Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is home to over 400,000 students that belong to hundreds of various schools. Of these, there are five different types of specialty schools that offer programs other than those at neighborhood schools. These are: gifted, classical, magnet, magnet cluster, and charter. Gifted and classical schools are highly selective and require admission tests and assessments in order for students to be considered due to their rigorous curriculum. The spaces at these coveted schools are limited, and the stakes are high.
There is no doubt that getting into a gifted program or school in CPS is an extremely competitive process. While the odds are stacked against your child, this doesn't mean that there isn't anything you can do to help them have the best chance possible. In this article, we give our top ten gifted test prep tips to help your child do his or her very best on test day, and be accepted into one of these coveted programs.
1. Find Out All Requirements
Although we always recommend contacting someone from your prospective school’s admission office to get details on the requirements for admission, there are a few things you can expect. Both Regional Gifted Schools and Classical Schools require applications and require students to complete admission exams to prove their academic ability.
The exact test that the Chicago Public School system gives students is not revealed to the public, but it is widely understood that the exam is similar to assessments used in school districts other than Chicago to measure a student’s potential for learning, including the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT).
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Content
The OLSAT, NNAT, and the CogAT all contain different types of problems and assess specific skill sets. The OLSAT assesses a child’s verbal and nonverbal abilities and really focuses in on the types of skills students learn in school. The test contains questions that require students to create math problems, make inferences, and analyze. The NNAT, on the other hand, assesses a child’s nonverbal skills and does not rely on the student’s ability to speak, read, or write. This test is renowned for being culturally unbiased and a good measure of raw intelligence. Finally, the CogAT is a test that contains three different sections: verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative. It, too, is designed to assess students’ giftedness and intelligence.
Due to the fact that the tests contain questions your child will be unfamiliar with, it’s vital that you help him or her get some exposure to the format and content of the test. The best way to help your child be successful is to find plenty of sample questions and practice with them early and often. As a result, your child will gradually become more and more familiar with the problem types, and be able to continually grow their knowledge and confidence.
Would you like to get started right away to prepare for the admission test with some free practice questions? If so, click the button below to access these questions (please note that these questions are for students taking the test for Kindergarten and 1st grade entry).
4. Discuss the Problems Together
Instead of stressing out, try to view this time as a positive bonding experience and a chance to do an activity together. As you go through sample problems, ask your child extra questions about the story or talk about what strategy you would have used to solve a math problem. Don't only focus on getting the correct answer, but help your child analyze and understand how he or she arrived at a specific answer. If they did something wrong, go back and do the problem together, giving your child an opportunity to find his or her own mistake before you point it out.
As you continue to try various questions together, you will be able to determine beforehand what problem types usually confuse your child. Use this knowledge as an opportunity to discuss why these question categories are confusing for them. It can also encourage your own learning and creativity as the two of you come up with different methods and strategies to solve these tough problems.
5. Build Confidence
Confidence is one of the most important pieces of test prep, and you will want your child to feel calm and intelligent when the exam day rolls around. By promoting frequent practice and exposure to sample problems, your child will feel familiar with the content and not surprised at the way the questions appear on the page. Other than practice, a huge part of building your child’s confidence is you! Encourage them when the problems get tough and help them push through it without giving up. Praise their effort, not just their correct answers, when they succeed and let them know how proud you are of all of their hard work. It is also vital to reiterate that they should be proud of themselves, as well.
6. Teach Test-Taking Strategies
As with any type of standardized test, it is important that students are taught some general test-taking strategies to be successful. Teach them how to eliminate wrong answers and use educated guesses if they aren't sure of a problem.
For older students, on math questions, show them how to use the given answers to help with a problem or how estimating can be a great way to see if the number makes sense. You can also talk with them about how to complete all of the problems they are confident about first, and then go back and spend extra time on the harder problems.
7. Keep your child focused
As you study together with your child, try to determine what his or her most effective method of studying is as well as what type of learner s/he is; visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. By utilizing the way your child learns the best, you can ensure that studying is a fun and engaging task rather than a chore.
8. Help your child with stress or test anxiety
Preschoolers taking the test should not have much anxiety when taking the test if you made sure to create a positive and fun environment during test prep. However, as kids get older and understand the high-stakes around admission tests, it is normal to have some worry and feel nervous before the test. Some children suffer from severe test-taking anxiety, and experience real and extreme panic about their performance. This worry impacts results and can cause the exam to be a traumatic and unpleasant experience. If you feel that your child has test-taking anxiety, find ways to help her relax when her mind starts racing, and teach her strategies to cope with stress. Finding ways to deal with anxiety together will help immensely down the line.
9. Find out all important information about testing day
In order to maintain a calm and positive attitude yourself, find out all relevant information about the testing facility and requirements well beforehand. It is vital to know what test level your child will be taking as well as what time he should arrive at the testing site. Make sure you know what materials he needs to bring, if any, as well as how long the test should take. By ensuring you are prepared and are informed about all of the details, you will better be able to concentrate on your child and help him relax before the big day.
Before and after the test, make sure you remind your child that, no matter what the results are, you love them and are extremely proud of them. While it is exciting to get into a good program and you only want the best for your child, the most important thing to them is that you love them and care about them.
How Can We Help?
At Origins Tutoring, we believe that preparation for admission tests to Chicago's Gifted Programs does not have to be daunting and exasperating; instead, it can represent an important opportunity along a student’s path to learning mastery. Indeed, the perspectives and abilities acquired during preparation provide a foundation that can last throughout a student’s school career and beyond.
Our two-track approach to mastering content and improving test-taking skills means that students will not only thoroughly understand the fundamental concepts and skills tested by the tests for Chicago's gifted programs, but they will also excel in using essential techniques to improve attitude, endurance and focus.
Our students hone their independent thinking skills while developing a resilient mindset so they can perform on test day in a powerful, resourceful, creative and calm manner. Each student in our program receives the undivided attention and expertise of a dynamic and experienced coach who provides the framework to support each student on his unique path to becoming a master learner.
Please call 917.287.7927 now for a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can help your child achieve his or her personal best on the test.
Discover everything you need to know about the kinds of questions that will be on the test by learning more about the NNAT2 and OLSAT. In addition, look at sample questions from each section of the OLSAT and NNAT.
We also have a few other suggestions to help you know more about Chicago gifted test preparation and gifted school options. We also recommend that you check out important information about Chicago’s classical schools.