What is the CogAT Test? A Complete Explanation of the CogAT

the cogat test captures a child's potential for school success

the cogat test captures a child's potential for school success

The CogAT, or Cognitive Abilities Test, is a test that is frequently used, in whole or in part, as an admissions test for gifted programs around the United States. Although it is not technically an intelligence test, it measures cognitive development, which experts believe is strongly linked to high intelligence and strong academic performance. The test is meant to provide an idea of a child’s potential for academic success.

So what is the CogAT test, exactly? Here’s everything you need to know.

CogAT Overview

The CogAT measures cognitive reasoning in three areas that are closely correlated to academic performance: verbal, quantitative and nonverbal abilities.

The test is administered to K-12 students, and there are ten different CogAT levels based on age. Depending on the level, the CogAT has between 118 and 176 questions. Students are typically given 30-45 minutes per battery (section). In total, the test should take 2-3 hours to complete.

Form 7 is the most recent version of the CogAT Test, although Form 6 is still used in some schools throughout the country. The main difference between the two forms is that K-2 students answer picture based questions instead of word based questions on Form 7.

CogAT Question Types

If you’re asking, “What is the CogAT test?” you’re probably most interested in the question types your child will need to answer. Here’s a look at the skills being accessed by each of the three batteries. Each battery has three question types, which we will also examine.

The verbal battery on the CogAT is designed to measure a student’s ability to solve verbal problems and demonstrate adaptability, fluency, and flexibility in verbal reasoning. Your child will answer questions including picture/verbal analogies, sentence completion, and picture/verbal classification. Whether a student completes verbal or picture analogies and classifications depends on grade level.

Picture/Verbal Analogies: Students are given a pair of words that has a specific relationship, along with a third word. They must then choose the answer choice that is related to the third word in the same way that the provided word pair is related.

Sentence Completion: From a list of five choices, students must choose the word that best fills in the blank in a provided sentence.

Picture/Verbal Classification: Students are given a list of three words (either in word form or picture form) that have something in common. From a list of five choices, the student must choose a word that is similar to the others in the same way.

The quantitative battery measures quantitative reasoning skills, the ability to work with quantitative symbols and concepts, and the ability to organize and give meaning to unordered sets of numbers and symbols. Question types include quantitative relations, number series, and equation building, although younger students may solve more simplistic number analogies and number puzzles instead.

Quantitative Relations: The student is given two problems to solve. They must then determine if the solution to Problem 1 is less than, greater than, or equal to the solution for Problem 2.

Number Series: Students are given a series of numbers that follows a pattern. They must then determine what number should come next in the series.

Equation Building: Students are provided with a set of numbers and signs, along with five answer choices. They must combine the numbers and signs in order to reach a solution that is one of the answer choices.

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. These skills are measured through figure classification, figure analogies, and paper folding.

Figure Classification: Students are given three figures and must select a fourth figure to complete the set.

Figure Matrix: The student is provided with two figures that have a specific relationship, in addition to a third figure. From the answer choices, they must select a figure that has the same relationship to the third figure as the relationship between the provided pair.

Paper Folding: Students must determine how a hole-punched, folded paper will look once it is unfolded.


CogAT scoring can be a bit complicated, because the test offers a variety of score types to help you understand your child’s cognitive development. The test uses both age norms and grade norms to show your child’s cognitive abilities relative to students of the same age and grade level. These scores will often be very similar, but age scores can be a more accurate measurement for students who are at the younger or older end of the spectrum in their grade level.

The student’s raw score is calculated by a simple tally of the number of correctly answered questions. The raw score is used to determine a Universal Standard Score (USS) for the three individual batteries. Once the USS is calculated, it is used to figure the Standard Age Score (SAS), stanine score, and National Percentile Rank (NPR).

These scores, in addition to an analysis of patterns in the student’s score, are used to provide a comprehensive profile of your child’s abilities. If you’d like additional information on scoring, we have an in-depth analysis of CogAT scores as well.


Although we’ve now answered, “What is the CogAT Test?” you may still be uncertain about test preparation. Parents often wonder how to help their child prepare for a test that is meant to measure innate ability. Although many of the reasoning skills required for the CogAT can’t be directly taught, you can teach your child test concepts and test strategies. You can also work on CogAT sample questions to help your child become comfortable and confident about the question types that will appear on the test.

As your child begins working with CogAT question types, allow as much time as needed to process and solve problems. When your child begins to consistently perform well on the questions, start occasionally timing your child to more accurately mirror testing conditions. We also recommend having your child work through at least a couple of full length practice tests to sharpen focus and concentration and to give your child an idea of how quickly she will need to work.

Try not to overemphasize the test or make your child feel anxious as test day approaches. Instead, build your child’s confidence through consistent practice and encouragement. Test anxiety can derail a child’s performance on test day, so work with your child to avoid this as much as possible. Tell her that you will still love her and be proud of her regardless of the results.

We hope that we’ve now thoroughly answered the question, “What is the CogAT Test?” If you have additional questions, we’ve also compiled an expert guide to the CogAT with more in-depth information.