If your child is taking the CAT4 test, this guide will help you and your child understand what to expect. Read on to:
Find out why schools use the CAT4
Understand the format and structure of the CAT4
Work through example CAT4 questions
Learn how the CAT4 is scored
Discover how to help your child prepare
CAT4 stands for Cognitive Abilities Test (4th Edition). It's created by GL Assessment – one of the UK's leading exam providers, including the 11 plus.
The test aims to reveal a child's hidden potential by assessing their reasoning ability. It's standardised on around 25,000 children in the UK and Ireland.
Schools use CAT4 tests for a range of purposes. The biggest difference between CAT4 and other formative exams (such as SATs and GCSEs) is that it is designed to measure a child's natural ability and not content they will have learned from the school curriculum. The results from the CAT4 give schools a more rounded view of the child's potential and highlight elements of their ability that might not be immediately obvious in the classroom.
CAT4 is used by schools to:
Assess candidates' academic ability as part of a selective school entrance exam
Stream students into sets based on academic ability
Provide an indicator for national tests and exams (e.g. setting predicted grades for GCSEs)
It also helps teachers:
Evaluate their students' academic abilities and potential
Identify students' strengths to see who might benefit from extra challenge
Identify which students might benefit from extra support
Identify learning strategies for individual students
Support students' transition from primary to secondary school
The CAT4 test has 10 available levels which are aimed at different age groups. The content in each level is appropriate for that age group.
The most commonly used levels are A–G. If your child is taking the CAT4 as an 11 plus exam, they will likely take Level C or Level D.
Level A: ages 8–9
Level B: ages 9–10
Level C: ages 10–11
Level D: ages 11–12
Level E: ages 12–13
Level F: ages 13–15
Level G: ages 15+
Although the CAT4 does not aim to measure a child's IQ, it is similar in some ways to an IQ test for adults. The CAT4 assesses natural academic ability and potential, instead of studied knowledge (such as English, maths and science). Because of this, it is less curriculum-based than traditional school tests.
The CAT4 test is a timed assessment of 72 minutes, taken under exam conditions. It's available to schools as both a paper-based and online test.
Children will be assessed through multiple-choice questions across four 'batteries':
Let's take a look at some example CAT4 questions for each section.
The first section of the CAT4 test assesses non-verbal reasoning. This is a skill that involves solving problems and identifying patterns using pictures and diagrams. Many selective schools include 11 plus non-verbal reasoning as part of their Year 7 selection process.
In the CAT4, non-verbal reasoning is assessed through:
Figure classification (10 minutes)
Figure matrices (10 minutes)
Children are not allowed to use any additional resources such as a pencil or scrap paper in this section.
Figure classification is a test of your child's ability to understand, analyse and recognise visual information and patterns.
Your child will be shown a pair or a group of shapes which are similar in some way. They will then need to select one of five options that belongs to the group based on a shared characteristic.
The figure matrices test assesses your child's ability to recognise changes between shapes and apply these changes to other shapes.
They will see a matrix consisting of several shapes. One piece of the matrix will be missing. They will need to identify how the shapes change within the matrix to identify the missing piece from the options provided.
The second part of the CAT4 test assesses verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning.
Verbal reasoning tests how we think and solve problems using written information. Many grammar and private schools include 11 plus verbal reasoning as part of their Year 7 entry process.
Quantitative reasoning is designed to test maths skills and involves processing patterns using numbers.
Part 2 of the CAT4 test consists of three individually-timed sections:
Verbal classification (8 minutes)
Verbal analogies (8 minutes)
Number analogies (10 minutes)
Children are not allowed to use any additional resources in this section.
In the verbal classification test, children will see two groups of words. They will need to select two words – one from each group – which have the most closely associated meaning.
In the verbal analogies test, your child will need to work out the relationship between a pair of words. A third word will be presented, and your child needs to apply the same pattern from the first pair to complete the second pair.
Your child will see triplets of numbers that are linked together using a common rule. A number will be missing in the third triplet. They will need to work out the common rule, then apply it to the third triplet to solve the missing number.
Unlike the previous tests, your child will be allowed a pencil and paper for working out in this section.
The third and final part of the CAT4 test involves more quantitative reasoning questions and tests spatial ability. This is a skill which involves transforming visual images in the mind. It's commonly used in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
There are three shorter timed sections:
Number series (8 minutes)
Figure analysis (9 minutes)
Figure recognition (9 minutes)
Your child will be allowed a pencil and paper for rough working out in the number series section, but not for figure analysis or figure recognition.
Your child will see a sequence of numbers which are linked by a rule. They need to analyse the numbers to work out the rule, then apply it to find the missing numbers in the sequence.
In the figure analysis test, your child will see an image of a square that has been folded and holes punched out of it. They will need to visualise how the square would look if it was unfolded, and select the correct square from five options.
Your child will be tested on their ability to recognise shapes within other shapes. They will need to identify, from five options built of more complex shapes, which option has the shape hidden within it.
Test your child's ability with these free CAT4 questions! Have a go at an example for each section and get detailed answer breakdowns.
Your child's CAT4 test will be marked by computer. Marks will be given for every correct answer and combined to calculate a raw score.
This raw score will then be converted into a Standardised Age Score (SAS). This is a statistical process that takes into account your child's age in years and months at the time of taking the test, ensuring that younger children in the year group are not disadvantaged. The SAS is usually the most important piece of data that schools will take from the test results. A SAS score of 100 places a child as exactly average for their age group.
The test will provide schools with other key pieces of data, such as:
National percentile ranking (NPR): indicates how the student's score compares to the national cohort, ranked from low (0) to high (100).
Stanine rank (ST): often seen as a visual representation of your child's SAS score when mapped onto a curve, from 1 (low) to 9 (high). A stanine rank of 5 indicates that the child is working at the average ability level for their year group.
The image below shows a student's data after completing a CAT4 practice test on the online learning platform Atom Nucleus.
Grammar schools and selective private schools are often looking for a Standardised Age Score of at least 115, and sometimes higher, to select pupils for places in Year 7.
If your child is taking the CAT4 test as part of a streaming process or to work out predicted future grades, your child's school might share their results with you. If you have any questions about your child's results, we always recommend talking this through with their school.
Test your ability
Wondering how to make sure your child gets comfortable with CAT4 questions, stays on track with their progress, and gets help when they're stuck? Online learning is a particularly efficient, cost-effective, and fun way to do this!
Atom Nucleus is the award-winning school exam prep platform that gives your child everything they need to prepare for the 11 plus and school entrance exams.
Children work independently through over 90,000 interactive practice questions in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Teacher-created helpsheets and videos help them discover new concepts and consolidate their learning.
Atom's adaptive algorithm keeps children on their ideal learning path. It's tailored to your child's unique learning style and pace to keep them challenged and motivated.
With Atom Nucleus you'll unlock online mock tests tailored to the CAT4 test, so your child will go into the exam knowing exactly what to expect.
And what's more, everything is automatically marked for you.
Use the full features of Atom Nucleus free for 5 days – cancel anytime.
We understand that you want your child to do well in the CAT4. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about the exam or applying to selective schools.
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