A key part of the application package for many gifted and talented programs, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT®) is an exam designed to test your child's cognitive abilities. Commonly referred to as an “achievement test”, this exam uses various question types to measure a student’s ability to think logically and abstractly. By allowing schools to quickly assess a child’s skills, this test helps highly-competitive gifted programs in school districts, such as in Chicago’s Public School system, Houston’s Vanguard Program,the NYC Gifted and Talented program and Virginia Beach’s Gifted Programs.
So what exactly is the Otis Lennon test? Let’s find out.
Otis Lennon Test Overview
Designed to measure your child’s chances of academic success the OLSAT evaluates abilities across both the verbal and nonverbal spectrums. A student’s ability to reason through both these problem types helps determine how well a child might perform in the classroom. All students between the age of 4 and 18 are eligible to take the test.
The OLSAT has been divided into seven levels, each based on a student’s age. Depending on the level of the test, students will have 40-70 questions and between 60-80 minutes to complete them. For younger children, the test will be administered in a personalized, one-on-one manner. Meanwhile, for older students, the OLSAT must be taken as part of a large group. Questions are not arranged based on difficulty.
First published in 1979, the OLSAT has since undergone seven significant revisions. The eighth version, first used in 1995, is the one currently utilized nationwide. With no revisions are announced for the near future, we focus on the OLSAT-8.
OLSAT Question Types
If you’re wondering “What is the Otis Lennon test?” you’re probably more interested in the test’s question types than its history. The nonverbal and verbal portions of the test have been divided into five distinct areas: verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. We will also take a closer look at each of the twenty-one question types falling under each category.
The verbal comprehension portion of the Otis Lennon test tests a child’s ability to manipulate, understand, and draw relationships between words. This part of the test has four different question types. Some of the categories are considered easier than others, such as Following Directions, and this section is not on higher-level exams:
Following Directions: The students are read a set of verbal directions by the proctor. They must then choose the image that most closely matches the description given. This helps evaluate your child’s listening skills.
Antonyms: In this subset of questions, students must select the choice that means the opposite of the word given by the proctor. These questions test the breadth of your child’s vocabulary.
Sentence Completion: : These problems ask your child to complete a sentence in a logical way using one of the given choices. This subset tests your child’s ability to draw logical relationships between existing words.
Sentence Arrangement: Students are provided a series of words. They must then rearrange these words to form a cohesive, meaningful sentence. Much like sentence completion, this question type assesses how well your child can derive logical relationships between words.
The second part of the verbal section of the Otis Lennon test,verbal reasoning, aims to determine a child’s ability to deduce relationships, draw conclusions, and make comparisons. There are seven types of questions in this category:
Aural Reasoning: These problems are read aloud by the instructor. They test a child’s ability to visualize on various scales and understand the bigger picture. Students must listen to the proctor and select the correct image.
Arithmetic Reasoning: Your child will be read a problem requesting a simple mathematical operation. They must then select an image of what results. While these questions do feature numbers, they focus more on problem-solving via verbal reasoning.
Logical Selection:Students need to apply logical reasoning to uncover the best answer out of those provided. Being able to determine what options are always correct, versus those that are sometimes correct, is key.
Word/Letter Matrix: Students will be provided with a matrix of words or letters. They must then determine the relationship amongst these items to complete the pattern.
Verbal Classification: After being given a series of words or concepts, these questions ask a child to identify the odd one out. To succeed, the test taker must excel at determining relationships between existing objects.
Verbal Analogy: To correctly answer this question type, students must correctly determine the relationship between a given pair of words and then project that pattern onto the given choices.
Inference: After being provided with a scenario or argument, the test taker must take the information provided and determine an appropriate solution. To succeed, students must be able to determine what information is key to drawing the correct solution.
The first of the non-verbal categories, pictorial reasoning, is comprised of three distinct question types. This subsection aims to assess a test taker’s ability to deduce relationships between objects, determine patterns of progression, and understand the similarities between items. No instructions are provided. As this question type is considered the easiest of all, it’s only featured in testing levels A to C.
Picture Classification: These questions ask a student to identify the misfit in a group of given objects. This tests their ability to quickly evaluate similarities and differences between different pictures.
Picture Analogy: Students will be given a four-item matrix and must then determine the relationship between the two items in the top row. They must then apply this same matrix to complete the bottom row.
Picture Series: The student must examine a sequence of objects and predict the object that comes next. This tests their ability to discern patterns across various objects.
The next non-verbal subset is the figural reasoning question type. These problems will assess your child’s ability to reason their way through non-language based scenarios and arguments. This subset is most similar to the verbal reasoning section above. The four question types in this category will be found on all seven levels of the OLSAT:
Figural Classification: Students must select which one out of five images does not belong in the group. This type requires them to quickly pick out common themes amongst sometimes dissimilar objects.
Figural Analogy: Much like the verbal analogy above, this one requires the test taker to discern which of the five figures is most like the one given in the question. This question type tests the ability to pick out differences amongst similar items.
Pattern Matrix: Each question gives your child a 9-box matrix that exhibits a pattern across either columns or rows. The student must then pick out which of the five choices completes the given pattern.
Figural Series: In a figural series question, the exam taker will be shown a progression of geometric shapes. They must then predict what image comes next in the given sequence.
The final category of the OLSAT is comprised of the quantitative reasoning questions]. Only featured on the top four levels of the test, this subset is considered the most difficult. These problems ask your child to discern patterns and relationships using their prior knowledge of mathematics. This category is further subdivided into three question types:
Number Series: Students must examine a sequence of numbers and then determine the underlying pattern. They must then select, from the given answers, the next number in the series.
Numeric Inference: Utilizing computational skills, students must discover how two to three numbers are mathematically related. To find the correct answer, they must then take what they uncovered and apply it to another set of digits.
Number Matrix: After being given a number-filled matrix, students will determine the underlying principle behind all the provided digits. They must then apply this rule again to figure out what number belongs in each blank space.
Scoring Your Child’s OLSAT
As it provides you with three separate numbers, interpreting the OLSAT’s result page isn’t easy. Two of these three scores compare your child’s results against those in the same age group.
The first figure provided is the raw score. This simply lists the number of questions your child answered correctly. This number will then be manipulated to determine the test taker’s School Ability Index (SAI). Once this second score has been determined, it will be compared to other students to determine your child’s percentile ranking. It’s this final score that gifted programs commonly use in the admission’s process.
When combined, these scores provide an overall profile of your child’s capabilities.
How to Prepare Your Child for the Otis Lennon test
With your main question, “What is the Otis Lennon test?”, answered, we move on to just how to prepare a child for this difficult exam. By reading this article, and educating yourself on the test, you’ve already completed step one. While you cannot teach your child how to reason, you can help them better understand the concepts, strategies, and structures that underlie all five categories of the OLSAT. Practice will be vital to increasing your child’s chances of success come testing day.
Before you begin testing preparations, you must first determine which level of the exam your child will be taking. As question types vary widely from one age group to the next, this will help guide your preparations. Focus on those questions and problem-types most likely to be featured on the given level of the exam. For example, if your child will take the Level-D test, they have no need to study for the pictorial reasoning subsection of the exam.
Now that you know the level of exam being taken, you can proceed with testing practice. Begin this process without time limits. This leaves your child free to truly work out, and understand, what’s being asked of them. Once your child begins to perform consistently well, you can start to more accurately mirror the conditions of the exam. To help students grow comfortable with the speed required of them, it’s advised that they take a few full-length practice tests before exam day.
If you would like your child to start practicing now, please download free OLSAT questions by clicking the button below.
Do all you can to avoid making your child anxious. Parents need to work with their child to bolster their confidence. Remind him or her, as often as necessary, that you will love them no matter how low they might score on testing day.
We hope we’ve provided all the answers you need about, “What is the Otis Lennon test?”. If you have additional questions, we’ve previously compiled an expert-level guide to the OLSAT with further information.