The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is designed to measure reasoning and problem-solving skills in three areas strongly correlated to academic achievement: verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal abilities. Once tests are scored, students receive a score profile that offers a comprehensive view of the student’s performance and individual strengths and weaknesses. We have additional information if you’d like to learn more about the CogAT.
In order for this scoring information to be useful to you, it is necessary to understand CogAT scores and what they mean. The following is a breakdown of how CogAT scores are calculated and how to decipher what these scores mean for your student.
On the CogAT, raw score is calculated by simply tallying the number of correctly answered questions. Students are not penalized for missed questions.
For this reason, you should advise your student to guess if he is unsure about a question. No questions should be left unanswered.
Universal Scale Score (USS)
The USS is a number describing your student’s location on a continuous growth scale of cognitive development. Each raw score can be converted into a USS, and the USS is used as the entry for all of the age and grade norms tables on the CogAT.
The number can show growth and improvement if your student takes the test again. Your child’s composite (total) score is calculated by finding the average of your child’s USS score on each battery.
Standard Age Score (SAS)
Your child will receive a SAS for each individual battery. The SAS compares your student’s level of cognitive development with other students who are the same age. The SAS has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. The maximum score is 160.
If your student scores a 100 on the nonverbal battery, this means that your student’s level and rate of nonverbal reasoning is typical for his age. If he scores a 125, for example, his level and rate of nonverbal reasoning is higher and faster than most students of the same age group.
Percentile Rank (PR)
The percentile rank indicates the percentage of students in the same age or grade group with scores at or below your student’s score. For example, if your child scores in the 90th percentile, his score is equal to or better than 90% of students in his age and/or grade level.
A PR of 50 is therefore considered average for an age or grade group. Students receive percentile ranks for each battery, so you can see how your child’s reasoning abilities compare in all three categories.
The stanine scale is a normalized standard score ranging from 1-9, and it is provided for both age and grade groups. Interpret your child’s stanine score according to the following levels:
Like SAS and percentile ranks, stanines are provided for each battery and the student’s composite or overall score.
The key to understanding CogAT scores and what they mean is the ability profile. The ability profile gives you three key pieces of information: your child’s median age stanine, score pattern indicator, and relative strength or weakness. This information is conveyed in the following format: 7B (V+). In this example, the 7 is the median age stanine, the B is the score pattern indicator, and (V+) reveals the student’s relative strength. What does all of this information actually mean?
The median age stanine is the middle stanine score that your student earned across the three batteries. For example, if your child scored a 9 Verbal, a 6 Quantitative, and a 7 Nonverbal, his median stanine will be a 7.
The score pattern indicator is meant to give you information about the pattern of your child’s scores. The following are the four possible profiles:
A Profile- Indicates that your student performed at roughly the same level on all three batteries. About 1/3 of test subjects receive an A Profile.
B Profile- Your student has a relative strength or weakness, meaning the score for one battery is above or below the other two. The B Profile is the most common, with 40% of students falling into this category.
C Profile- The C is for contrast, and it means that your child shows both a relative strength and a relative weakness.
E Profile- The E stands for “Extreme,” meaning there are extreme score differences between your child’s battery results. An “extreme” difference is classified as a difference of 24 or more points on the Standard Age Score (SAS) scale.
Your child’s relative strength or weakness is indicated using plus or minus signs and letters. V stands for Verbal Battery, N stands for Nonverbal Battery, and Q stands for Quantitative Battery. A plus sign (+) following one of these letters signifies that your child demonstrated a relative strength on that battery. A minus sign (-), on the other hand, means that your child’s test showed a relative weakness in that particular area.
For example, a V+ indicates a relative strength on the Verbal Battery. A Q- indicates a relative weakness on the Quantitative Battery, and a V+Q- would mean that your child demonstrated relatively strong verbal reasoning skills and relatively weak quantitative reasoning skills. Students with A profiles will not have relative strengths or weaknesses, as their scores are consistent across all three batteries.
Now that you understand the components of the ability profile, let’s take a look at a few examples.
8A = Above average scores on all three batteries.
8B (V-) = Generally high scores with a relative weakness on the Verbal Battery.
8E (V-) = Generally high scores with an extreme weakness on the Verbal Battery.
6C (N+ Q-) = Generally average scores with a relative strength on the Nonverbal Battery and a relative weakness on the Quantitative Battery.
2B (Q+) = Generally below average scores, but a relative strength on the Quantitative Battery.
What is a good score?
Now that you understand CogAT scores and what they mean, how do you know if your child’s score is “good?”
If your child is seeking admittance to a gifted program, he will likely need an overall score in the 95th percentile, as well as a score in the 97th percentile on at least one battery. However, requirements vary according to the program, so it is always best to call and ask about the score requirement for admission.
We hope this information has given you a solid understanding of complex CogAT scores and what they mean!