CogAT Exam Frequently Asked Questions

Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT®) Exam

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is an group administered aptitude test commonly given as an entrance exam into school's gifted programs.

To determine your child's aptitude, the CogAT exam assesses how your child does on things that are new to them. Therefore, the exam has many types of questions that your child would not have seen before. If your child understands the short set of directions that the administrator reads to your child prior to each section, they will probably do OK on the exam, but if they misunderstand the brief description, they can miss entire sections on the exam - due to a misunderstanding, not their intellect.

Given that many schools rely solely on these test scores to place your child in the best programs, it would be highly beneficial to make sure that your child understands what each of the test areas is asking so that you could fix any issues before exam day.

Our full-length practice tests for the CogAT exam are in the same format as the exam. With our practice tests your child will become familiar with how the tests are formatted, the symbols used and the number of questions in each test area so that you can ensure they know what each test area is asking. However, since these practice tests have not been standardized with Riverside Publishing and the actual CogAT exam, a valid CogAT test score cannot be concluded from their results on this practice test.

View our free CogAT Sample Questions

Riverside Publishing, the publisher of the CogAT® exam, will not release the names of schools who will be using the new exam format. You will need to confirm with your school as Mercer Publishing cannot guarantee which version and level will be given to your child.

Many schools are unable or unwilling to provide exam information to parents. If you are unable to determine whether your school will be using Form 7, Mercer Publishing recommends that your child practice with both Form 6 and Form 7 practice tests in order to ensure your child is prepared for whichever version will be given.

Form 6 and Form 7 have some similar sections, but about 50% of each form is different. For a section by section brake down of each form please look at the Primary or Multilevel section of the FAQ's.

Second graders can be given the Primary or Multilevel Edition of the CogAT exam. School districts make the decision about which version will be given. You will need to confirm with your school as Mercer Publishing cannot guarantee which version will be given to your child.

Many schools are unable or unwilling to provide exam information to parents. If you are unable to determine whether your school will be using the Primary or Multilevel Edition, Mercer Publishing recommends that your child practice with both practice tests in order to ensure your child is prepared for whichever version will be given.

The issue is that the exams are enough different that studying one will not necessarily help if your child is taking the other one.

Primary Edition tests are given to students in kindergarten and first grade (although some students in second grade can be given the Primary Ed. instead of the Multilevel Edition - check with your school). The questions in the Primary Ed. exams can be read to the students by a test administrator and the answers are in picture format. The Form 7 exams have reduced the oral question component, although the test administer still paces the students through the exam.

In the CogAT Form 6 exam, the Primary Edition levels are K - 2.
In the CogAT Form 7 exam, the Primary Edition levels are 5/6 - 8.

The CogAT Form 6 Primary exams contain six test areas and the CogAT®* Form 7 Primary exams contain nine test areas :

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Multilevel Edition tests are given to 3rd grade students and above (although some students in second grade can be given the Multilevel Edition instead of the Primary Edition - check with your school).

In the CogAT Form 6 exam, the Multilevel Ediiton levels are A - H.
In the CogAT Form 7 exam, the Multilevel Edition levels are 9 - 17/18

The Multilevel Edition exams expect that the child is able to read and answer the test questions themselves.

The CogAT Multilevel exams (grades 2 - 12) contain nine test areas:

The number of questions on the CogAT Form 7 depends on the CogAT test level. Administration time may vary, depending on how long the proctor takes to administer the test. 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. In total, the CogAT has between 118 and 176 questions, depending on the level. The table in the following section details the number of questions by level. See the table below for the full details on the different lengths of each test:

GATE, TAG (Talented and Gifted), PRISM, GT or G/T, Academically Gifted Program, Extended Learning Program, and many others...

These programs often have the lowest student-to-teacher ratios, the best teachers, and additional funding that regular classrooms do not receive.

In order to get your child into your school's best programs, your child will likely need to pass one or more of the gifted program entry exams. There are several exams usually given for these programs and these exams can be divided into two types:

  • Achievement Tests, which are a measure of things that your child would have learned in school - such as reading, math and, in some cases, science and social studies.
  • Aptitude Tests, which are a measure of intellectual ability, focusing on analytic and problem solving skills rather than specific knowledge.

Aptitude Tests aim to evaluate your child's intelligence and only those children who receive the highest scores are selected for the best programs. The questions on aptitude tests are not things they have learned in school and are types questions that they have probably never seen before exam day. If they don't understand the types of questions or if the directions are not well explained on exam day, your child will not do well on these exams and will not have access to the best teachers and best programs.

Many parents have been frustrated that their children's scores on these exams do not reflect their intelligence and many kids have missed out on these programs by only a point or two on the exams, year after year. Our practice tests have changed that.

Mercer Publishing is the publisher of the original full-length practice tests for the two most common aptitude tests - the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test® (NNAT®).

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 very 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.

The stanine score is a normalized standard score ranging from 1-9. Stanines are grouped as follows:
Stanine 9 Very High
Stanines 7–8 Above Average
Stanines 4–6 Average
Stanines 2–3 Below Average
Stanine 1 Very Low

The standard age score is a number that allows the teacher to compare the rate and level of a student’s cognitive development with other students the same age. It has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. If a student has a SAS of 100, he/she is typical students for his/her age. On the other hand, if a student has a SAS of 125 that student has a higher and faster rate of learning than most students his/her age.

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. For example, if a fifth-grade student obtains a grade PR of 90 on the Quantitative Battery, it means that 90 percent of the fifth-grade students in the sample received scores lower than the on e received by the student.

A student’s CogAT profile is based on the pattern of scores from the administration of the three tests that are part of the CogAT (verbal, quantitative, non-verbal). How can we know if the verbal score is significantly higher than the quantitative score? All test scores have some error of measurement, so the difference should be larger than the error in either score. These profiles consist of A, B, C, and E and are provided for each of the three CogAT tests.

“A” Profiles. In an A profile, the student’s verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal scores are roughly at the sAme level. There is only one other piece of information provided by the test, and that is the overall height, or level, of the profile. This type of profile is what we would expect if reasoning ability were a single dimension. It is the pattern assumed whenever a student’s ability is summarized in a single score. About one-third of students obtain this profile.

“B” Profiles. In a B profile, one of the three battery scores is aBove or Below the other two scores. The student shows a relative strength (when one score is above the other two) or a relative weakness (when one score is below the other two). For example, B (V+) means that the scores show a B profile with a strength in verbal reasoning; B (N–) means a relative weakness on the Nonverbal Battery. Overall, approximately 40 percent of students obtain a B profile. Thus, B profiles are more common than A profiles.

“C” Profiles. This profile is called C for Contrast. The student shows a relative strength and a relative weakness. This pattern is much less common. About 14 percent of students have a C profile. A student who shows a relative strength on the Verbal Battery and a relative weakness on the Quantitative Battery would have a C (V+ Q–) profile. “E” Profiles. The B or C profile for some students is much more extreme than for others.

“E” Profiles. This profile is called the Extreme profile. Students with an E profile generally have significant differences 24 or more points on the SAS scale between their scores on two of the three tests.

To begin preparing your child for success, click on the relevant grade level to view our selection of grade specific practice tests and materials.