GATE Test Sample & All Question Types Explained

GATE is an acronym for Gifted and Talented Education. While the state of California uses the acronym in its gifted program literature, other states and districts around the country offer gifted and talented programs as well. These include New York City, Virginia Beach, Chicago, and Houston, Tx.

These programs are designed to help gifted students reach their fullest potential through a rigorous, enriched, and accelerated curriculum. Students typically learn amongst other gifted peers from a specially trained gifted teacher.

Here we’ll discuss how to qualify for these programs and provide some GATE test sample questions.

How to Qualify for Gifted and Talented Programs

Gifted programs typically identify students using a variety of factors, including teacher and parent interviews, student grades and products such as portfolios, and entrance exams.

These entrance exams tend to be the most important factor in identifying students as gifted. For example, New York City’s Gifted and Talented program solely evaluates students for admission based on the assessment administered by New York City’s Department of Education.

Entrance exams typically utilize tests designed to assess cognitive development, problem-solving, reasoning abilities, and potential for academic achievement.

The three most commonly used tests are the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, and the Cognitive Abilities Test, or a combination.

Let’s take a look at the question types on each of these exams.

Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT)

The NNAT is used by programs in Virginia Beach, New York City, and several California districts, including Redondo Beach.

In New York City, it is used in combination with the OLSAT, while it is onof two options in Redondo Beach, with the other option being the OLSAT.

The most recent version of the NNAT, the NNAT2, has 48 questions and is available in both paper-pencil and online versions. The multiple choice test takes thirty minutes to complete and is administered in a timed group setting. (For Pre-K and Kindergarten students, the test is administered one-on-one.)

The NNAT asks questions related to pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization.

This test is designed to be as unbiased as possible regarding educational background, socioeconomic status, and potential color vision impairment. All objects on the test appear in blue and yellow. Test instructions are brief and available in different languages. The question types are as follows:

Pattern Completion- Children identify patterns and supply the missing pieces.

Reasoning by Analogy- Students are asked to recognize relationships among geometric shapes.

Serial Reasoning- Your child will be asked to recognize sequences involving shapes.

Spatial Visualization- Questions focus on the ability to imagine how two or more objects would look if combined.

Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT)

As described above, the OLSAT is an option to qualify for gifted programs in Redondo Beach and Virginia Beach, along with the NNAT. It is used in combination with the NNAT for admission to New York City’s Gifted and Talented program, and it is a requirement for gifted programs in Los Angeles.

The OLSAT tests skills such as verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.

The test questions are evenly divided between verbal and nonverbal question types. The content, structure, and time limit of the test varies according to grade level.

For K-2 students, OLSAT questions are read aloud, and they can be read aloud only once. For this reason, it is important to prepare younger children for the focus and listening skills needed on the test.

The test’s verbal comprehension questions evaluate the ability to understand relationships between words and sentences and interpret nuances in language. There are four specific question types in this section: following directions, antonyms, sentence completion, and sentence arrangement.

The verbal reasoning component of the test measures the ability to comprehend patterns, relationships, and context clues in writing in order to find the solution to a problem. There are seven types of verbal reasoning questions: aural reasoning, arithmetic reasoning, logical selection, word/letter matrix, verbal analogy, verbal classification, and inference.

On the pictorial reasoning section of the test, students answer picture analogy, picture series, and picture classification questions meant to test the ability to determine and complete patterns within images, as well as generalize the rules they determine.

Figural reasoning questions include figural classification, figural analogy, pattern matrix, and figural series. This section is similar to the pictorial reasoning section, but requires students to apply logic to figures and objects rather than images.

Lastly, the quantitative reasoning section requires children to discern patterns and relationships in order to solve number problems. These include number series, numeric inference, and number matrix questions.

We have GATE Test sample questions available for both the NNAT and the OLSAT if you would like to get an idea of what your child can expect on these assessments.

Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)

The CogAT is required for admission to gifted and talented programs in areas including San Diego and Chicago.

The CogAT is a group-administered test for students in grades K-12. The test features three independent batteries: **Verbal, Quantitative, and Nonverbal.

It is **designed to assess learned reasoning in these three areas, which experts believe are the areas most closely linked to academic achievement.

The verbal battery on the CogAT is designed to measure a student’s vocabulary, memory, ability to solve verbal problems, and ability to determine word relationships. This battery has three subtests, which vary depending on age. Lower level subtests (K-2) include Sentence Completion, Picture Classification, and Picture Analogies. Older students are tested on Sentence Completion, Verbal Classification, and Verbal Analogies.

The quantitative battery measures abstract reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and problem solving skills. The three subtests are the same for all levels: Number Series, Number Puzzles, and Number Analogies.

On the nonverbal battery, students are tested on their ability to reason using geometric shapes and figures. Students must create strategies to solve unique problems that they may never have encountered in school. This battery is especially beneficial for assessing the abilities of struggling readers, second language learners, and students who may have had limited opportunities. All ages take the same three subtests: Figure Classification, Figure Matrices, and Paper Folding.

How to Prepare for GATE Tests


The GATE tests feature unique questions that your child may not have been exposed to in school.

For this reason, the best way to prepare is by practicing GATE test sample questions with your child. Your child needs to gain familiarity with the question types and confidence in her ability to correctly answer them.

Initially, allow your child to practice the questions with no time constraints. As she begins to perform well during practice sessions and gain confidence, begin timing the questions to more accurately mirror test conditions. It’s also advisable to have your child complete a few full length practice tests to work on stamina and focus.

With your support and encouragement, as well as plenty of practice with GATE Test sample questions, your child will be well on her way to securing a spot in a fantastic gifted program.

What's Next?

Looking for GATE test samples? We have links to free practice tests for the Otis Lennon School Ability Test, the Naglieri Nonverbal Test and Cognitive Abilities Test. You can use these as part of your study plan.

Want some more in-depth information on any of the tests you just read about? Learn everything you need to know about the Cogat, OLSAT and NNAT.