank can be calculated.

This gives an indication of where a student is scoring in comparison to others in the same grade.

Stanine Score

A stanine score (standard nine score) converts the test scores into one single number based on a nine-point scale. Parents often find their child’s stanine score to be the easiest to understand. Here, one is low, and nine is the maximum score. Five would be considered average.

Parents can consider the stanine score against their child’s percentile rank. A percentile rank of 90 means that the child’s score was higher than 90% of their peers.

A stanine score of seven and a percentile score of 77 to 88 are generally considered above average. A percentile score of 96 to 99 is very high.

The score for a pass on the CogAT varies between states and school districts. As a very general rule, students scoring in the top 3% to 4% would usually be expected to gain admission into gifted and talented programs.

How to Prepare for Cognitive Abilities Testing

Step 1. Practice

Your child stands a better chance of performing at their best if they have taken the time to practice and prepare. CogAT sample questions can be found online.

Practicing will help them to get used to the format of the assessment as well as the types of questions they will need to answer.

You can find free online practice CogAT tests, or you can pay to access more detailed content that has full sets of CogAT sample questions with answers and explanations.

Physically practicing the paper folding questions using paper and a hole punch/scissors can be beneficial for students as it can help them to think visually on test day.

Check with your child’s school about how they will be administering the test, as it can be taken online or using a paper and pen format.

Whether your child is taking a CogAT kindergarten practice test or a GogAT 11th/12th grade practice test, make sure they practice the CogAT sample test in the same way they will be expected to take it at school.

Step 2. Set a Timer

The tests are timed, so it will help your child if they also take their cognitive abilities practice test at home under timed conditions.

Pay attention to how long your child will be allocated in the actual test; the most commonly administered CogAT assessment is the Level 8 for 2nd graders, which has a 122-minute duration.

Step 3. Understand Strengths and Weaknesses

It can be tempting to focus on the parts that we enjoy when learning or studying; however, as this is an exam and it is also timed, it is important that you encourage your child to concentrate on improving their weaker skills.

Step 4. Rest and Relax

Although it is important to prepare thoroughly if you want your child to do well at their CogAT assessment, you should make sure that they are getting time to relax and unwind between practice sessions.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep and eating a balanced diet in the run-up to their exam is essential. Children who are tired, stressed or hungry are unlikely to perform well on test day.

Frequently Asked Questions

The CogAT is an aptitude assessment given to students in K – 12 to assess their skills in verbal, non-verbal and mathematical reasoning. It is routinely used to identify students for gifted and talented programs.

2nd graders usually take the level 8 test with 154 questions that they will have 122 minutes to answer.

You can get practice papers online as well as books to help your child practice for the CogAT 2nd grade test.

You can also help them by reading widely and practicing paper folding together as the paper folding questions are often a source of confusion.

The number of questions on the test varies between age groups. They range from 118 for Kindergarteners to 176 for 4th graders onwards.

The CogAT is an aptitude test that requires preparation. It is not about memorizing knowledge and facts, rather, it assesses a student’s reasoning skills within three categories:

  • Verbal
  • Non-verbal
  • Quantitative

The CogAT is not an IQ test.

All CogAT tests are timed.

The 1st grade test is 112 minutes, and the K and 3rd grade test is 122 minutes; all of the subsequent levels are 90 minutes in length.

You should check this with your child’s school or district. Some schools will allow one retake; however, you will usually be required to sign a form stating that at least six months have passed since the previous test attempt.

You can find examples of free CogAT test questions online. You can also purchase a test pack with questions, answers and explanations to help to prepare.

A stanine score ranges from 1 (lowest) to 9 (maximum). Scores are normalized by taking into account a student’s age and school grade.

A stanine score of nine and percentile rank of 96 – 99 is considered a very good score and may be enough for admission to GATE (Gifted and Talented Education).

You might consider a stanine score of 7 to 8 to be good/ above average, but schools use the CogAT to test for excellence, which would mean you need to be scoring close to the very top.

The CogAT assesses aptitude in three key areas:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning
  • Mathematical reasoning

The CogAT measures a student’s cognitive development in these key areas to generate a score that acts as a comparison within their peer groups (same age and grade).

Test results are usually sent out to parents within 8 – 10 weeks of the assessment.

A percentile rank of 89 to 95 is considered above average. If you are in the 93rd percentile rank, then 93% of your peers scored lower than you. A 96 to 99 percentile rank is considered ‘very high.’

To give your child the best chance of passing the CogAT, you should make sure they are familiar with the test questions and format of the test.

You can find practice papers online. You should support them by reading widely and ensuring that they are fully prepared, calm and well-rested on test day.

Final Thoughts

The CogAT is the most widely used ability assessment in the American education system. Whilst the classroom forms the basis for most students’ learning, and parents are also uniquely placed to play a critical role in their child’s education.

CogAT scores can identify children who require additional support as well as those who are academically gifted and will give all parents an insight into how their child’s score ranks in relation to their peers.

By allowing your children access to the time and resources they need to prepare for their CogAT and helping them to become familiar with the test format and question types, you are allowing them the opportunity to perform confidently and at their personal best.

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