What is the GATE Program? Is it For My Child? Questions Answered!

Although “GATE” can refer generally to gifted programs throughout the United States, here we’ll focus on gifted programs in California, which uses the acronym GATE in its literature.

We also have information on gifted programs in New York City, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, as well as helpful advice on finding gifted programs.

What is the GATE program? These programs are designed to provide enriched, accelerated, and rigorous instruction to pupils identified as gifted by the California Department of Education.

The programs are planned and organized as integrated, differentiated learning experiences that occur within the regular school day.

What does GATE stand for?

GATE stands for Gifted and Talented Education. “Gifted and talented” students are defined by the California Department of Education as pupils with one or more of the following:

  • Intellectual, creative, specific academic or leadership ability

  • High achievement

  • Performing and visual arts talent
  • How to Qualify

    Now that we’ve answered the question, “What does GATE stand for?” how can your child qualify for these opportunities?

    According to the California Department of Education, gifted students should be identified based on a wide range of data that indicates abilities far beyond those of the student’s chronological peers. This data may include:

  • School, class, and individual pupil records

  • Individual tests (including summary and evaluation by a school psychologist)

  • Group tests

  • Interviews and questionnaires (teacher, parent, and others)

  • Pupil products, such as portfolios
  • Often, the major requirement for gifted identification is achieving a high score on a challenging exam meant to measure cognitive abilities and potential for academic success. These tests include the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, and the Cognitive Abilities Test.

    The exact test your child will be required to take varies by district, so you’ll want to contact your district or check out your district’s website for specific information. For example, Los Angeles requires students to take the OLSAT.

    GATE hopefuls in Redondo Beach can take either the OLSAT or the NNAT and must score at or above the 95th percentile.

    The San Diego Unified School District requires students to take the CogAT in order to qualify for the GATE program.

    Let’s take a brief look at these three entrance exams.

    Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT)

    The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test evaluates problem-solving and reasoning abilities with nonlinguistic test questions. Your child will answer questions relating to figures, shapes, symbols, and patterns. All objects and shapes on the test appear in blue and yellow, and each question offers five answer choices.

    There are four types of questions on the NNAT: pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization. The test is considered the most unbiased available, accurately evaluating students regardless of socioeconomic status, academic background, or even color vision impairment.

    Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT)

    The OLSAT measures verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The test is evenly split between verbal and nonverbal questions. The content, structure, and time limit of the test vary according to grade level.

    OLSAT questions are read aloud to K-2 students, and these questions can be read aloud only once. For this reason, it is important to work on focus and concentration with younger students before they take the OLSAT. If you are able to choose which test your child takes, the OSLAT is not the best choice for a child who speaks English as a second language.

    Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)

    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.

    What educational options does the GATE program provide?

    If you believe your child can score highly on the admissions test to the GATE program, you’ll want to explore the options offered by the program.

    Let’s take a journey into the particulars of different programs: In California, each school district may design its own gifted and talented programs. Options include part- time groupings, cluster groupings, and special day classes.

    Part-time groupings involve classes or seminars that provide advanced, enriched subject material to gifted and talented pupils for a portion of the school day. In cluster groupings, gifted and talented pupils are grouped within a regular classroom for differentiated instruction from the regular classroom teacher. Special day classes are classes consisting of gifted and talented students taught by an experienced and trained gifted teacher. The classes total a minimum school day and are meant to meet the needs of gifted students for advanced and enriched instruction.

    So, as you can tell, the answer to the question “What is the GATE program?” has a variety of different answers depending on the school district.

    To verify exactly what options may be offered to your child through the GATE program, it is best to contact your school district.

    How to Prepare

    Since these exams feature unique test questions that your child may not have encountered in school, the best way to prepare is by using practice questions.

    Practice questions can help your child become familiar with the format and structure of test questions, as well as develop confidence in her ability to accurately complete them.

    As your child answers practice questions, have her explain her thought process. This will give you the opportunity to reinforce strong, logical reasoning and correct misconceptions as needed.

    We hope we’ve answered all of your questions about the GATE program, including, “What does GATE stand for?” and “What is the GATE program?”

    Remember to contact local schools or your school district for specific information on program options and the test your child will be required to take to qualify.