The CogAT: About the Test & How to Prepare

Learn everything you need to know about the CogAT, including the test’s format, question types, and scoring. Try some free sample questions and find out how Elm Academy can help your child feel prepared and confident on test day.

Child bubble sheet gifted & talented test

The CogAT, or Cognitive Abilities Test, is a nationally standardized test schools and educators can use to identify gifted and talented students. The test is multiple-choice and used to assess students’ reasoning skills through verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative questions. Published by Riverside Insights, the CogAT was originally developed in the 1950s and has since gone through many updates. The most current version is the Form 8.

 
Once students are identified as gifted, teachers and other educators can tailor their curricula to meet the levels of their students as well as direct them toward enrichment or gifted programs. The CogAT is not a test of academic achievement, rather a test of cognitive ability. Therefore, the CogAT can be used as a tool to uncover the gaps between a student’s achievement and ability.

CogAT Versions

The latest version of the CogAT is the Form 8, which is an equivalent of Form 7. For parents who are encountering the CogAT for the first time, here’s a brief explanation of what that means:

 

The Form 8 is the newest edition of the CogAT, but is an equivalent to the previous version of the Form 7 in both content and format, meaning it has the same number of questions for each question type. The major update from earlier forms of the test (Form 6 and earlier) is that the CogAT levels 5/6 – 8 are meant to be more inclusive for non-native English speakers, so the questions are based on shapes and pictures rather than words. This way, young students who have not yet mastered English will not be at a disadvantage when taking the CogAT.

 

Forms 7 and 8 are equivalent but not duplicates of each other, meaning you will not see the same question on both tests, rather the same type of question. This allows for easier retesting when necessary.

 

As the two versions of the test are very similar, Elm Academy’s CogAT courses are well suited to prepare students for both the Form 7 and Form 8.

 

Additionally, Canada uses a test called the Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (CCAT) that is nearly identical to the CogAT. We offer practice resources for the CCAT as well.

What are the Different CogAT Levels?

The CogAT is divided by age level, meaning the Level 8 would generally be administered to children who are 8 years old, the Level 9 would be administered to children who are 9 years old, and so on. When beginning to prepare for the CogAT, it is very important that you find out from your school what level your child will be tested at, as schools can test above grade level to assess highly gifted students, or below grade level if they are testing at the beginning of the school year.

In general, this is how the the CogAT’s test levels correspond to grade levels:

Grade CogAT Test Level Number of Questions Time Limit
Kindergarten Level 5/6 118 2-3 hours
1st Grade Level 7 136 2-3 hours
2nd Grade Level 8 154 2-3 hours
3rd Grade Level 9 170 90 minutes
4th Grade Level 10 176 90 minutes
5th Grade Level 11 176 90 minutes
6th Grade Level 12 176 90 minutes
7th-8th Grade Level 13/14 176 90 minutes
9th-10th Grade Level 15/16 176 90 minutes
11th-12th Grade Level 17/18 176 90 minutes

What Questions are on the CogAT?

The CogAT is made up of three sections, referred to as batteries: the Verbal Battery, Nonverbal Battery, and Quantitative Battery. Within each battery are three question types: 

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

*The Verbal Battery is structured differently for levels 5/6-8, as at these levels it does not assess reading abilities. Verbal Analogies and Verbal Classification questions are replaced with Picture Analogies and Picture Classification questions that use images instead of words. Sentence Completion questions for levels 5/6-8 assess listening abilities, with teachers reading the questions out loud.    

Most students taking the CogAT, especially younger students, will not have encountered questions like these before. Therefore, in order to reduce stress and maximize performance, it is very important to be familiar with all nine question types.

 

What is the CogAT Screening Form?

The CogAT Screening Form is an abridged version of the CogAT used to assess students more quickly. While the full CogAT test includes a total of nine question types (three batteries with three question types in each), the CogAT Screening Form contains only three question types (one question type from each battery). The three question types included are the analogy portions of each battery, which are: 


For Levels 5/6-8, time limits are more flexible, but students will be given roughly 11-15 minutes per section. For Levels 9-17/18, the time limit is more strict, and students will be given exactly 10 minutes per section. 


This shortened version of the CogAT allows for a quicker and more efficient assessment of larger groups of students. Oftentimes, the full version of the CogAT is administered to the top-performing students soon after. 


All of our CogAT courses can be used to effectively prepare for the CogAT Screening Form, since it is simply an abridged version of the full CogAT.

CogAT Free Sample Questions

To give you a better understanding of the types of questions your child is likely to encounter on CogAT, here is a sample question for each of the question types. You can also check out our free sample courses, which include short lesson excerpts from our CogAT courses and a 9-question quiz. 

Verbal Battery

Picture/Verbal Analogies

Picture Analogies questions are completely nonverbal and appear on Levels 5/6-8. Verbal Analogies questions appear on Levels 9-17/18. We have included a sample of each below:  

Picture Analogies - Level 5/6-8

CogAT 1st Grade Picture Analogies Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the snowflake. In the top row, the first picture is of a brick wall. The second picture is a single brick. Brick walls are made up of many bricks.

 

The bottom row should follow the same pattern. The first picture shows a snowman. The correct answer will be something that a snowman is made of, making the snowflake the right answer.

Verbal Analogies - Level 9-17/18

Decrease → Increase : Shallow →

 

a. Grow

b. Water

c. Deep

d. Wide

e. Reduce

 

Answer: The correct answer is deep. The first pair of words, decrease and increase, are opposites. The word decrease means to make something smaller, and the word increase means to make something larger. 

The second pair of words should follow the same pattern. The first word is shallow, meaning the next word must have the opposite meaning, making deep the correct answer. 

Sentence Completion

Sentence Completion questions on Levels 5/6-8 will assess listening abilities and consist of the test administrator reading questions out loud. We have included audio files like the one below in our CogAT courses. 

Sentence Completion - Level 5/6-8

CogAT Kindergarten Sentence Completion Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the picture that has a cat in the middle, with one dog to its left, and one dog to its right.

Sentence Completion - Level 9-17/18

Amanda finally found a _____ to the problem that would make everyone happy.

 

a. cause

b. drawback

c. reward

d. solution

e. source

 

Answer: The correct answer is solution. By reading through the sentence, it is clear that Amanda was able to find something that would help solve the problem for everyone. The word solution means a way of solving a problem, making it the correct answer.

Picture/Verbal Classification

Picture Classification questions are found on Levels 5/6-8. Verbal Classification questions are found on Levels 9-17/18. 

Picture Classification - Level 5/6-8

CogAT 1st Grade Picture Classification Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the shark. These are all animals that live in the water.

 

Verbal Classification - Level 9-17/18

The three words in the top row are like each other in some way. Which word from the choices below goes best with the words in the top row?

 

Root    Branch    Leaf

 

a. Plant

b. Tree

c. Trunk

d. Soil

e. Bird

 

Answer: The correct answer is trunk. The three words in the top row are all parts of a tree, so the correct answer must also be a part of a tree. The word tree is incorrect since it is not itself a part of a tree. 

Nonverbal Battery

Figure Matrices

Figure Matrices questions appear on all levels of the CogAT.

CogAT 3rd Grade Figure Matrices Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the fourth option. In the top row, there are 3 shapes in the first box: a large blue triangle, a smaller grey square, and an even smaller black circle. The same 3 shapes appear in the second box, but with a few changes. First, the triangle has switched from being the largest shape to the smallest shape. Second, the circle has switched from being the smallest shape to the largest. Third, the triangle is now upside down. The grey square does not change.

 

 

The bottom row should follow the same pattern. The first box has a large black pentagon, a smaller white trapezoid, and an even smaller grey plus sign. The correct answer will show these 3 shapes changing in the same way the shapes changed in the top row. First, the large black pentagon will become the smallest shape. Second, the plus sign will become the largest shape. Third, the pentagon will flip upside down. The white trapezoid does not change.

Figure Classification

Figure Classification questions appear on all levels of the CogAT.

The three pictures in the top row are like each other in some way. Which picture in the bottom row goes best with the pictures in the top row?

CogAT 3rd Grade Figure Classification Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the blue heart with the arrow. All of these shapes have an arrow as part of the shape.

Paper Folding

Paper Folding questions appear on all levels of the CogAT. These are likely the most unique question type on the CogAT. 

CogAT Kindergarten Paper Folding Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the first option. The paper is folded in half once vertically, then a heart is cut out. When it is unfolded, there will be 2 hearts on either side of where the paper was folded with a little space in between them.

Quantitative Battery

Number Analogies

Number Analogies questions appear on all levels of the CogAT. However, they use a picture format for Levels 5/6-8. 

Number Analogies - Level 5/6-8

CogAT 1st Grade Number Analogies Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is the 5 snowflakes. In the top row, the first box has 4 butterflies. The second box has 5 butterflies, meaning that 1 butterfly was added.

 

The bottom row should follow the same pattern. In the first box, there are 4 snowflakes. If we add 1 snowflake, this will give us 5 snowflakes as the correct answer.

Number Analogies - Level 9-17/18

[4 → 28]      [7 → 49]      [9 → ?]

 

a. 63

b. 56

c. 54

d. 72

e. 62

 

Answer: The correct answer is 63. The first pair of numbers is 4 and 28. The relationship is that 28 is 4 multiplied by 7 (4 x 7 = 28). The second pair of numbers is 7 and 49, and we have the same relationship here: 49 is 7 multiplied by 7 (7 x 7 = 49). The last pair of numbers must also follow the same pattern, meaning that the missing number will be 9 multiplied by 7, giving us 63 (9 x 7 = 63).

Number Puzzles

Number Puzzles questions appear on all levels of the CogAT. However, they use a picture format for Levels 5/6-8.

Number Puzzles - Level 5/6-8

CogAT Kindergarten Number Puzzles Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is 2 tennis balls. In the first train, there are 4 tennis balls. In the second train, there are 2 tennis balls. We need to find how many tennis balls go in the last train car to make the two sides equal. If we add 2 tennis balls to 2 tennis balls, we get 4 tennis balls.

Number Puzzles - Level 9-17/18

71 = 34 + 16 + ?

 

a. 20

b. 21

c. 53

d. 19

e. 31

 

Answer: The correct answer is 21. To solve this question, we need to first be aware that the numbers on either side of the equals sign must be the same. This means that 34 + 16 + ? must add up to 71. Next, we can add 34 and 16 together to get 50, so that we have:

 

71 = 50 + ?

 

Now we just need to get the ? by itself, so we subtract 50 from both sides. This gives us:

 

71 – 50 = 50 + ? – 50

 

This then simplifies to give us the final answer:

 

21 = ?

Number Series

Number Series questions appear on all levels of the CogAT. However, they use an abacus format for Levels 5/6-8.

Number Series - Level 5/6-8

CogAT 1st Grade Number Series Free Sample

Answer: The correct answer is 8 beads. From left to right, there are 2, 4, and 6 beads. This means that in each row, the number of beads increases by 2. If we continue this pattern, the next row will have 2 more than 6, which is 8 beads.

Number Series - Level 9-17/18

5    12    9    16    13    ?

 

a. 10

b. 19

c. 20

d. 6

e. 16

 

Answer: The correct answer is 20. The first number in the series is 5. The next number is 12, meaning that 7 was added. The next number is 9, meaning that 3 was subtracted. The next number is 16, meaning that 7 was added again. This means the pattern in this series is +7, – 3. Following this pattern, we should add 7 to 13, giving us 20 as the correct answer.

How is the CogAT Scored?

Your child’s CogAT score is broken down in a few ways. The following will appear in a score report: 

 

  • Raw Scores – this is a tally of all of the questions answered correctly. 
  • Universal Scale Scores (USS) – The USS is based on a continuous growth scale of child development from kindergarten through 12th grade. To calculate the USS, the raw score is applied to the universal scale and the result is how your child measures against that scale. Like the raw score, each battery is scored separately and then a composite score that averages the three is calculated. 
  • Standard Age Score (SAS) – A separate USS is given to each age group taking the test and the normalized score for that age becomes the Standard Age Score. For example, a student who receives a SAS of 100 is understood to have a standard rate of development while a student who receives an SAS of 130 is considered to have a faster rate of development. The maximum score is 160. 
  • Stanine – The Stanine score (standard nine) is a simplified score that ranges from 1-9. The Stanine score is normalized for both age and grade to give a broad picture of the student’s academic ability. 

 

In general, the CogAT scores are based on two norms – the student’s age and the student’s grade level. 

What is a Good CogAT Score?

The definition of “good” may vary, depending on who is asking. In general, children who score in the 98th percentile rank are considered gifted. However, many schools have their own specific requirements for their gifted programs or enrichment classes. Before your child takes the test, it is advised to speak with their school about what score range is considered gifted.

How to Prepare for the CogAT

The CogAT is a lengthy and unique test that can have a major effect on your child’s academic career. It is important for your child to be as prepared as possible for the test. Elm Academy has built comprehensive courses to make sure your child is fully prepared for the CogAT. 

 

Minimize stress – Standardized testing can be a stressful experience for children, especially younger students who aren’t familiar with tests of this type. CogAT preparation can help lessen the amount of stress your child feels and in turn maximize their test performance. 

 

Become familiar with unique question types – As mentioned before, the types of questions on the CogAT are unique and unlikely to be anything your child has encountered before. By preparing with practice questions built in the same format as the CogAT questions, your child will be familiar with the style of the question and can focus on reasoning out the correct answer, rather than getting stumped trying to understand what’s being asked. Our CogAT courses include lessons and quizzes that focus on each of the 9 question types. 

 

Simulate a test-taking experience – Completing such a long test with the pressure of a time limit can be difficult for anyone. By having previous experience with a timed, full-length test that mimics the CogAT’s testing environment, your child will be in a familiar place when they encounter the real test. 

 

Read more about how to prepare for gifted tests

Frequently Asked Questions About the CogAT

Is the CogAT an IQ test? 

The CogAT is not an IQ test. While it tests some abilities similar to how an IQ test might, it does not test the full range of abilities in the same way. The CogAT only focuses on reasoning abilities that would align with academic success. Additionally, it is only normed against other students who take the CogAT, and not against the full population, as IQ tests generally are. Do not confuse the CogAT for an IQ test. It is simply a tool used to assess reasoning abilities for academic reasons. 

 

What CogAT score is considered gifted? 

There is not set answer to this question, as it can vary from one school or program to another. Generally, schools will set the cutoff at around the 98th percentile, but this number is not set in stone. More competitive programs may have that number at the 99th percentile, while others may have it in the mid-90s. Keep in mind that the CogAT isn’t a perfect tool; a test on its own cannot tell you everything about a child, which is why most gifted programs will use additional methods when assessing students for their gifted programs. 

 

Is the CogAT timed? 

In general, students are given 30-45 minutes per battery when taking the CogAT, for a total of 90-135 minutes of testing time. These times can be a bit flexible and may depend on how your school chooses to administer the test. Time limits are often less rigid for younger grades (grades K-2), while being stricter for older levels (grades 3-12). Some schools also administer batteries separately, either spaced out over the course of a day or over multiple days. We recommend speaking with your school to find out how the test will be administered. When preparing with our CogAT courses, our practice tests are timed to help create a more realistic testing environment. 

 

On the CogAT, should my child guess if they don’t know the correct answer? 

Yes. There is no penalty for getting questions wrong on the CogAT. Guessing gives your child a chance at getting the question right, while skipping it is the same as guessing incorrectly. 

Elm Academy's CogAT Courses

Elm Academy offers practice resources for the CogAT which include a realistic full-length practice test, detailed lessons and quizzes for each question type, and a study guide for parents that includes recommended study schedules and tips. The quizzes and full-length test add up to over 200 total practice questions, each with a detailed explanation. Elm Academy’s courses offer the structure and detail to help your child prepare for the CogAT and perform to the best of their abilities. Our courses are entirely online, and can be accessed immediately upon purchase via desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

Jacob B
Jacob B
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This course was very helpful for my son. Lots of practice questions. I liked that there were quizzes for all the question styles.
Nathaniel
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I have used several books and online courses to prepare my child for the CogAT and this one is hands down the best. The lessons included on how to answer the questions are very thoughtful and helpful. I would recommend this course to any parent looking to prepare their child for the CogAT.
Daniela B
Daniela B
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Great experience! My son who is 10 y.o. and gifted in math, enjoyed practicing all tests (verbal, quantitative, and non verbal). He had fun going through the lessons and quizzes (especially the long quizzes at the end of each category) over one weekend prior to taking the real CogAT tests at his school the very next week. He was well prepared and very excited to take the real tests. He was the only one who actually finished the real CogAT nonverbal test (the hardest, in my opinion) in his testing group at school. I loved how the lessons were structured and easy to follow. I highly recommend this program. Being prepared makes a big difference even for highly gifted children as my son.
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You can also try our free sample courses to get a glimpse of what our full courses offer. 

We hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments. 

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