About the OLSAT

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, published by Pearson NNC, is a multiple-choice test commonly used in the U.S. to identify gifted children. Schools often use the OLSAT 8 as a tool for admission into schools and programs for gifted and talented children or to measure scholastic achievement across all ages. Learn more about gifted testing in your city or school district.

The OLSAT is comprised of both verbal and nonverbal questions, measuring a student's ability to cope with school learning tasks. In all, there are 21 different question types on the OLSAT. On the test, students will need to:

  • Follow directions
  • Detect likenesses and differences
  • Recall words and numbers
  • Classify items
  • Establish sequences
  • Solve arithmetic problems
  • Complete analogies

What is the Purpose of the OLSAT?

The OLSAT is used specifically to measure abilities related to success in school, testing critical thinking and reasoning skills. The OLSAT is intended to test memory, speed of thought, and ability to see relationships and patterns. The OLSAT was designed to measure a student’s verbal-academic domain, rather than other more practical and mechanical domains.

Who Takes the OLSAT?

Deciding who takes the OLSAT test can be a collaborative effort between parents and schools. The decision of who takes a gifted test should be made on a case-by-case basis, considering a student's strengths, interests, and potential for growth in a challenging environment.  

Please note that while there is no federal law mandating gifted testing, many states have their own laws and requirements for identifying and serving gifted students, which often include some form of gifted testing. 

OLSAT Format & Levels

The OLSAT test is administered at seven levels, depending on the student's age: OLSAT Level A, OLSAT Level B, OLSAT Level C, OLSAT Level D, OLSAT Level E, OLSAT Level F, and OLSAT Level G. The table below shows what grades each level corresponds with:

Level Grade
A Pre-K and K
B 1st Grade
C 2nd Grade
D 3rd Grade
E 4th-5th Grade
F 6th-8th Grade
G 9th-12th Grade

OLSAT Test Formats

The student will have between 60-80 minutes to complete a 40-70 question test, depending on the OLSAT test level. The test is administered to younger children in a one-on-one setting, while older children take the test in a group setting.

Test questions are arranged so that questions do not become more difficult as the test progresses. In other words, difficult items are sometimes followed by easy questions so that students are not discouraged when facing increasingly difficult questions.

The OLSAT Test is notoriously difficult (even for adults) and to gain admission into elite programs or exclusive schools for gifted and talented children, students need to achieve high OLSAT scores.

OLSAT 8 Question Types

What is on the OLSAT 8 Test?

The OLSAT exam covers 5 subject areas:  Verbal Comprehension, Pictorial Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Figural Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. There are 21 different OLSAT question types within these 5 subject areas. The question types are dependent on which grade level your child will take. The OLSAT test is designed to let educators know if a child has an aptitude for learning at an elevated level rather than test what they know. 

Verbal and Nonverbal Skills Assessed by the OLSAT 8 Test?

Verbal Nonverbal
Verbal Comprehension Pictorial Reasoning
Following Directions Picture Classification
Antonyms Picture Analogies
Sentence Completion Picture Series
Sentence Arrangement Figural Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning Figural Classification
Aural Reasoning Figural Analogies
Arithmetic Reasoning Pattern Matrix
Logical Selection Figural Series
Word/Letter Matrix Quantitative Reasoning
Verbal Analogies Number Series
Verbal Classification Numeric Inference
Inference Number Matrix

Find out more about OLSAT verbal and nonverbal testing.

How Is the OLSAT Scored?

Students earn points for each question they answer correctly, but do not lose points for skipping or incorrectly answering a question. When the test is graded, a child is first given a raw score, which provides the number of questions answered correctly out of the total number of questions (e.g., 46/60).

OLSAT Scoring Process

Once the raw score is calculated, it is then converted to a School Ability Index (SAI) score. The SAI score is determined by comparing the raw scores of other children in the same age group. It is a normalized score, with an average of 100, a standard deviation of 16, and a maximum score of 150.

OLSAT Scoring Scales

This SAI score is then used to find which percentile a student falls into. Students who score about two standard deviations above the mean (a score of 132) generally fall into the top 2-3%, or the 97th-99th percentile. 

OLSAT Percentile Ranks

A student's test results are calculated by counting how many questions the student answered correctly. This score is then compared to the scores of other students who are the same age. 

If a student is 6 months younger than another student, their score will only be compared to other students who are the same age

After this comparison is done, the student's test results will show a percentile ranking. This ranking is on a scale of 0-100% and shows how the student did compared to all the other students in their age group. 

Each student will receive two types of percentile rankings: 

  • Age-based percentile ranking - This compares the student to others of the same age. 
  • Grade-based percentile ranking - This compares the student to others in the same grade. 

The student will get these two rankings for the overall test, as well as for the verbal and non-verbal question sections separately. 

What OLSAT Score is Considered Gifted?

If a student is taking the OLSAT to qualify for a gifted program, you will want them to score in the 97th-99th percentile range to have the best chance of being considered gifted and meeting the program's ability requirements. 

Preparing for the OLSAT

The OLSAT is a difficult test, and with competition for gifted programs at an all-time high, your child needs to be prepared for test day.

OLSAT Test Prep For Your Child's OLSAT Level

At TestPrep-Online, we offer grade-specific, child-friendly practice packs for your child, which include realistic practice tests, helpful study guides, and hundreds of additional sample questions. Get started by trying our free OLSAT practice tests.

Why the OLSAT?

OLSAT in Gifted Identification: There are several reasons why the OLSAT 8 is a popular tool used in the educational system to test giftedness in children. Firstly, the OLSAT has a reputation for being a reliable test. Studies show that a child’s score on the OLSAT will not change significantly over time. Secondly, the OLSAT is considered a valid test, as studies show that the OLSAT successfully measures the aspects of intelligence it seeks to measure.

Benefits of the OLSAT

While the OLSAT is often associated with gifted program admissions, the assessment itself has a value that goes beyond just that outcome. It provides a meaningful evaluation of a student's cognitive abilities that can support their academic growth, regardless of program placement. The OLSAT can help identify a student's strengths and weaknesses, which teachers and parents can then use to tailor the student's educational approach. 

Practically speaking, the OLSAT 8 is a simple, economical way for schools to test many students. Lastly, the OLSAT 8 has been peer revised by a panel of minority-group educators to help minimize ethnic gender, cultural, or regional biases.


How long is the OLSAT Test?

The OLSAT time limit varies for all the different levels, but it ranges between 60-75 minutes

What OLSAT score is considered gifted?

A "gifted" child would good a score that is 2 standard deviations above the average. If the average is 100 and the standard deviation is 16, this corresponds to a SAI value of 132, if your child gets an OLSAT score of 132 or higher he will be considered a "gifted" student. 

How does OLSAT compare to IQ?

The OLSAT is more specifically focused on academic potential and is often used for educational decision-making, while IQ tests provide a more general assessment of intelligence.

The OLSAT and other trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with TestPrep-Online or this website. 


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