Expert Guide to Gate Testing San Diego

The San Diego Unified School District is consistently recognized as one of the top urban school districts in the United States and serves a diverse student population.

It leads in state and national tests, in areas of technology and specialty schools, and has graduated some of the country’s top scientists and writers.

The district is also recognized for its strong Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program. Continue reading to find out more information about gifted identification as well as GATE testing in San Diego schools.

GATE Testing San Diego | General Information

San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) is home to more than 130,000 students and is the second largest school district in California. It serves students in preschool through twelfth grade and represents more than 15 different ethnic groups and over 60 languages.

The SDUSD Gifted and Talented Education program was created to provide unique opportunities for high-achieving students who are identified as gifted and talented. The GATE programs for gifted and talented students consists of special day classes, part-time groupings, and cluster groupings.

The Cluster program is for students who are identified as gifted, as a result of the gifted testing, and who are in need of advanced instruction. Students in grades three through twelve can be offered this program where they receive differentiated instruction and assignments from a GATE certified teacher.

The Seminar program is for the top 1% of students who were qualified as gifted from the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) test.

The Seminar program is separate classes that are capped at 25 students and include only those who are highly gifted.

The instructor has to be GATE certified and has at least three years of experience in a GATE Cluster classroom.

Both of these GATE programs offer curriculum that is advanced in nature, accelerated in pace, and is enriched and differentiated to meet the needs of academically talented students.

The programs exceed the Common Core State Standards while developing students’ interpersonal and leadership skills.

GATE Testing San Diego | Admissions

Each year, about 12,000 students are tested for GATE admissions, as well as all second grade students in the district. Students who are starting third, fourth, or fifth grade and are new to the district are also GATE tested.

There is a multi-criteria matrix that is utilized in order to determine gifted identification as well as admission to GATE programs. This criteria includes:

  • Test scores
  • Grades
  • Teacher input
  • Parent input
  • All of these pieces are considered, with outside factors also being weighted as part of the process. These include economic challenges, transience, disabilities, and English language learners.

    In order to be considered for any of the SDUSD GATE programs, the interested applicant must take the Cognitive Abilities Test, or the CogAT.

    The CogAT was recently adopted by the school district for their identification process as it is known to be a reliable and accurate assessment of student abilities. The CogAT is a common test across the country for gifted and talented programs and has varying levels of difficulty for each grade. This test is administered by the district starting in March, and continues until June.

    GATE Testing San Diego | The CogAT

    There are many different problems on the test that assess students’ abilities to problem-solve, learn and understand new tasks, and measures their cognitive development.

    The CogAT has three sections, verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative, all of which address unique skills. It is a multiple choice test that is given one section at a time by a proctor. It is taken in a group setting and has a time-limit.


    The verbal portion of the CogAT consists of questions that cover topics such as:

  • Sentence completion (students are given a sentence with a missing word and must choose the correct word)

  • Picture classification (students are shown three pictures and must choose what picture Best completes the group)

  • Verbal classification (students are given three words and must decide what word fits the group)

  • Picture and verbal analogies (students are provided pictures or words that are organized in pairs, and they must choose what completes the missing pair)
  • Nonverbal

    The nonverbal portion of the CogAT is made up of questions that assess students’ understandings of figure matrices, paper folding, and figure classification.

    Figure matrices consist of a 2x2 square matrix in which some parts are shaded. Students are given three of these types of matrices and must then decide how to complete the missing piece.

    Paper folding consists of problems in which students have to visualize what a piece of paper would look like if it was folded in a certain way.

    Finally, figure classification contains questions in which students are provided three different figures and then must decide what would best complete the set.


    The quantitative portion of the CogAT consists of questions that assess students’ abilities to reason with number analogies, number puzzles, and number series.

    Number analogies involve a set of three different 2x2 square matrices in which students must then decide what the fourth matrix would be.

    Number puzzles require students to solve for the correct answer when given pictures of equations. Number series involves questions that present a series of numbers and then students must figure out the pattern.

    The scores are reported to families and students once all tests are received and reviewed. For further information of how to read and understand the CogAT score report, click here.

    GATE Testing San Diego | How to Prepare for the CogAT

    There are many ways you can help your child prepare for the CogAT. The most important thing to do to prepare is to assist your student in becoming familiar with the different sections of the test.

    Although you cannot predict the exact questions that will be included on the test, you know the types of questions and can introduce them to many examples that will help build their confidence.

    Finding a sample of the CogAT test is the best way to start, as it will give your child an idea of what the test could look like as well as what some of the problems could include.

    There are many types of samples available, but you can begin by looking here at a printable CogAT test.

    This resource also provides explanations for all of the problem types.

    There are also some general test-taking strategies that you can teach your child, in order for them to have the best chance possible to perform at their highest ability. Some of these test strategies include:

  • Underlining keywords and important information
  • Eliminating obvious wrong answers
  • Completing questions they know right away first
  • Coming back to the harder questions later
  • Gaining acceptance into the Gifted and Talented Education programs in San Diego is an honor that students will be proud of for the rest of their life. Whether your child has been in the district for years, or you have just moved to the area, help them get the best education possible by performing their very best on the admissions test.

    By helping your child be properly prepared, you are assisting them in getting one step closer to achieving their academic goals.

    What’s next…

    We hope you have learned what you need to know about GATE testing San Diego, so what’s up next?

    Learn more in-depth info about the GATE program, the CogAT test, or other IQ and aptitude tests for Kids, like the OLSAT and the NNAT.