The SCAT: About the Test & How to Prepare

Learn everything you need to know about the SCAT, including the test’s format, question types, and scoring. Try out a few free sample questions and see how Elm Academy can ensure that your child is ready for test day. 

SCAT Practice Test & Test Prep

The School and College Ability Test, also known as the SCAT, is a standardized multiple choice test that is frequently used to assess students for gifted and talented programs. The test was developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), who uses it to identify children from grades 2-12 for its gifted program. 

 

The SCAT is considered an above-grade-level test, meaning that students will take a version of the test that is designed for students in a higher grade level than them. For example, 2nd and 3rd graders take a test designed for students in 4th and 5th grade.  

 

The SCAT is computer-based, and takes less than an hour to complete. There are two sections: Verbal and Quantitative. Each section contains 55 questions, though only 50 of them count. Hidden within those 55 questions are five experimental questions that will not be scored. Your child will not know which are the five experimental questions. There will be a brief 10 minute break between the two sections. 

What are the Different SCAT Levels?

There are three levels of the SCAT: the Elementary SCAT, which is administered to students in grades 2-3; the Intermediate SCAT, which is administered to students in grades 4-5; and the Advanced SCAT, which is administered to students in grade 6 and above. The SCAT is an above-grade-level test, meaning that each level is designed for students in higher grades. For example, while the SCAT Elementary is administered to 2nd and 3rd graders, the questions are written at a 4th and 5th grade level. View the table below for a detailed breakdown:  

Level Administered To Designed For
Elementary Grades 2-3 Grades 4-5
Intermediate Grades 4-5 Grades 6-8
Advanced Grades 6-12 Grades 9-12

SCAT Question Types & Free Sample Questions

The SCAT contains only two sections, and each has essentially one question type. Try out the sample questions below to get a better understanding of the types of questions your child is likely to encounter on the SCAT. 

Verbal Section

The Verbal section takes 22 minutes and contains 55 multiple choice questions, five of which are experimental and will not affect your child’s score. All of these questions are verbal analogies, where your child will be presented with a pair of words and will have to choose the pair of words from the answer choices that best go with the original pair. 

Verbal Sample Question

loathe : despise ::

 

a. scarce : meager 

b. love : hate 

c. abundant : sparse 

d. plentiful : amount 

 

Answer: The correct answer is scarce : meager. The first pair of words, loathe and despise, are synonyms which both mean to hate. The correct answer will be also be a pair of words that are synonyms of each other, making scarce : meager the correct answer.

Quantitative Section

The Quantitative section takes 22 minutes and contains 55 questions, five of which are experimental and will not affect your child’s score. These questions are not standard multiple choice questions, and also do not require any calculations. Instead, they are basic comparison questions that will present two values and ask to determine which is greater, or if they are the equal. These comparisons will test a wide range of mathematical skills, and may include everything from fractions and decimals to geometry and probability. 

Quantitative Sample Question

Column A

14 x 11

Column B

300 ÷ 2 

A. Column A is greater 

B. Column B is greater

C. The two columns are equal 

 

Answer: The correct answer is A. 14 x 11 is 154. In Column B, 300 ÷ 2 is 150. This makes Column A greater. 

How is the SCAT Scored?

Since testing is done above-grade-level, your child’s scores be compared against older those of older students. So if your 2nd or 3rd grader took the SCAT Elementary, their scores will be compared against 4th and 5th graders. 

 

SCAT scores are determined as follows: 

 

  • Raw Score.  This is simply the number of questions answered correctly out of 50 for each section. If your child answered 30 questions correctly on the Verbal section, their score for that section would be a 30.  
  • Scaled Score.   Raw scores are converted to scaled scores, which range from 400 to 514. Scaled scores are used to compare scores within a student’s grade level. 
  • Percentile Score. The scaled score is converted to a percentile score, which is used to compare students’ scores against those in higher grades. For example, since the SCAT Elementary is administered to 2nd and 3rd graders but designed for 4th and 5th graders, a 2nd grader who takes the test will be scored against 4th and 5th grade students. 
 

What is a Good SCAT Score?

The Johns Hopkins CTY Program outlines their eligibility scores as follows: 

 

  • 2nd Grade: Verbal 430 | Quantitative 435 
  • 3rd Grade: Verbal 435 | Quantitative 440 
  • 4th Grade: Verbal 440 | Quantitative 450 
  • 5th Grade: Verbal 445 | Quantitative 465 
  • 6th Grade: Verbal 450 | Quantitative 470 
  • 7th Grade: Verbal 455 | Quantitative 475
  • 8th Grade: Verbal 460 | Quantitative 485
  • 9th-12th Grade: Verbal 465 | Quantitative 490
 

Since scores are normed against other test takers, there is no way to determine the exact number of questions that need to be answered correctly to achieve each of these scores. The only thing your child can do is go into the test as prepared as possible. 

How to Prepare for the SCAT

The SCAT is a very difficult test, especially when you consider that it is an above-grade-level test. 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 SCAT. 

 

Minimize stress – Standardized testing can be a stressful experience for children, especially younger students who aren’t familiar with tests of this type. Additionally, the SCAT can be particularly stressful due to the nature of above-grade-level tests – it’s very likely your child won’t know all the answers! SCAT preparation can help lessen the amount of stress your child feels, and in turn maximize their test performance.  

 

Become familiar with unique question types – The types of questions on the SCAT are unique and unlikely to look like anything your child has encountered before. By preparing with practice questions designed to look like real SCAT questions, your child will become 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 SCAT courses include lessons and quizzes that focus on all of the 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 SCAT’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 SCAT

Is the SCAT an online test? 

The SCAT is most often administered as a computer test. It can be taken either in person at a testing center, or online from home. One major difference when taking the test at home is that it may take a bit longer to get your results. When taking the SCAT in person, you will receive your results after 48 hours. If you take the test at home, it will take 7-10 business days.  

 

Is the SCAT timed? 

Yes. Students are given 22 minutes per section, with a 10 minute break in between. In total, administration time comes out to roughly one hour for the entire test. 

 

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

Yes. There is no penalty for getting questions wrong on the SCAT. Guessing gives your child a chance at getting the question right, while skipping it is the same as guessing incorrectly. If your child has time at the end of the test, it is recommended that they go back and review their answers, and answer questions they did not get to the first time around. 

 

How can my child improve their SCAT score? 

The best way to improve your SCAT score is through practice. Not only is this a difficult test, it is also filled with question types that are unfamiliar to most children. Becoming familiar with these question types will make a big difference when seeing them on the real test. Additionally, practicing with realistic practice tests under timed conditions will help with your child’s ability to focus for an extended period of time and answer as many questions as possible in a limited amount of time. All of this will also help your child feel calm and confident on test day, and helping to reduce any test anxiety will help your child perform to the best of their abilities. 

Elm Academy's SCAT Courses

Elm Academy offers practice resources for the SCAT 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 SCAT 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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