Raven’s Progressive Matrices: All You Need to Know!

Raven’s Progressive Matrices are multiple choice intelligence tests measuring abstract reasoning and general cognitive abilities. The tests assess nonverbal ability, which is an important component in unbiased testing for ethnically and culturally diverse groups.

Although the Progressive Matrices can be used in a variety of environments, they have a long history in educational settings. If your child will be taking the Progressive Matrices, or you simply want to learn more about the assessment, read on for information on the test’s history, question types, how to prepare, and more.

Raven’s Progressive Matrices Basics

The Progressive Matrices were developed by Dr. John C. Raven in 1936. These multiple choice tests measure problem-solving and reasoning skills by asking test subjects to logically complete patterns of geometric shapes.

Due to the simplicity of these tests and the fact that they are independent of reading and writing ability, they have found widespread use for a variety of purposes. There are three types of Raven’s Progressive Matrices:

Standard Progressive Matrices: As the name suggests, this is the original form of the test, first published in the 1930’s. The test contains 60 questions (Sets A-E) that increase in difficulty. This test is used with the general population and can be taken online, with a fee upon completion.

Coloured Progressive Matrices: This version of the test was developed for children ages 5-11, the elderly, and people with learning difficulties or disabilities. The test features Sets A and B of the Standard Matrices, in addition to a further set of 12 items. The majority of the test is presented in engaging bright colors.

Advanced Progressive Matrices: The advanced form of the matrices is appropriate for both adolescents and adults with above-average intelligence. It contains 48 items of increasing difficulty.

Although these tests are used in educational, clinical, and occupational settings, here we will focus on educational uses for the test. For this reason, our in-depth discussion will center on the Coloured Progressive Matrices.

Raven’s Progressive Matrices: Coloured Progressive Matrices

The Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM), suitable for children ages 5-11, is popular in academics due to the unbiased nature of the assessment.

Scores are mostly unaffected by linguistic, ethnic, and socioeconomic background, and they provide a reliable predictor of academic ability and success.

The test is administered individually or in a group in paper-pencil format. It is untimed but generally takes about 15-30 minutes to complete.

There are 36 questions on the test, and they are divided into three twelve-item series: Series A, Series Ab, and Series B.

Series A and Series B are taken directly from the Standard Progressive Matrices. Series Ab, inserted between the two, is an additional set of matrices that appear on the CPM only.

In each test question, your child will be asked to select the missing item needed to logically complete a pattern of geometric shapes. Most of the patterns are presented in the form of a 4x4, 3x3, or 2x2 matrix. Generally, there are 6-8 answer choices provided.

The answer choices are numbered. In some cases, children will be permitted to answer questions by pointing to the pattern piece they believe is correct. The majority of the time, your child will need to write the pattern piece’s corresponding number on an answer sheet.

Like the questions on other Raven’s Progressive Matrices tests, the CPM questions start out relatively simple and grow increasingly challenging. In order to make the test more engaging for young children, the majority of the questions are presented on a brightly colored background.

The last few items in Series B are on a standard black and white background. In some cases, if a test subject performs better than expected on the CPM, the test administrator will progress to Series C, D, and E of the Standard Progressive Matrices. The color change is designed to make this transition, if it becomes necessary, easier for the test subject.

The test is scored by simply tallying the number of correctly completed matrices, resulting in a maximum possible score of 36. The raw score is then converted to a percentile rank using age-appropriate norms.

This means that, based on the average score of students your child’s age (measured in six-month increments), your child will be given a percentile rank. The percentile rank will be a number from 1-99. If, for example, your child is in the 90th percentile, she scored equal to or better than 90% of students her age.

The majority of schools that use the SPM or CPM to identify gifted students expect these students to score in at least the 95th percentile. However, this varies according to program or school, so it is always best to contact your child’s school and ask about score requirements.

How to Prepare for the Raven’s Progressive Matrices

Your child likely does not have much experience solving matrices, so it is important to begin practicing at least a month in advance, although 4-5 months is ideal.

Although the test is designed to measure innate intelligence, your child will perform better on the test if she is able to establish familiarity and confidence with the type of questions she will be asked to complete.

Consistently work on practice questions with your child. When she answers a question incorrectly, discuss why the correct answer is logical and how to approach these questions differently in the future. Even if your child answers correctly, you can ask her how she solved the problem in order to reinforce the strategies, thought processes, and approaches that work.

The Raven’s Progressive Matrices uses only a few puzzle elements, so you can instruct your child to check for and identify these puzzle elements in order to help her solve the problem. These elements include large shapes, small shapes, symbols, lines, colors, and dots.

Your child can work through these elements in order. For example, she should first focus on the large shapes and ask herself what large shape is required to complete the pattern. Once she has identified the necessary large shape, or if there is no large shape to work with, she can identify which small shape will be required in the missing piece of the pattern, and so on.

These questions can be difficult at first, so keep practice sessions brief, engaging, and encouraging. Remind your child that she will improve with practice and that you are confident in her intelligence and abilities.

Because children can develop severe test anxiety, it is also important to tell your child that you will still love her and be proud of her regardless of the test’s outcome. Avoid overemphasizing the test or being overly critical of incorrect answers.

With these tips in mind, your child will be able to let her fullest potential shine through on the Raven’s Progressive Matrices.