Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT): All You Need To Know


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Are you looking for information on the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT®)? You’ve come to the right place. 

This article covers everything you need to know about the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, including:


So, what is the OLSAT®? In short, this is a test that measures an individual’s ability to reason logically and think abstractly.

Specifically, it tests a variety of skills and abilities in students aged 4-18, including verbal and quantitative skills and spatial reasoning ability.

Technically, the OLSAT® is not an“IQ” test but an achievement test, but this categorization can be confusing as it is not a traditional achievement test which measures what knowledge has been taught or learned in school.

Rather, a better description might be an‘aptitude’ test, because the test focuses on measuring how students perform tasks specifically related topotential for success and achievement in school.


Skills the OLSAT measures.


These tasks are designed to measure those skills that indicate a student’s aptitude for success in an academic setting and include critical thinking, reasoning abilities and problem-solving skills. 

What is the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test Used For?

The OLSAT® is used in many school districts across the USA to identify
children for gifted and talented programs

Is Your Child Gifted?

Is Your Child Gifted?

In the elementary years, the OLSAT® is one of the most common tests used for identifying gifted children. For example, the OLSAT® (along with the Naglieri Non Verbal Abilities Test®) is used for admissions into gifted and talented programs in NYC for students entering Kindergarten through 3rd grade. 

The Gifted Program in the Chicago Public School System also uses the same concepts as those on the OLSAT®.

The test is also used by many schools to help identify strengths and weaknesses of students, which in turn can help inform decisions about which student might benefit from placement in advanced or remedial classes.

OLSAT®-8 vs OLSAT®-7

The latest edition of the OLSAT® test used in schools and by gifted programs is the OLSAT® 8.

This most recent edition has some substantial changes for younger students, including additions that made the test more accessible to children by use of more interesting and engaging graphics.

Also, the test items for younger students are ‘spiraled’, which means they are structured such that difficult questions are followed by easier questions so that the student does not get discouraged and confidence not undermined.

However, in other test levels, for example, level D, the figural and verbal questions are presented in order of difficulty.

OLSAT® Test Levels

There are seven test levels (A-G). Each level corresponds to a grade or several grades.

The chart below gives more info on all the age groups/grades that correspond to a particular test level:

Levels Grade
A Pre-K and K
B 1st Grade
C 2nd Grade
D 3rd Grade
E 4th-5th Grades
F 6th-8th Grades
G 9th-12th Grades

Please note that, in terms of admission into most gifted programs, each level is associated with the grade that the child is in currently, and not the grade the child WILL be entering after the test is taken.


Pre-K students testing for entry into Kindergarten gifted programs take Level A.

Kindergarten students testing for entry into Grade 1 gifted programs take Level A.

Grade 1 students testing for entry into Grade 2 gifted programs take Level B

*Grade 2 students testing for entry into Grade 3 gifted programs take Level C**

**Grade 3 students testing for entry into Grade 4 gifted programs take Level D**

However, a school or gifted program may use a different level than this chart shows depending on how the school is using the test.

Always check first with your school or the school you are planning to send your child too.

OLSAT-8 Content

The OLSAT® has both verbal and non-verbal components, which are categorised into five areas:

OLSAT-8 Question Types

These five areas have 21 question types:

Following Directions Picture Classification
Antonyms Picture Analogies
Sentence Completion Picture Series
Sentence Arrangement Figural
Figural Classification
Aural Reasoning Figural Analogies
Arithmetic Reasoning Pattern Matrix
Logical Selection Figural Series
Word/Letter Matrix Quantitative
Verbal Analogies Number Series
Verbal Classification Numeric Inference
Inference Number Matrix

The test’s content and structure (and the skills and abilities tested) evolves according to the different levelsand as the child gets older.

For example, picture-based reasoning tasks are no longer present in the 3rd grade test, which focuses more verbal-based reasoning tasks over figural-based tasks. Students in third grade also start to be tested on a quantitative reasoning. in the 4th grade tests and up, figural classification items are no longer included, and inferential reasoning is introduced.

The following chart shows the which elements are tested at the various levels.

Otis Lennon question types and levels

The following part of our article explains the sections and question types on the OLSAT® in more detail.


A. Verbal Comprehension Question Types

The verbal comprehension questions are aimed at measuring students’ ability to gather and manipulate information from language. In particular, these questions seek to evaluate how students understand the way words and sentences relate to each other, and also how students interpret nuances in language.

The verbal comprehension section has four different types of questions:

Type Level Description
Following Directions A-C Following Directions assess a child's ability to listen carefully and
choose a representation (figural or pictoral design) of a description that is
read out loud by a test administrator. These questions test students
knowledge of relational concepts, including distinguishing between and
understanding phrases such as as "below", "above" and "in between".
Antonyms D-G Antonyms require students to search for the opposite meaning of a given
word. In particular, this group of questions aims to evaluate a student’s
vocabulary skills. Ultimately, these questions require a sophisticated
understanding of vocabulary because students have to not only comprehend a
word, but also understand it enough so that they can recognize its true
Sentence Completion D-G With sentence completion questions, students are required to "fill in
the blank(s)" and choose word(s) that create a complete, logical sentence.
Sentence Arrangement D-G Sentence arrangement questions provide students with sentences that have
been mixed up. Looking at this jumbled set of words, students must piece the
words together to compose a complete thought. These questions assess a
student's ability to understand the structure of language by asking them to
take fragmented parts and, from them, create a whole.

B. Verbal Reasoning Question Types

The verbal reasoning component of the test measures a student’s ability to comprehend patterns, relationships, and context clues in writing in order to solve a problem. In order to be successful in answering these questions, students must be able to fully understand what a question is asking, as well as make inferences based on what they have read.

The verbal comprehension section has seven types of questions.

Type Level Description
Aural Reasoning A-C These problems assess a child’s ability to listen to and understand a
question that is read aloud to them. A child will need to pick an answer
based on inference/reasoning skills and informationprovided in the question.
Arithmetic Reasoning A-G These verbal problems incorporate mathematical reasoning. Some
questions assess basic mathematical concepts. Others assess more
sophisticated concepts such as reasoning and solving word problems.
The main skill tested here is the ability to create mathematical problems
from language and to solve those problems.
Logical Selection D-G In order to find the answers to these questions, students have to apply logical
reasoning to uncover the best answer. These questions often asks students to
consider which answer might be correct, versus which answer options are
always correct. Being able to make that distinction is key.
Word/Letter Matrix D-G These questions provide students with a matrix of letters or words. Students
must perceive the pattern or relationship among these words or letters in order
to supply a missing letter or word.
Verbal Analogy D-G These questions ask students to consider the relationship between a pair of
words, then apply this relationship to another pair of words. Students’ ability to
correctly uncover these relationships is key to answering these type of questions.
Verbal Classification D-G With these questions, students must look at a series of words or concepts and
identify which one does not fit with the others. In answering this type of
question, students must be able to evaluate the relationships among words or
among concepts.
Inference E-G Students will be provided an argument or scenario and, based on the information
provided, must discern an appropriate conclusion. These questions rely on a
student’s ability to evaluate which parts of the provided information are absolutely necessary for reaching the correct conclusion.


A. Pictorial Reasoning Question Types

The purpose of these questions is to measure a student’s ability to reason their way through non-language based scenarios. These questions are in a visual format, incorporating pictures instead of words. Students will be expected to find the relationship between elements and/or objects in a pattern, to predict and create what the next level of the pattern will look like, and generalize the rules they discover.

The Pictorial Reasoning section has three types of questions:

Type Level Description
Picture Classifications A-C These questions assess a student’s ability to identify what does not belong among a group of objects. A student has to evaluate differences and similarities among the items in order to correctly
answer the question.
Picture Analogies A-C In these questions, students are presented with a 4-box matrix and must identify a relationship between two objects in the first row. The student needs to apply this rule to the second row and choose which object - from the answer choices - completes this second row relationship in the same way.
Picture Series A In these questions, students must examine a sequence of objects and identify/predict the object that comes next in the sequence according to the underlying pattern.

B. Figural Reasoning Question Types

The purpose of these questions is to measure a student’s ability to reason their way through non-language based scenarios. These questions take a more visual format than the verbal questions, incorporating geometric figures instead of words. Students will be expected to find the relationship between numbers or objects in a pattern, to predict and create what the next level of the pattern will look like, and generalize the rules they discover.

The figural reasoning section has four question types:

Type Level Description
Figural Classification A-D In these questions, students must examine a
group of figures and identify a pattern or principle that links those figures. Then, students must conclude which of the answer choices follows this same principle.
Figural Analogy A-G Like verbal analogies, these questions require
students to identify the relationship of a given pair. With these questions, however, students are asked to examine the relationship between figures instead of words. Once students have uncovered this relationship, they then must apply this rule to a second pair of figures. This question type assesses the student’s ability to infer a relationship between a pair of geometric shapes and select the shape that is related to the stimulus in the same way.
Pattern Matrix A-G This question asks the student to supply a missing element in a matrix of geometric shapes. These questions test a student’s ability to discern rules and evaluate how those rules govern a series of geometric figures as they run horizontally and vertically across the matrix.
Figural Series A-G With these questions, students must look at a
series of geometric figures, discern a pattern within the series, and predictthe ‘next’ drawing/shape in the pattern.

C. Quantitative Reasoning Question Types

There are three types of quantitative reasoning questions:

Type Level Description
Number Series D-G Students must examine a sequence of numbers and determine a pattern that governs those numbers. They will then apply that pattern in order to predict what comes next.
Numeric Inference D-G Using computation skills, students will have to determine how two or three numbers are related. Once they have uncovered this relationship, students will have to apply this rule to another pair or trio of numbers.
Number Matrix D-G For these questions, students must examine numbers in a matrix and determine what principle or rule links those numbers. Then, they must apply this rule to figure out what number should be placed in a given blank.

These questions evaluates a student’s ability to discern patterns and relationships in order to solve problems with numbers. This section requires that students be able to predict outcomes based on their knowledge of mathematics.

OLSAT Format

The OLSAT format is described below. We have highlighted some changes in the exam format (for example, the number of questions) according to the test level.

Multiple choice

The questions are in multiple-choice format with 4 to 5 answer options for each.
Students should choose an answer choice for every question as points are not deducted for answering incorrectly.

Number of questions

The number of questions also depends on the test level, varying from 40 to 72.

Level A (Pre K) has 40 questions. Level A (K), Level B and Level C each have 60 questions. Level D has 64 questions and Levels E-G have 72 questions.


Students have 60-77 minutes to complete the full test

Please see table for further information on timing and question number according to test level.

timing and question numbers


The test is administered to older children in groups. Pre-schoolers take the test individually in a one on one setting. Pre-k students only need to point to the answers. Older children must mark their answers on the test or on a bubble sheet.

Levels A and B are read aloud to students.

The person administering OLSAT®- 8 is usually a teacher or school administrator. The administrators of the test are familiar with the procedures, but do not have any special training or certification.

Is the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test valid and reliable?

The OLSAT® is regarded as a reliable and valid measure of the aspects of intelligence it was created to measure. It is viewed as reliable because students who take the test many times tend to score approximately the same each time. It is also considered to be free of cultural and gender biases.

It is also regarded as valid since studies have indicated that the test effectively assesses the reasoning and problem-solving abilities that it was designed to assess.

Although there are other tests that can measure intelligence and aptitude in school-settings, the OLSAT® is widely used as it can be administered relatively inexpensively compared to other tests such as the Stanford Binet, which require a one-on -one setting and a trained psychologist to administer.

Otis-Lennon School Ability Test Scores

A OLSAT® score provides an assessment of a student’s general reasoning ability compared to peers in the same age range.

A student’s OLSAT® score is calculated by first turning the raw score into a score on the School Ability Index (SAI).

The raw scoreis defined as the student’s total number of correct answers. For example, the raw score would be “20” if 20 questions were answered correctly out of a total 36 questions.

The SAI score provides more information than the raw score because it highlights a student’s overall ability score compared to other students (in the same three-month age band) who took the test at the same time.

An SAI score cannot be interpreted like a raw score. For example, a one point difference in score does not mean that a child could get one more answer correct and move to the score above (eg: from 129 to a 130). This is because one point represents more than one incorrect answer on the SAI index.

Percentile rank is useful in indicating a student’s relative standing on the test compared to the rest of the students of the same age.

For example, a student in the 50th percentile scored higher than 50 percent of students in the same age group who took the same test.

A percentile rank of 50 means the student got as many questions right as a child who got a SAI score of 100. It also does not indicate that the student only got half the questions correct.

Otis Lennon School Ability Test Score Interpretation

Test Score Interpretation

Test Score Interpretation

The SAI score has a mean of 100 regardless of the age of the student or which form of the test they took. That means that the average score for a student of any age is 100.

The majority of kids achieve an average score falling somewhere between 85 and 115 (68%). Fewer children reach a score between 116-132 (14%) and 68-84 (14%).

A small number (2-3%) of children achieve a score higher than 132 (which puts them in the 97-99th percentile) or a lower score than 68.

150 is the maximum score.

The qualifying score varies among gifted programs, but it ranges usually from 130-132, which targets 2-3% of students who have taken the OLSAT.

History of the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test®

Arthur Otis

Dr Arthur Otis

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test was written by Arthur S. Otis and Roger T. Lennon.

The name Otis-Lennon reflects the surnames of these two people. Dr. Otis is most well-known for developing intelligence tests for the U.S. Army in an effort to improve cost and time efficiency of administering comparable tests like the Stanford Binet.

Dr. Otis was also the first to use multiple choice test on a large scale.

Mr. Lennon, was the marketing brains behind the growth and popularity of the OLSAT as a test to measure ability for success in school. He ran the test division of the publishing house that built on the original tests created by Dr Otis.

The OLSAT test is published by NCS Pearson, Inc., but was originally owned by Harcourt Assessment, Inc./The Psychological Corporation.

Differences between the OLSAT and Other Gifted Tests

OLSAT® vs Naglieri NonVerbal Ability Test®: What is the difference between the OLSAT® and NNAT®?

The Otis Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) both provide an economical way, for schools, to measure logical reasoning and problem solving abilities of gifted and talented candidates in the early years. 

The tests also can both serve as vehicles to assess and compare an individual student’s annual progress from grade to grade.

One of the main differences is that the Naglieri Test assesses ability without the requirement of reading, writing, or speaking the English Language. This means that the test is viewed as a reliable measure of abilities in students for whom English is a second language. Because of this, the NNAT® is considered culturally unbiased.

Students who may have a learning disability, such as vision problems, can also benefit from taking this test versus other aptitude or academic ability tests. This is because the format of the Naglieri test consists of only nonverbal questions (Pattern Completion, Reasoning by Analogy, Serial Reasoning, and Spatial Visualization) presented in two colors.

Different Schools use different tests to make their assessments of students. Always check with your specific school district or school to find out which test is being used.

OLSAT® vs Stanford Achievement Test(SAT): What is the difference between the OLSAT® and SAT?

The main difference is that the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) assesses a student’s abilities in math, reading, science and social studies. The test’s aim is to assesses each student’s knowledge as it relates to these academic subjects.

Test results provide a measure of whether a student is achieving grade-level expectations.

The OLSAT measures a student’s abstract thinking and reasoning ability,and is widely known as a measure of general learning ability (rather than a measure of what is ‘taught’) and to assess young students applying to gifted and talented programs.

In some schools, both tests are taken together and can reveal a student’s learning ability in conjunctions with his or her actual school achievement.

There are also differences in format between the SAT and the OLSAT.

This includes that that the SAT is untimed, whereas the OLSAT is administered in a timed setting.

The Stanford Achievement Test consists of short-answer, multiple-choice and extended-response questions, whereas the OLSAT has only a multiple-choice format.

The OLSAT can be administered by computer or paper-based, while the SAT is only offered on paper.

Lastly, the SAT has 13 levels to the OLSAT’s seven levels.

OLSAT® vs Cognitive Abilities Test® (COGAT®): What is the difference between the OLSAT® and COGAT®?

The OLSAT-8 and the COGAT-7 (the newest versions of both tests) have quite a few similarities.

Both tests measure reasoning and problem solving abilities, which are skills that are widely considered necessary to academic success.

Both tests are also widely used by schools as a way to assess students for gifted education programs.

However, one of the tests is often favored by a school district. For example, in NYC, the OLSAT used (in conjunction with the NNAT), whereas the COGAT is used in the state of Washington state and California.

Like the OLSAT, the COGAT has different levels for students in grades K-12. There are ten CogAT levels, compared to the seven levels of the OLSAT.

Format-wise, they are both group-administered, multiple-choice, and timed tests, but the COGAT has 3 sections (verbal, non-verbal and the quantitative) compared to the two sections of the OLSAT.

cogat table

The table above shows these COGAT sections (or “batteries”) with their associated question types

OLSAT® Test Prep

olsat test prep

Test Prep Works!

As a general test preparation strategy, we recommend that you first review each question type on the OLSAT with your child and ask him or her to solve practice questions without a time restriction.

Then, spend time analyzing the answers and explanations (both incorrect and correct) for each question.

You can also diagnose your child’s weaknesses by analyzing her scores on a practice test. Then, focus study time on reviewing and practicing more of the question types that your child finds tricky or regularly stumbles on.

Preparing for the OLSAT gives students a chance to know how to respond when faced with unfamiliar and perplexing questions.

The test measures a student’s academic performance but also his ability to manage time efficiently and capacity to keep calm and focused under pressure.

When to Start Studying?

Every family and student will approach preparation for this test differently. There is no ‘right’ way to prepare; there is only the best way for a particular child and family.

Some take the ‘cram’ approach, loading up on as many hours as possible before the test date. Other parents think too much focus on preparation may create anxiety in their child that could backfire on test day. In this case, a more low-key approach may work best.

With that said, repeated exposure to the format and nature of the test will help a student prepare for a test which covers challenging topics that students may not see in school, and which require students to think a little differently in order to do well.

We suggest students, at minimum, take one practice test (preferably under timed conditions) and spend a minimum of 8-10 hours working through OLSAT® type questions.

For younger children, 15-30 minutes a day of practice is a good target for which to aim. Older students, with longer attention spans, can do more each session.

Free OLSAT Practice Questions

Get started practicing now by clicking the button below to access 30 free OLSAT practice questions.

We will also send you a list of activities that you can do with your child to help him or her practice the higher-thinking skills that she will use to perform successfully on the test.

Also, please remember that these kind of exercises have usefulness in other areas of life than testing.

Practicing these skills will help your child’s ability to problem solve and reason in a logical manner -- a skill that will help your child succeed not only in taking the Otis Lennon School Ability Test but in other areas too.