What is the CogAT?

May 8, 2017

The Cognitive Abilities Test, otherwise known as the CogAT , is a multiple choice reasoning test administered to students ranging from Kindergarten through High School.  The test is used to determine the student’s eligibility for admission into their local school districts Gifted and Talented program. 


The CogAT is similar to, but separate from, the commonly known city-wide Gifted and Talented (NYC G&T) exam, and is utilized by many school districts outside of New York City.  The CogAT measures the students problem-solving skills, and the results are used as a metric to predict the success of the students within the district’s Gifted and Talented program, or to assess a student’s general cognitive capabilities in comparison to other students within the same age-band.


There are currently two variations of the test in circulation; Form 6 and the latest edition, Form 7. "Form" refers to the version or edition.  Both versions measure the same cognitive developmental areas, but utilize different questioning styles. 


Most of the variation between Forms occurs on the primary level questions, ranging from Kindergarten to 2nd Grade. On Form 6, the questions are word-based, while Form 7 the questions are picture-based.  Additionally, Form 7 includes Figure Analysis questions at the primary level whereas Form 6 does not.


In most cases it is unknown which Form will be used until the day of testing.  For this reason we recommend prepping for both styles of questions and topics. 


 The test measures three key areas, referred to as “batteries”, of cognitive development:


  • Verbal Reasoning Battery

    • Verbal Picture Analogies

    • Verbal Picture Classification

    • Sentence Completion

  • Nonverbal Reasoning Battery

    • Figure Matrices

    • Paper Folding

    • Figure Classification

  • Quantitative Reasoning Battery

    • Number Analogies

    • Number Puzzles

    • Number Series


In total, the CogAT has between 118 and 176 questions, depending on the level. Students are generally given between 30-45 minutes per battery. With administration time, it takes between two to three hours to complete all three batteries. 



The CogAT uses two types of norms when tests are scored: age norms, and grade norms.


Age norms compare how a student performed relative to other children of the same age-band and span from 4 years and 11 months through 18 years old, in which students are grouped in at one month intervals.  Grade norms compare how a student performed relative to other children in the same grade.


Age norms and grade norms will often be very similar. However, using age norms can be more accurate when assessing children who are either very young or older for their grade level.


The CogAT score is calculated in a number of steps:


Raw Score. The raw score is calculated first by tallying the total number of questions correctly answered. Students do not lose points for answering questions incorrectly.


Universal Scale Score (USS). The raw score is then converted to a Universal Scale Score, which is a normalized standard score. There are separate USS scores for each of the three batteries. The Composite USS is determined by averaging these three scores together.


Standard Age Score (SAS). The Standard Age Score is a normalized age score for all Universal Scale Scores. It has a mean of 100, a standard deviation of 16, and a maximum score of 160. The SAS scale allows for a more fine discrimination between high and low-scoring students, and permits educators to compare the rate and level of cognitive development of an individual to other students in the same age group.


Percentile Rank (PR). A percentile rank indicates the percentage of students in the same age or grade-group whose scores fall below the score obtained by a particular student. A percentile rank of 80 means that a student scored better than 80% of students who took the test. A percentile rank of 50 is considered average.


Stanine (S). A stanine is a very broad, simplified score that ranges from 1-9, with 9 being the highest possible score. This score is also normalized for both age and grade groups. The major advantage of Stanines is that the broad groupings discourage over-interpretation of small, insignificant differences among test scores.


Because CogAT is nationally normed, the test performance of one child can be compared with the test performances of other children throughout the nation who are the same age.


In general, Gifted and Talented programs require students to score in the 97th percentile in at least one section, or have a composite score in the 95th percentile. However, it may vary from program to program. Therefore, it is best to consult with the specific program your child is applying to determine the required minimum score.

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