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The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) - A Brief Overview

If you haven’t heard of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), then you haven’t checked out many gifted programs. The CogAT is one of the top assessments for gifted students around the United States. Contrary to common belief, the CogAT is not an IQ Test. Rather, it measures learned reasoning abilities. This means that no matter who you are, or who your student is, you have a solid chance at preparing him or her as well and as thoroughly as you can prepare anyone else. Ready to learn more about the CogAT? Let’s get to it!

What Is the CogAT?

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is a multiple-choice test designed to measure a child’s academic aptitude. It is used to measure cognitive development among children and is often used to identify gifted children for admissions into gifted and talented programs across the United States. The CogAT was first published in 1968. The most common version of the CogAT, the CogAT Form 7, was published in 2011.

The CogAT is made up of three sections, called batteries: the Verbal Battery, the Quantitative Battery, and the Nonverbal Battery. These batteries can be administered separately or together, depending on the specific needs of the school administering the test. They are designed to assess specific reasoning skills in each area that correlates strongly to academic success.

More specifically, the CogAT measures cognitive development, the ability to learn new tasks, and problem-solving abilities. Because much of its content is nonverbal, the CogAT is also very useful for testing students who are not native English speakers. See a breakdown of the CogAT Form 7 below. 

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CogAT Form 7 Format & Levels

CogAT Form 7 Batteries

Battery Subtests
Verbal Picture/Verbal Analogies*
Sentence Completion
Picture/Verbal Classification*
Quantitative Number Analogies
Number Series
Number Puzzles
Nonverbal Figure Matrices
Figure Classification
Paper Folding

*Primary levels (5/6–8) contain Picture Analogies and Picture Classification. Higher levels contain Verbal Analogies and Verbal Classification.

The CogAT is administered to students in grades K-12. There are ten CogAT levels, which are based on age. The number attributed to each level corresponds to the age level it is administered to. For example, the Level 9 is designed for students who are approximately 9 years old and is generally administered to students in the 3rd grade. The testing levels for the CogAT Form 7 and the grade they are usually administered to are as follows:

CogAT Form 7 Levels

Level Grade
5/6 K
7 1st
8 2nd
9 3rd
10 4th
11 5th
12 6th
13/14 7th-8th
15/16 9th-10th
17/18 11th-12th

Administration time may vary depending on how long the proctor takes to administer the test. Students are generally provided between 30-45 minutes per battery. With administration time, it takes between two to three hours to complete all three batteries. In total, the CogAT has between 118 and 176 questions, depending on the level.

CogAT Form 7 Verbal Reasoning Battery

By the name, you may be tempted to see CogAT Verbal Reasoning Battery as a primarily vocabulary-based exam. In fact, the Verbal Reasoning Battery is routed more in measuring the skills associated often with vocabulary, such as retention of new ideas, the speed in which a new concept is understood, and relationships between words.

The Verbal Reasoning Battery has three subsections: Sentence completion, picture/verbal analogies, and picture/verbal classification.

Sentence Completion

In this section, students are required to either read or hear a sentence, and then complete the missing gaps within the sentence. This may sound simple enough, but remember- the questions are not always so straightforward, and very often require a closer glance.

Picture/Verbal Analogies

The analogies section of the battery requires students to reflect upon a given pattern- be it in images for the lower grades or words for the higher grades. Here students are tested on their ability in grasping relationship between two concepts. 

Sample Question: CogAT Form 7, Level 12

cogat level 12 word analogies

Answer and Explanation

The correct answer is liquid. The main characteristic of a parody is that it is satirical like the main characteristic of a beverage is that it is liquid.

Drink is incorrect as it is not a characteristic of a beverage. Rather, it is correct to say that a beverage is a type of drink.

Thirsty is incorrect as it is not a characteristic of a beverage. Rather, it describes the feeling of needing to drink.

Hot is incorrect, as being hot is not the main characteristic of a beverage, and it can be cold as well.

Steam is incorrect as steam is not the main characteristic of a beverage. A beverage can raise steam, but not necessarily.

TestPrep-Online Developer's Tip: A good strategy for analogy questions is to start by making up a short, simple sentence to connect the two words in the first analogy. For example: “A parody is satirical.” Then, you can substitute in the words from the second analogy to help you eliminate answer choices. For example, “A beverage is thirsty” does not make sense, so you can eliminate “thirsty” as an answer choice.

Picture/ Verbal Classification

Not to be confused with the analogies section, the picture/verbal classification section requires students to think categorically about concepts rather than analogously. This means seeing a concept for its direct relation to the other given concepts. 

CogAT Form 7 Quantitative Battery

You might like to think of the CogAT Quantitative Battery as the token math section of the CogAT, as it deals with logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. The battery does so through three main core sections: Number series, number puzzles, and number analogies. While many students may find the quantitative battery intimidating, it is just as manageable as any of the other batteries, so do not threat. Once you get a good grasp of each subsection, the rest is smooth sailing.

Number Series

Here, students must deduce a pattern from a given number series and apply it by completing it with the correct answer option. Students level 8 and lower are given this task through images of an abacus toy.

Sample Question: CogAT Form 7, Level 11

cogat level 11 number series

Answer and Explanation

The correct answer is 36.

In this series, the pattern is as follows: first 4 is added, then 13 is subtracted, then 4 is added, then 13 is subtracted, and so on.

The pattern is: +4-13+4-13...

The last two numbers in this series are 45 and 32. 32 is smaller than 45 by 13, so the next number in the series should be bigger than 32 by 4. 32+4=36.

Alternatively, we can look at the pattern as the combination of two separate patterns that alternate. One pattern (the odd terms) is a series of numbers that decrease by 9, and the other pattern (the even terms) is another series that decreases by 9. The pattern is: 50 54 41 45 32 ...

We are missing the sixth number which is an even term, therefore it should be smaller than the last even term (the fourth number) by 9. The fourth number is 45, so: 45-9=36. Therefore, 36 is the correct answer.

TestPrep-Online Developer's Tip #1: Start by thinking of a rule that describes the pattern in the set of numbers and try to express it in words. For example, "each number is bigger by 1 than the number before it." If a simple rule does not work, check out more complicated patterns. For example, the pattern can include addition and subtraction alternately.

TestPrep-Online Developer's Tip #2: Number Series questions have a limited amount of tricks. Once you practiced enough you will feel more confident and find it easier to answer the questions.

Number Analogies

As in the picture/verbal analogies, here the goal is to reach the answer through comparison. Students are required to see how one concept is analogous to another, only this time in a logical sense rather than a categorical one. 

Number Puzzles

Number puzzles are exactly what they claim to be- puzzles. It may be helpful to see these questions as the mathematical version of sentence completion questions. 

CogAT Form 7 Nonverbal Battery

The CogAT Nonverbal Battery can be seen as both the most challenging section and the fairest one. The nonverbal section of the exam requires students to reason with spatial and figural content. The test is specifically beneficial for students whose mother tongue is not English and/or who may struggle with language in general. Let’s take a look at the subsections:

Figure Matrices

Here students are given a 2X2 matrix with a missing square in the bottom row. As in the analogies sections of the verbal and quantitative batteries, students must identify the relationship between the two top squares and apply it to the bottom row in order to choose the right answer option. 

Paper Folding

This section of the battery can be said to be one of the more hands on sections. Here, students are required to imagine the end result of a paper being folded in a specific way. 

Figure Classification

Don’t be fooled- figure classification does not mean naming a figure. Rather it is more in par with the picture/verbal classification section, in which students must choose the choice that most fits in the given category- in this case, among shapes.

Sample Question: CogAT Form 7, Level 7

cogat level 7 figure classification

Answer and Explanation

The correct answer is 1.

In this question all three figures include an inner and outer shape that look the same, while the outer shape is blue and the inner shape is white.

In answer choice 2 the outer and inner shapes are different from each other, so it can be eliminated.

In answer choice 3 the outer shape is white and the inner shape is blue, so we can eliminate it as well.

The only answer choice that follows the rules is the 1st choice. Therefore, the 1st choice is the correct answer.

TestPrep-Online Developer's Tip: Think of a rule that describes the similarities among the pictures in the top row. If you find it difficult to think of a rule, go over the answer choices to see if there is a figure among them with special features. For example, you might find out that only one answer choice is colored in a certain way.

CogAT Norms and Scores

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 and grade norms compare how a student performed relative to other children in the same grade. Age norms span from 4 years and 11 months through 18 years old, in which students are grouped in one month intervals. Age and grade scores will often be very similar. However, using age norms can be more accurate when assessing children who are considered either young or old for their grade level.

Scores for the CogAT are calculated in a number of steps. First, the raw score is calculated by tallying the total number of questions answered correctly. Raw scores are then converted to Universal Scale Scores (USS) for each of the three batteries, which is then used to calculate the Standard Age Score (SAS), percentile rank, and stanine score. Using these scores, along with an analysis of the patterns present in a student's score, a student is given a score profile. Learn more about CogAT scores.

CogAT Form 7 Language

The CogAT Form 7 is accessible to non-English speaking students due to its highly nonverbal format. The main reason for the changes between the Form 6 and Form 7 primary levels was to accommodate English language learner (ELL) students. The Form 7 primary levels (5/6-8) are now made up almost entirely of nonverbal questions.

The only section that requires language skills is the optional Sentence Completion section, which is available in both English and Spanish. Instructions for all levels are offered in English or Spanish. Learn more about how to prepare for a Gifted and Talented test.

How is the CogAT Form 7 Administered?

When it comes to how the CogAT is administered, it really depends on your child's grade, school, and of course, the CogAT Form s/he is taking. Here is what we do know about the CogAT Form 7 administration:

1. Your child will most likely take the test with a relatively small group of students (no more than 20)

2. Administration of each battery varies but more often than not they are administered all together 

3. Some schools only administer specific batteries of the CogAT, so it is important to find out exactly what the CogAT test will cover.

4. The CogAT Test can either be taken online or on paper.

Other CogAT Forms

CogAT Screening Form Test

The CogAT Screening Form is a condensed version of the CogAT Test, consisting of the analogies section of every battery. The test allows for an efficient appraisal of a student's skills, as it only takes 30 minutes to complete. It is perfect for both students whose mother tongue is not English, as well as students who have reading difficulties. 

CogAT Form 8

Firstly, there are two commonly used forms of the CogAT. One being the CogAT Form 7, and the other being its almost identical partner in crime- the CogAT Form 8. Both forms are used alongside one another in order to make sure the student is assessed as fairly as possible. Intimidated by the concept of a CogAT Form 8? Don’t be. If your student is properly prepared for the test, the CogAT Form 8 should go as easily and smoothly as the CogAT Form 7.

CogAT Form 6

The CogAT Form 6, which is the CogAT Form 7's predecessor, may still be administered at certain schools. It is important to know the difference between these two versions of the test and which one your child will be taking. 

One main difference between the Form 6 and Form 7 is the number of questions on each test. The following table illustrates the changes in the number of questions on each level of the Form 6 and Form 7: 

  5/6 7 8 9 10-18 
CogAT 6  120 132 144 190 190 
CogAT 7   118 136 154 170 176

The testing levels on the CogAT Form 7 differ from how the testing levels on the CogAT Form 6 and other previous editions were divided. Similar to the current levels system, levels of the CogAT Form 6 do not match up strictly to a grade level. Levels K–2 are designed for students in kindergarten through second grade, while Levels A–H are designed for students in grades 3–12. However, a high achieving second grader may take the Level A, while a low achieving third grade student may take the Level 2. This fluid system allows for a more specific and focused testing for each student. 

The format also changed from Form 6 to Form 7. In Form 6, the format for the primary levels (K–2) was different from higher levels. On the Form 7, the format is mostly the same across all levels. See the table below for a breakdown of the batteries and sub-tests at each level. 

CogAT Form 6 Batteries (Primary Levels)

Battery Subtests
Verbal Oral Vocabulary
Verbal Reasoning
Quantitative Relational Concepts
Quantitative Concepts
Nonverbal Matrices
Figure Classification

Primary levels are levels K-2 on the Form 6, which corresponds to levels 5/6-8 on the Form 7.

How to Prepare for the CogAT

Today, competition for gifted programs is at an all-time high. By properly preparing your child for the upcoming CogAT, you can significantly boost his or chance of attendance to the program both of you have your eyes on. To help you prepare as much as possible, TestPrep-Online offers comprehensive, age-specific study packs to ensure that your child can learn, progress, and excel on every section of the CogAT.

Our packs include practice tests, as well as additional sample questions. Start your test prep for the CogAT today. Look at our CogAT 2nd grade, CogAT 3rd grade, and CogAT 4th grade test prep materials. Check out our free CogAT Practice Tests.


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