OLSAT Test Guide: Everything You Need to Know

If your child is about to take the OLSAT test, the first thing that we’d advise is that you don’t worry. This test is not a ‘pass or fail’ type thing, but rather is a tool that teachers and schools use in order to assess your child’s reasoning skills. It is also used for a few other things, however, so to ‘clear up the fog’ we’re going to take a closer look at the OLSAT test and give you the real scoop on what to expect.

Let’s take a deep-dive into this testing tool so that you’ll have everything you need to know about the OLSAT test and a little bit extra so that you’ll know what to expect. Once you know the ins and outs then we think you’ll agree – it’s really a pretty amazing tool when you really get down to it!

What is the OLSAT Test?

OLSAT is short for the ‘Otis-Lennon School Ability Test’ and it’s a test that is given to students from K – 12 (although most often it is taken in elementary school) in order to measure their current level of skills in verbal, non-verbal, figurative, and quantitative reasoning.

The information derived from the test help to determine how the student’s scores are in comparison other students of the same age and this helps to determine a percentile ranking for the tested skills.

The OLSAT is often used to identify children who might be a good fit for gifted and talented programs and as half of it is non-verbal, it is sometimes used in part for this to better assess students who speak English as a second language or those at a pre-literate level.

All in all, it’s a pretty useful test, but what kind of questions can you expect on an OLSAT? Let’s take a detailed look at the sections that make it up to paint you a picture of what makes this test so effective and special.

What Kind of Questions Are on the OLSAT?

The OLSAT test is divided up into two parent sections and these are ‘VERBAL’ and ‘NONVERBAL’. In order to give you a comprehensive look at the test, we’re going to give you a breakdown of both sections, including their categories, and the subsection clusters within each.

So that we keep this information in ‘bite-sized, easily digestible’ bits, we’ll give you an overview first, and we’ll build on that with more detailed information once that overview is out of the way. That said, let’s look at the framework of the OLSAT!

The Verbal Section of the OLSAT

The VERBAL section has 2 main categories underneath it, and they are:

  • Verbal Comprehension
  • Verbal Reasoning

Each of these two categories, in turn, have a cluster of items pertaining to their parent section. Starting off with Verbal Comprehension, you will find the following items in its clusters:

  • Following directions
  • Antonyms
  • Sentence Completion
  • Sentence Arrangement

While Verbal Reasoning contains the following:

  • Aural Reasoning
  • Arithmetic Reasoning
  • Logical Selection
  • Word/Letter Matrrix
  • Verbal Analogies
  • Verbal Classification
  • Inference

Again, we’ll give you more detail shortly, but let’s look at the ‘bones’ of the NONVERBAL section now before we start getting into the more detailed bits.

The NONVERBAL Section of the OLSAT

In Nonverbal, we will have sections that are related to pictorial, figural, and quantitative types of reasoning, so that the Nonverbal categories will look exactly like this:

  • Pictorial Reasoning
  • Figural Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Starting off with Pictorial Reasoning, the following items will be a part of its cluster:

  • Picture Classification
  • Picture Analogies
  • Picture Series

Moving on to Figural Reasoning, we have the cluster items listed below:

  • Figural Classification
  • Figural Analogies
  • Pattern Matrix
  • Figural Series

Finally, the last category in NONVERBAL is Quantitative Reasoning and it contains the following items in its cluster:

  • Number Series
  • Numeric Inference
  • Number Matrix

Okay, so now that we have a general overview of the test, what do all of those clusters mean? In our next section, we’re going to give you those main categories from VERBAL and NONVERBAL and include an explanation of each cluster item.

Verbal – A Breakdown of the Categories and Clusters

Okay, so we’ve established that VERBAL is made up of two categories called Verbal Comprehension and Verbal Reasoning, so it’s time for a little more of a detailed peek behind the scenes. let’s look at those two and see the clustered items that make them up.

Verbal Comprehension

Verbal comprehension questions are all about the language arts. These questions want to test how a student manipulates language and how accurately they can draw information from it. There is also a lot of focus on demonstrating comprehension in regards to how words relate to their host sentences.

The cluster includes these items that we will elaborate in the sections to follow:

  • Following Directions
  • Antonyms
  • Sentence Completion
  • Sentence Arrangement

Following Directions

These questions are read aloud by an instructor and they are meant to measure listening skills, particularly relational concepts. Such ‘the boat is in-between /to the right of/next to’ and so on. Students are given pictorial or figural designs to choose from in their answer pool to show that they understand.


Antonyms are a little trickier from a linguistic perspective, as they are the opposite of the word that it given and this requires that the student has a good grasp of the word’s meaning in order to pick the answer that is considered the MOST opposite of the choices given.

Sentence Completion

Sentence completion questions are simply a ‘fill in the blank’ variety questions where the student must select the word that best completes the sentence.

Sentence Arrangement

With sentence arrangement, jumbled-up sentences must be rearranged in order to make them whole and functional. By putting the words in proper order, they should express a coherent phrase or a complete thought by means of the finished arrangement.

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning is the language arts equivalent of ‘word problems’ in Mathematics. A section of text is read aloud and the student must demonstrate comprehension of the words involved, their relation to the sentences, and also the contextual ‘clues’ that they provide. Let’s look at the clusters involved in Verbal Reasoning to see what this breaks down to in the OLSAT test.

Aural Reasoning

With Aural Reasoning, questions are read aloud to students who must use the information provided in the words that are being read to make logical inferences based upon it.

Arithmetic Reasoning

Speaking of Mathematical ‘word problems’, Arithmetic Reasoning questions are basically the same thing. The instructor will read aloud a problem and based on what is said, the student is tested on whether or not they can use this information to create a mathematical framework to then solve it.

Logical Selection

Logical Selection questions can be tricky, because the instructor is going to read the question aloud and then ask for the most logical answer or in some cases, may provide a number of them, and then ask for the student to use these answers to pick the answer that is ‘most likely to be’ correct.

Word/Letter Matrix

With Word/Letter Matrix questions, words or letters are provided and arranged in a matrix (just 1 box evenly into 4 boxes) to show that they are related. The student then demonstrates recognition of the word or of the inference by how the words or letters are placed and arranged in order to identify the correct answer.

Verbal Analogies

With Verbal Analogies, students are given words grouped together as a pair and then provided a 3rd word, with the correct answer being a word that associates with that 3rd word in the same way that the paired words relate.

To sum it up succinctly, ‘X is like Y, so if A is similar, A should be like _____”.

Verbal Classification

Verbal Classification is probably best described as ‘one of these things is not like the others’ or ‘which of these things is most like the others’. Students are given concepts or a series of words in order to infer or establish a relationship that if understood, will provide them with the correct answer.


Inference questions are used to assess a student’s ability to draw a conclusion based on a scenario or an argument that is presented. This requires understanding of the argument by identifying which words are the most important in conveying the meaning and suggesting the correct conclusion.

Nonverbal – A Breakdown of the Categories and Clusters

Now that we’ve gone through the VERBAL section of the OLSAT, it’s time to take on the NONVERBAL. If you recall, the main categories for NONVERBAL are as follows:

  • Pictorial Reasoning
  • Figural Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

As with the VERBAL section, each of these categories has a cluster associated with each, so let’s look closely at the parent categories and their clusters to give you a better idea of what they will be like.

Pictorial Reasoning

Pictorial Reasoning questions are designed to test reason by the means of pictures, rather than words. The way that they are arranged or the scenes that they depict lay a basic groundwork of ‘rules’ that the student must infer from them to choose the correct answer.

Picture Classification

Picture classification is all about identifying which items do NOT belong based on their understanding of the ones that they are seeing. A group of objects will be displayed and the student will demonstrate their reasoning skills by inferring the correct answer based on their differences or similarities.

Picture Analogies

Picture analogies incorporate 4-quadrant matrix boxes, with the top 2 quadrants each having an object in them, while the lower left has an object and a blank quadrant next to it at the lower right. By looking at the two objects on top, the student must correct infer what item should go in the remaining empty quadrant.

Picture Series

With Picture Series questions, a student is shown a row of objects, and based on these the student must determine which object should come next in the sequence or fits in a missing area inside of that depicted sequence.

Figural Reasoning

Figural Reasoning is like Pictorial, but with more of a mathematical focus. Rather than common objects being depicted, geometrical figures are provided and from this visual information, the student must reason what ‘rules’ are being demonstrated, what patterns are displayed, what is missing, or what comes next in the sequence.

Figural Classification

With Figural Classification questions, students are showed a series of geometric figures, along with potential answers in the same form, in order to determine if they can identify the underlying principle being displayed or the pattern that is being established.

Figural Analogies

This is just like the Verbal Analogies, only instead of words we are looking for relationships between the displayed geometric figures. An example pairing of geometric shapes is first displayed and then the student must examine these to determine how they relate.

A third object is shown and the student must demonstrate understanding of the relationship between the two objects above to select the answer that best mimics the logic ‘rules’ of that first pairing.

Pattern Matrix

Pattern Matrix questions incorporate our now-familiar 4-square matrix grid that has 3 of the squares filled with geometric shapes. The student must then examine these shapes to determine which geometric shape in their answers will fit the empty quadrant best.

Figural Series

The questions in Figural Series are just pattern recognition, but with geometric shapes instead of objects, words, or numbers. A series of geometric shapes will be shown and based on the characteristics a pattern is established, which the student must identify in order to select the ‘next’ or ‘missing’ item in that sequence.

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning is all about solving problems with numbers and identifying patterns that help them to predict how a numeric sequence is supposed to go. Let’s look at the items in this cluster that will be used here.

Number Series

Number Series questions are made up of a series of numbers that are shown which depict a pattern. The student must look at the numbers and identify this pattern, in order to determine what number comes next in the sequence or in the front or middle of it. Think of it as ‘fill in the blank’ with numbers and pattern recognition.

Numeric Inference

With Numeric Inference questions, students will be show 2 or 3 numbers and told that they are related in some way. Then the student must demonstrate awareness by choosing the answer that mimics this relationship with a different set of 2 or 3 numbers.

Number Matrix

Number Matrix questions provide a 4-suare matrix, with 4 of the squares filled in with numbers. By looking at the numbers, the student must determine how they relate in order to ‘fill out the blank’ for the empty space left in the matrix.

How Is the OLSAT Graded?

The OLSAT report is going to have two scores that you will be checking and those are the School Ability Score (listed as SAI) and the Percentile ranking of the student. These are pretty straightforward, and basically mean the following:

  • SAI score –This number is often used to identify candidates for the talented and gifted program. Scores around 100 are considered average and anything over 132 is generally considered to be in the ‘talented and gifted’ area by most school district standards, as 150 is the highest that a can be scored on the test.
  • Percentile Ranking – This number simply indicates how a student scored in relation to their peers and it’s determined by the SAI. A score of 100 SAI, for instance, we’ve already mentioned is considered ‘average’, and as a percentile ranking it indicates that the student scored better than 50% of their other OLSAT-tested peers.

Some Closing Words on the OLSAT

Today we’ve taken a closer look at the categories, sections, and clusters that make up the VERBLA and NONVERBAL sections of the OLSAT test. As you can see, it’s all words, pictures, figures, and numbers, but also how they relate, rules they suggest, and patterns they create!

You can find a number of practice tests online if you are still a bit worried but try not to overthink things. This test is designed to assess your child’s current reasoning skills, so it’s not a competition, but rather it’s going to provide you valuable information that can help you to better educate your child.

It’s as simple as THAT so don’t worry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we go, we’ve collected a few frequently asked questions about the OLSAT in order to clear up a few misconceptions and to address some common queries that we’ve received.

Is OLSAT an IQ test?

No, the OLSAT test is not an IQ test, but rather a test provided by schools to help measure reasoning skill and which is also often employed for identifying candidates for talented and gifted programs with accelerated curriculums that may be a better fit for them..

What is a good score on the OLSAT?

A 100 SAI is going to be the average, while 132 and above are considered ‘talented and gifted’, but there’s really no ‘good’ score in that it’s not a competition. A student may score high in nonverbal skills, for instance, but lower in verbal ones, and vice-versa. Think of it as a tool, rather than a test, and you’ve got the right idea.

How do I prepare my child for OLSAT?

Plenty of rest and nutritious meals are the best preparation, along with reassurance to you child that the test is important but not something to sweat over. If you would like a more involved preparation regimen, there are practice tests available online if you would like to obtain them.

If you do go that route, then it’s just a matter of your child enough rest, proper nutrition, and regular study time and they should be just fine when it’s time to take the OLSAT.

How many questions are on the OLSAT test?

At kindergarten level, the OLSAT is approximately 40 questions, while grades 1 – 12 will typically consist of anywhere from 60 – 72 questions.

How long does OLSAT test take?

Usually, it’s going to take about an hour. With kindergarten to 2nd grade, the teacher is going to set the pace for the class, so it may take a little less than an hour or maybe just a little bit longer. With older students, it’s usually exactly an hour to take and finish the OLSAT

What is the difference between OLSAT and Cogat?

The CoGAT and OLSAT tests are similar in what they are looking for, but quite a bit different when you take a closer look. The CogAT, for instance, has 3 main sections, those being verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative, while the OLSAT has two sections – Verbal and Nonverbal.

The OLSAT has 7 levels to it, while the CogAT has 10. Aside from these differences, there are some basic similarities. Both are timed multiple choice tests, and they are also both group administered (in most cases).