Gifted and Talented NYC: All You Need to Know!


Have you just begun the journey to understand New York City’s Gifted and Talented Program? Are you trying to figure out how to help your child get a spot in one of them?

If so, you have quite a bit to learn and take in.

Like most parents, you want your child to attend a great school. You are committed to giving him or her every possible advantage available, including a chance to get into one of the city's best G&T programs.

However, the information available is vast, confusing and technical (hello, Department of Education).

In addition, you may be privy to rumors about how things ‘really’ work.

It's hard to know what you should you focus on and what to expect.

Well, look no further! In this article, you will discover the key things you need to know.

We will help you understand your options in terms of the different programs available, and de-mystify the admission tests that your child will have to take in order to be eligible for different programs.

We'll explain the steps to take to make sure you have crossed all your t’s crossed and dotted all your i ‘s when it comes to key dates and deadlines.

Plus we’ll give you some practice test questions and provide some tips on how to help you prepare your child for the exam.

body-knockout punch

"Too many geniuses"

Let’s start with the odds of getting into the city’s gifted and talented program.

For the class entering Kindergarten in 2016, approximately 14,500 children took the admissions exam.

But only 19 percent – about 2,400 kids -- were offered a place in one of the city's gifted and talented programs.

And fewer – 12% -- scored high enough to get into the most coveted schools – the “city-wide” gifted programs.

This does not count the thousands of kids who take the tests in order to enter in grades 1-3. However, the competition can be worse in the higher grades as there are less spots as kids get older. On the plus side, many fewer parents are trying to get a spot for their child once they have settled into a school.

That’s why most parents start the process as early as they can in order to increase the chances of getting a seat for their child in their school of choice.

Why Gifted & Talented? What Programs Are Available?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to send your kid to a G&T program.

You may believe your child is exceptionally bright and you want an accelerated, special curriculum and a similarly-intelligent peer group to challenge and inspire him or her.

However, you are just as likely to be looking at the G & T program because you think it is a high-quality alternative to the so-so general education school that your kid is zoned for.

Some of you may actually like your top-rated zoned schools, and view the G&T program as insurance in case your child is put on the wait list.

So what are your different options in terms of G&T programs?

District Program

There are approximately 100 ‘district’ gifted and talented programs across the 32 districts in the city.

Most districts have at least one, though there are some where too few kids qualify to make a class. In years past, this has been the case in some low-income districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are districts with multiple programs, including District 2, which covers Tribeca to the Upper East Side, and District 20 in Brooklyn, which includes Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Borough Park.

You can find what programs are available in your district by going to the Department of Education (DOE) website.

Keep in mind that living near to a neighborhood school which has a G&T district program does not mean that your child will have an advantage in getting into the program. Every child in the district has the same opportunity to apply to the program, no matter how far they live from the school.

G&T students who attend district programs do so alongside students who attend these schools in the non-G&T classes. Though kids from both G&T and non-G&T classes may take some specials together like art or gym, the 'gifted' students always take the same academic classes together.

City-wide Program

City-wide gifted and talented programs are not so much programs as schools. If your kid gets into a city-wide G&T, all other kids in the school are in the G&T program; there are no “non-G&T” students in ‘separate’ classes.

This means that everyone has to have scored at least the minimum entry score on the admission exam to get in.

Another big difference from the district-wide program is that the city-wide programs accept students from ALL boroughs -- as per the name! This means that your kid will NOT get priority just because he/she lives in the district where the city-wide program is located.

The five city-wide programs are the most selective of all the gifted and talented programs in NYC, and some of the most difficult to get into.

  • NEST+M located on the Lower East Side. K-12
  • Anderson School located on the Upper West Side. K-8
  • Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars (TAG) located in East Harlem. K-8
  • Brooklyn School of Inquiry located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
  • PS/IS 300, The 30th Avenue School located in Astoria, Queens. K-8.

You may be wondering how the curriculum in the G&T program differs from the curriculum in the gen-ed schools or classes.

The short answer is that the curriculum and teaching styles can vary, depending on the school.

Though all G&T programs deliver “specialized instruction” for “exceptional learners” aligned to Common Core Learning Standards, schools are given latitude to offer different teaching methods and materials in their programs.

In the district gifted programs, the curriculum is known as 'enriched", which can mean different things to different people. This is why the quality of a district program is reliant on the teachers teaching the curriculum and the admistrators running the program.

In the city-wide schools, the curriculum is accelerated by one year. That means, for example, that your kindergartner will be doing the standard 1st grade curriculum.

Parents can get more information from individual schools, but if you want an inside peek on philisophy of the city-wide schools, read the following summaries from parents of kids in these schools (source: DNA Info):

"The Anderson School is the most traditional, with homework starting in kindergarten and students often earning top scores on state standardized tests. One concern is that the school's Upper West Side building is getting crowded, since two other schools share the space."

"The educational philosophy in the Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Bensonhurst is progressive. They have no required homework in lower grades and put a large emphasis on social-emotional learning. The school could use a bigger playground and smaller class sizes."

"NEST+m offers a strong, well-rounded curriculum with 10-week enrichment clusters in nontraditional topics such as Korean, street hockey and knitting. Kindergarten classes have 25 children but classes grow to 29 students by fourth and fifth grade."

"TAG Young Scholars is a very diverse school — about 50 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic, 17 percent Asian and 3 percent white — and while it doesn't have as wealthy a parent base as some of the other gifted schools, there is a strong and devoted school community."

"STEM Academy in Queens is known for the principal's open-door policy, strong parent involvement and a playground that features a rock-climbing wall."

Who Takes The G&T Exam? What Score Do You Need To Qualify?

Students in all five boroughs take the same admissions exam for the gifted and talented programs.

Admission into one of the programs is based solely on your child’s performance on this one admissions test.


"Summary of Gifted and Talented Outcomes, 2013-2015"

If your child ranks in the 90th percentile or over on the test, she/he will be eligible for a seat in a district G&T program.

If you live in a district that includes the G&T program that you want, your child will have priority for admission over those who do not live in the local community/district served by the school.

However, just because your kid has a rank in the 90th percentile does not mean that he or she has won the proverbial golden ticket to a gifted program.

For the most competitive G&T programs in the city, a 90th percentile rank will just not get the job done.

In the most coveted district G&T programs, for example, the gifted program at PS 166 on the Upper West Side, only the kids who rank in the 99th percentile gain admission to the program.

On top of this, these popular programs do not even have enough seats for all of those kids who ranked in the 99th percentile. So many of these top-scoring children are turned away.

You see a similar story at the city-wide schools.

Technically, students need to be ranked in the 97th percentile to be eligible.

In reality, it is the kids who are ranked in the 99th percentile that are offered a spot.

This is because the city-wide schools have only 325 spots, but in previous years, more than 1500 pre-schoolers were eligible (i.e.: ranked 97 or above). These are also programs to which kids from ALL five boroughs of NYC can apply so the number of applicants sky rockets.

The city uses a lottery to decide which of the kids in the 99th percentile will actually get offered a spot.


Lottery: fair or unfair?

In previous years, a big debate has ensued about this issue and many parents have questioned whether the ranking system is fair.

The current policy in NYC is that all children who rank in the 99th percentile who applied to a particular school have an equal chance of admission to that gifted and talented program (through a lottery).

Some argue that this policy is unfair and that, instead, the city should rank the children within each percentile. So, for instance, any kid who received a perfect score on the test would be ranked above a child who was in the 99th percentile but got a question or more wrong.

You might be confused as to how children in the same percentile rank can have different scores. But the percentile rank is not a raw score (i.e.: a score that shows exactly the number of questions answered correctly). In fact, little Jenny and little Kevin can both be in the 99th percentile, but Kevin could have gotten 5 questions wrong, while Jenny got none of the questions wrong.

All this is only relevant if your kid ranks in the 99th percentile and you are applying for a super-competitive, popular program. Just be prepared that your chances at that point will be reliant on a lottery system.

Sibling advantage


For kids who score high enough on the test PLUS have a sibling already at the school of choice, the odds and options change.

In the case of the district G&T, a sibling -- with a rank at the 90th percentile -- is given first preference to accept a spot in front of all those who ranked higher but who do not have a sibling.

In the case of the city-wide, a sibling that ranks at or above the 97th percentile is guaranteed a seat.

So having a sibling already in the G&T program is quite a coup if your child is applying for some of the most competitive programs. It means that little brother or sister only has to get the minimum score on the admissions exam to land a spot in the school.

If siblings do not make the mark for the district gifted program, the DOE will attempt to place them in the same school’s general education program, as long as space is available.

So, is your child guaranteed a spot in a G&T program somewhere if she/he qualifies?

The bottom line is that your child is guaranteed a spot in a program in the city if he or she ranks in the 90th percentile or above and you rank all the programs for which he/she is eligible in your application. But if you have your sights set on even a fairly competitive program, your child will probably have to score higher than this.

The reality is that many parents do not rank all programs as they are not of the quality they want and may be far away from their community and homes.

For some parents, the local zoned school is a preferred spot than a G&T in a neighborhood or district that is perceived as undesirable.

What’s On the Gifted and Talented Kindergarten Test?

The NYC Gifted and Talented test consists of two assessments: the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT).


The 48-question NNATpart of the test measures the abilities of children to reason and problem solve using nonverbal test items.

In particular, the NNAT tests pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization. This assessment accounts for 50 percent of the final score.


Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT): Test Content

The 30-question OLSAT tests how a child follows directions, as well as aural and arithmetic reasoning. Like the NNAT, the OLSAT also makes up half of your child’s final score.

Please note that currently the DOE only uses the verbal section of the OLSAT for evaluating children for the NYC gifted and talented programs. The official OLSAT Level A test (for Pre-k kids testing for admission into Kindergarten) contains 40 questions, and includes both a verbal and non-verbal section. Please note that the DOE may change the test structure and content. We will update this page with any new information as soon as we become aware of it.


Test Format

The exam is untimed. The DOE says to expect your child to spend between one and two hours at a testing centre.

Though the test is technically 'untimed', it generally usually takes about 40 minutes for a child to go through the test if s/he is focused and moves thorugh the test without getting distracted.

New York City teachers, trained in giving both assessments, administer the test to your child. The teacher will take your child to a seperate room. After reading some general instructions and going through a few sample questions - so your child can know what to expect - they will give the test to your child.

The teacher will also read the questions to your child for the OLSAT test, but **one time only.

The one-time reading of the question is strictly enforced because the exam is measuring how well your child comprehends and retains information, and reading the question once is one way in which the test assesses this skill.

Answer choices are in a visual multiple-choice format, but Pre-K students, do not fill out the answer bubble. They point to the answer and the proctor records the answer.

Test Scoring

You may need a PhD in statistics to understand the scoring on these tests. If you want to get into the weeds of the subject, read the city’s fact sheet on test scoring (click on image below).


However, please know that the key piece of information that matters is the percentile rank.

A percentile rank is between 1 and 99 and reveals the standing of one child relative to another student of the same age.

So, specifically, if your kid has a percentile rank of 50, this indicates that he or she did the same or better on the test than 50% of peers in his/her cohort who took the same test.

Don't get percentile rank mixed up with percent correct, which is a conversion of your child's raw score (or the number of items your child answered correctly) into a percentage. For example, if your kid answered 15 out of 30 questions correctly, she would have correctly answered 50% of the questions, but may have a different percentile rank.

The main thing to understand is that percentile rank depends on how your kid does in comparision to other children and is not based on just your kid's performance alone.

The additional information on your child's test score card may be of interest to you for different reasons, but your percentile rank tells you everything you need to know if your main concern is whether your kid got into a gifted program or not.

Three-month bands

There is one addtional element to keep in mind when it comes to testing and scoring.

In the Kindergarten admissions test, children are compared to others whose birthdays are within three months of theirs.

This means that it would benefit your child to take the test when he or she is one of the kids at the older end of a three-month band.

There is not a lot of wiggle room with choosing test dates, but your child may jump up several percentile points if he or she is compared with younger children.

However, don't get yourself crazy over this.

Even if you are stuck with a test date you don't want, at least you can be sure that your December-birthday child will not be compared with another kid born in January of the same year.

How to Prepare for the Gifted and Talented Test

Familiarity is your best friend when it comes to the G&T test.

Kids who are extremely intelligent are still apt to stumble on concepts when they are presented to them in test questions with an unfamiliar format. As a parent, you will quickly find out that having your child do practice questions will improve her/his performance.

Heck, you can see how your own performance improves after doing a number of these questions, which, by the way, can seem tricky even to adults.

The test also requires four-year olds to be focused for a prolonged period, which requires a great deal of stamina. Help your child exercise his or her ‘concentration’ muscle by taking a few full-length practice tests.

We suggest you focus on building your child’s confidence when preparing him or her for the test. You can do this by using a number of strategies, including by encouraging her/him not give up too soon or not to make too many random guesses out of frustration.

Keep test preparation fun and full of praise and encouragement.

Getting anxious and pushing your child in a non-supportive manner will not help him or her get the best results.

Sample Questions

So what will your four-year old face when he or she sits down to the take the test? As you will see from some of the examples below, some of the questions on these tests are challenging especially if a child has had no prior exposure to the format of the questions and pacing of the exam.

The following four examples are from the pattern completion section of practice NNAT exams.


Answer: Choice 1


Answer: Choice 1


Answer: Choice A


Answer: Choice A

If you would like more practice questions, click on the link below to get 25 free questions based on the NNAT and OLSAT Level A tests. 

Logistics: Registering/taking the test and Applications

  1. Submit a Request for Testing (RFT) form to the DOE if you are have a child that is looking or a G&T seat in 2018. The RFT is accepted starting in mid Oct 2017. The cut off is about a month later. Check website for exact dates. You can submit your RTF online.
  2. Register early to get a test date, time and location that you want. Tests for students entering kindergarten through third grade are administered on weekends at school sites. The tests will take place between early January and early February 2018.
  3. Pick the language you want your child to take the test in. Options are: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. Your child cannot change back and forth between languages during the test.
  4. If your child is eligible, you will receive an application to apply for a program in early April, due back a few weeks later.You will receive notice of your G&T offer/s in late May. Once the scores are released, a lot of the school sites will post open house information.
  5. Pre-register for school by June.

Note: Children who move to NYC after gifted and talented testing is completed can be assessed over the summer.


At Origins Tutoring, we believe that preparation for the NYC Gifted and Talented test does not have to be daunting and exasperating; instead, it can represent an important opportunity along a child’s path to learning mastery. Indeed, the perspectives and abilities acquired during test preparation can help a student throughout his or her 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 Gifted and Talented test, but they will also excel in using essential techniques to improve attitude, endurance and focus.

Each child 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 Gifted and Talented test.


This article has provided you with information on the Gifted and Talented NYC program.

However, the G&T is not the only show in town.

Apart from your local zoned schools, there are also private and charter schools.

Also, your child can apply, if you are a Manhattan resident, to Hunter College Elementary School.

The Special Music School, for musically gifted children, is also an option.

The application and testing processes for many of these schools can be as byzantine as the one for the city's gifted programs. To help you figure it all out, we have written articles helping you understand how these variouss processes work. Click on the relevant links above to access them.

If you think you need more information and guidance about the NYC Gifted and Talented test, check out our in-depth articles on the NNAT2 and the OLSAT. We also provide examples and explanations on sample questions for both sections of the G & T test.

There are also other ways to prepare for the that you may not know about. Read about our top test prep tips for the Gifted and Talented test here!