CogAT Test Guide: Everything You Need to Know

So, your child is about to be taking the CogAT test? Congratulations! This test has been in use since 1979 and when it comes to assessing areas of strength and weakness, it’s considered quite an excellent tool. In today’s article we’re going to tell you all about it. We’ll start off with what it is, followed by what kind of questions to expect, and then go into how it is scored.

After that, we’ll give some preparation advice and touch on some frequently asked questions so that you’ll have a better idea of what this test is really about.

Don’t worry – it’s not about passing or failing – so let’s explore everything you need to know about the CogAT test so that you and your child can relax a little more easily and get it ‘out of the way’ with confidence!

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What Is the CogAT Test?

‘CogAT’ is simply a term used to refer to the ‘Cognitive Abilities Test’, which was created in 1979 by a U.S. Publisher named Riverside Press. The intent of this testing is to determine a student’s current skill level of reasoning and this is determined by their answers to a series of verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal multiple-choice questions.

The test is given to students ranging in age from 5 to 18 in grade levels K – 12 and may be delivered through group or individual testing. What it does historically is provide a baseline for teachers to help identify which skills the student exceeds in and which could use a little more work. It is also used to identify students performing well above their grade level, for possible placement in the ‘Talented and Gifted’ accelerated learning programs.

To paint you a more complete picture of the CogAT, we’ll expand a little on the questions and categories.

What Kind of Questions Are on The CogAT Test?

To better understand the CogAT test and what is designed to quantify, it’s a good idea to know about the 3 categories of questions. They are:

  • Verbal Battery
  • Quantitative Battery
  • Non-Verbal Battery

Each of these categories will have 3 subcategories, and the number of questions asked for each subcategory will vary based on the age of the student, typically falling into 10 – 18 questions per subcategory.

Let’s take a closer look at each main category and its subcategories. We’ll include an explanation, as well as what an example question from each subcategory might consist of.

Verbal Battery

Verbal battery is a category that tests a student’s ability to read, retain, comprehend, and visualize information, as well as their skill in expressing it.

Verbal Battery can be broken down into these 3 categories:

  • Sentence Completing
  • Picture Classification
  • Picture Completing

Sentence completing

Sentences are usually given, often with words missing, so that it may be determined how well the student remembers the sentence, understands what it is supposed to say, and their ability to choose the best words to finish them when needed.

These types of questions demonstrate understanding of the sentence structure and what it is meant to convey. An example might look something like this:

The falling raindrops ______ to the warm ground.

  1. Froze
  2. Marched
  3. Splashed
  4. Rose

The correct answer for this question would be C. Splashed, as water traditionally splashes when it hits a surface and a question of this type shows that the child understands what word is expected to fill in the blank and complete the sentence in the most likely way.

Picture classification

What pictures ‘go together’. For instance, you might have a picture of a horn, a ringing alarm clock, and flashing lights on a console.

The student has to choose a picture that goes with it and sees pictures below of a flashing police light, watercolor paints, stairs, and a fish.

The flashing police light, in this case, would be the most likely answer. That’s because it has the most in common with the objects shown as examples, which are all either flashing or making noise.

Picture completing

Pictures are arranged and the student is asked to choose how a sequence might be best repeated. For instance, we have a square divided into 4 squares. In the upper left we have 3 triangles pointed down, and in the lower left 3 triangles pointing up. In the upper right, we have 3 triangles pointing up, and the lower left is blank. The student is given 4 shape arrangements to choose from, such as ‘3 circles, 3 squares, 3 triangles pointed down, and 3 triangles pointed up.

In this example, the lower left should be 3 triangles pointing down, because in the upper and lower left the shapes are shown pointing in opposite directions of each other.

Quantitative Battery

Quantitative Battery is all about your student’s skill level in quantitative relationships and concept. To put it simply, this is the section associated with numbers – patterns in a sequence, what number is most or least like the others, or what number is needed to solve a mathematical problem that is provided.

It breaks down into categories:

  • Number Series
  • Number Puzzles
  • Number Analogies

Number Series

Number Series questions are all about finding patterns in a numeric sequence, so that a missing number may be determined by the numbers that are visibly present.

An example of a number series problem from Quantitative Battery might look something like this:

2-4-6-8-? – What comes next?

  1. 12
  2. 10
  3. 16
  4. 9

The answer would be B. 10, because in this series each number is increased by 2 as the numbers move forward in progression.

Number Puzzles

Number puzzles are most easily described as ‘fill in the variable’ type questions and the numbers may be listed on their own, or depicted as pictures.

An example Number Puzzle question would be something like this:

2+8 = ? x 5

  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. 4
  4. 8

For this question, the correct answer would be A. 2, because 2+8=10 and 2 x 5=10. In a picture example, you might see two rows displayed, with 10 footballs on top and 3 smaller groups of footballs below, with the first group having 2 footballs, the next having 3, and the third having another 2 footballs.

The student would then be asked to select the next grouping to make 10 footballs, as displayed on top, and would then need to choose a group with 3 footballs – 2+3+2=7 footballs on the second row, so 3 footballs would make it equal to the top row. They are all just ‘find the variable’ questions, the only difference is sometimes they will be depicted with drawings, and otherwise simply written numbers.

Number Analogies

Number analogies are simply questions with a 2 x 2 matrix (just a square divided into 4 quarters) and 3 of the boxes will be filled, so that the student may decide what is supposed to be in the empty box.

An example of a number analogy might be something like this:

In the top left box is 3 apples and the top right box has 5. In the lower left-hand box there are 3 pineapples… what should be in the lower righthand box?

The options might be 1 pineapple, 2 pineapples, 5 pineapples, and 6 pineapples, all drawn instead of being listed numerically. The answer in this example would be 5 pineapples, because the top quadrants give us an example of 3:5, and so the ‘3’ at the bottom means that another 5 is called for in the empty quadrant.

They’re still just math problems, but depicted with visual representations.

Non-Verbal Battery

Non-Verbal Battery is simply measuring a student’s reasoning by using geometric shapes or pictures and when scoring is done, it also offsets Verbal Battery to some extent. That’s because aside from assessing visualization logic, it can also help to point out if the student may have a linguistic factor affecting their Verbal Battery score, such as speaking English as a second language or dyslexia.

Non-Verbal Battery consists of the following 3 categories:

  • Figure Classification
  • Figure Matrices
  • Paper Folding

Figure Classification

Figure Classification is best summed up as ‘which of these things is the most like what we are showing as an example’. You might see 3 vegetables, for instance, a tomato, lettuce, and sliced cucumbers in a salad bowl and the student is asked to select what picture might fit. Choices might be a bottle of salad dressing, a crowbar, an apple, and a pear. The most fitting choice in this case would be the salad dressing, but of course this is just a loose example. It’s all about finding what the displayed items all have in common to determine what choice goes best with them in a classification.

Figure Matrices

Figure Matrices are basically the Non-Verbal form of Picture and Number Analogies. It boils down to identifying relationships between spatial forms by looking at the examples and then comparing them to the answer options presented.

A basic example would be 3 pictures – one of a shaded circle next to an empty circle, with a shaded square next to an empty space. The answers provided might be a shaded square, a blank square, a blank circle, and a blank triangle. In this example, the answer would be the blank square, because the completed ‘pair’ that we can see is a shaded circle next to an empty one.

Paper Folding

Paper Folding is basically 3-dimensional thinking, when you really get down to the core of it. You’ll see a piece of paper that is depicted as being folded in a certain way, and then a shape is cut out of it with scissors or a hole punch, so that the student must choose the answer that describes what the unfolded paper will now look like.

The best example that kids are most familiar with is folding a square in half to make a triangle, halving it again, and then cutting pieces out to make what unfolds as a snowflake! So, as we said, it’s basically just thinking 3-dimensionally to determine what changes about the paper when it is folder and cut.

How Is the CogAT Scored?

The process of grading a completed CogAT starts off by counting the number of questions that were answered correctly. This provides the first score in the process, known as a ‘Raw Score’. Next, that Raw Score is taken from each of the 3 batteries in order to determine our next value, which is the USS/Universal Scale Scores.

From the USS totals, we are able to calculate the SAS or ‘Standard Age Score’, followed by the ‘Percentile Rank’, and finally, the Stanine Score.

Stanine is short for ‘standard nine’, which is a method for converting score numbers in order to fit them in a 9-point scale. Now, when you are looking at the results of the CogAT, what you’ll typically want to look at first are the following values under the APR (Age Percentile Rank) Category:

  • Age Stanine – This will be a value between 1 and 9, which ranks your child in relation to other students of the same age. The average rank will typically be 5, while 9 is considered the highest, and 1 is the lowest.
  • Age Percentile Rank – The Age Percentile rank indicate the percentage of other students of the same age that your child outperformed. So, if you see an 85%, for instance, then your child performed better in this particular category than 85% of the students tested.
  • Standard Age Score – This will simply list the average score that all students in the listed age range tend to score on their CogAT test. So, if you see a 105, then MOST students are scoring 105 or close to it when they take the test.

You will also see a section for ‘Grade Scores’, which compares your child’s scores to others in the same grade, and there will be a ‘Local Scores’ portion that compares them to other students within the same local school district.

Finally, you’ll see an entry for ‘Composite Scores” and this is simply a total of all correctly answered questions from all of the 3 batteries, and the total next to Composite Scores indicates how well your child performed in comparison to the other students of the same age. So, a 95 on this test would indicate that your child performed 95% higher than other students who also took the CogAT.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare for the CogAT Test?

There are practice tests that you can find online, some for free and some which may be purchased, if you are looking to take away a little of the ‘fear factor’ that comes with testing, but that will ultimately be up to you.

The best preparation might well be just ensuring that they get plenty of rest and a good breakfast, as the test isn’t really about competition, but rather just finding out which areas a child is the strongest or weakest in so that a teacher can make good use of this information.

In cases where there’s an exceptionally high score, such as above the 85th percentile, then your child may be recommended for a ‘Talented and Gifted’ program, although this would be something that you and your child would need to decide on (and there are other assessment requirements depending on where you are taking the test).

Some Closing Comments on the CogAT

So, there you have it! The CogAT test is simply a tool that the education system uses to identify your child’s level of reasoning in the Verbal, Quantitative, and Non-Verbal categories. Once all of the questions have been answered, you’ll have a basic profile of areas where your child excels and others where they might need a little extra work.

There’s nothing to be afraid of — the CogAT is just a time-tested tool to help fine-tune your child’s education and also to help determine if an accelerated course load might be a better fit for their needs!

CogAT Test FAQ

Just in case we missed something, we’ve compiled a few frequently asked questions about the CogAT test that we hope will help to address any lingering curiosity. Let’s take a peek!

Is the CogAT test the same as an IQ test?

No, a CogAT test is not an IQ test, but rather just a way to assess your child’s current reasoning skills in relation to their success in school. This can help to identify areas in which they excel, or could use a little work, and it’s also a common first step for determining if a ‘talented and gifted’ program might not be a better fit than your child’s current curriculum.

How reliable is the CogAT test?

Well, the reliability of a test boils down to the consistency and accuracy of the results. The CogAT test has been providing reliable and consistent results since its inception in 1979, and so it is still considered to be an excellent and reliable tool for assessing reasoning skills with a reasonably good degree of accuracy.

That said, education changes standards all of the time, but for now it is considered one of the best tests of it’s type and reliable for the purposes for which it was made.

What is considered a good score on the CogAT?

Per the standard age scores, the ‘average’ score typically falls within 89 – 111, while 112 – 127 is considered ‘above average’, and 128 – 150 is considered ‘very high’. By contrast, 73 – 88 is considered below average, while scores falling between 50 – 72 are considered very low.

What do low CogAT scores mean?

It will really depend on where the lowest scores are found. For instance, a low verbal score, may indicate some trouble in language arts, but you would also need to factor in the Non-Verbal score in order to get a more accurate assessment (for instance, with students who speak English as a second language, you might see a high Non-Verbal score but a low Verbal one).

As you can see, it’s not always as ‘cut and dry’ as just looking at the numbers, so it’s best if you have some questions or concerns about your child’s scores to check with one of their teachers or other school staff to schedule a meeting to discuss the results.

Is the CogAT test important?

It’s not so much a ‘pass or fail’ thing. What you need to keep in mind is that the CogAT is a test composed of questions which may include items that will be above or even well-above what your child is currently studying.

This allows for a better assessment of reasoning skills and can also help to see if placement in advanced classes might be a good idea – the CogAT is actually one of the first stepping-stones to advanced placement. Beyond this, it’s not something that will affect your child’s grades or anything along those lines – it’s just an assessment tool.