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The CAT4 Cognitive Abilities Test

Updated March 31, 2022

Written by the WikiJob Team

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The Cognitive Abilities Test (or CAT4) is taken by students across the UK and Ireland between the ages of 6 and 17+.

Whilst not all schools use this test, over 50% of UK secondary schools do.

The test is designed to work out how each student best learns and thinks, allowing teachers and staff to support them better.

The CAT4 is similar to an IQ test for adults and gives a baseline for the potential and strengths of each student whilst highlighting any weaknesses they might have.

With this information, teachers can structure their lessons to suit different learning types.

For example, some students absorb information better via pictures, video and infographics, whereas others may prefer words and audio.

This article will give parents a better understanding of the CAT4, what areas will be tested and what the results will show.

What Is the CAT4?

The CAT4 has been developed by GL Assessment, with this fourth edition being five years in the making, using over 25,000 students’ data.

The test is used for a few different purposes:

  • The CAT4 gives a snapshot of a child’s potential, more so than traditional, curriculum-based tests.

  • It helps teachers to see which students will need assistance and support, as well as those who need to be pushed and challenged to reach their fullest potential.

  • Teachers can group students who have similar learning skills and traits together.

  • It identifies learning preferences.

Whilst it tends to be sat by secondary school pupils, the test can be taken as young as six and up to the age of 17 and above.

With various ages sitting the test, there are seven levels of difficulty:

  • Year 2: Level X (6–7 years)
  • Year 3: Level Y (7–8)
  • Year 4: Level A (8–9)
  • Year 5: Level B (9–10)
  • Year 6: Level C (10–11)
  • Year 7: Level D (11–12)
  • Year 8: Level E (12–13)
  • Years 9 + 10: Level F (13–15)
  • Years 11+: Level G (15–17+)

CAT4 levels X to C can be good indicators of progress and pace of learning at a younger age.

This will highlight any strengths and weaknesses early on.

Many pupils also sit this in Key Stage 3, often as part of an entrance exam to some schools or as part of the move to secondary school.

This can provide them with support in the transition between primary and secondary education.

When taken by the older year groups, the CAT4 can be a guide to the subjects a child should study for GCSEs, A-Levels and at university, as well as future career paths.

CAT4 Test Levels in Detail

Level A

This test is used for children aged between 7.5 and 10 years old and is usually administered in Year 4 in England, or Primary 5 in Scotland.

There are four types of questions, separated into three parts in this assessment, and each part needs to be completed before moving on to the next. Question types are the same throughout levels A-G.

Part One is 20 minutes long and consists of figure classification and figure matrices, with 24 questions to be answered in 10 minutes for each.

Part Two is 26 minutes long, in three sections: verbal classification and verbal analogies, with 24 questions in 8 minutes each, and then number analogies which have 18 questions that need to be answered in 10 minutes.

Part Three is also 26 minutes long. There are 18 number series questions that need to be answered in eight minutes, 18 figure analysis questions that need to be answered in nine minutes, and 18 figure recognition questions with a time limit of nine minutes.

Level B

The Level B CAT4 test is aimed at students in Year 5, which covers students that are aged 8.5 to 11.

As with the other tests in the CAT4 battery (Levels A-G), the Level B test consists of four parts, each with two subsections.

The test itself is delivered in three parts, each taking between 20 and 28 minutes to complete. The first part has 48 questions split equally over figure classification and figure matrices, with 10 minutes to complete each.

The second part consists of three distinct types of questions. The first two are based on verbal questions, 24 questions on verbal classification and 24 on verbal analogies, with eight minutes spent on each. The last subsection in this part of the test is number analogies, which has 18 questions to be answered in 10 minutes.

The last part of this test has 18 questions on number series, figure analysis and figure recognition. The number series question has an eight-minute time limit, while the last two subsections have a nine-minute time limit.

Level C

The CAT4 Level C test is designed for students in Year 6 (or Primary 7 in Scotland), making it suitable for use in testing children aged between 9.5 and 12.

As with the Level A to G tests in the CAT4, the assessment consists of four different question types – spatial reasoning, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. Each of these question areas is broken into two subsections.

The test itself is delivered in three parts.

The first part consists of the non-verbal reasoning questions, with 48 questions and a 20-minute time limit split equally between figure classification and figure matrices.

The second part of the test has three subsections. Both the verbal classification and the verbal analogies subsection have 24 questions that need to be answered in 10 minutes, while the number analogies subsection has just 18 questions with a 10-minute time limit.

The final part of the assessment consists of 18 number series questions to be answered in eight minutes, and 36 questions to be answered in 18 minutes, split equally between figure analysis and figure recognition.

Level D

For children in Year 7 (or Secondary 1 in Scotland), the Level D CAT4 is used. With the same structure as tests for Level A-G, there are four types of questions separated into three parts, with each part taking between 20 and 26 minutes to complete. As the levels progress, the difficulty increases to match the age of the child taking the assessment.

Part One has figure classification and figure matrices, with 48 questions in total and taking 20 minutes to complete.

In Part Two, there are three types of question – verbal classification and verbal analogies, both with 24 questions that need to be answered in eight minutes. This is followed by number analogies, which has 18 questions and a 10-minute time limit.

The last section is Part Three, which consists of 18 number series questions to be answered in eight minutes, and then figure analysis and figure recognition that both have 18 questions to be answered in nine minutes.

Level E

Aimed at students aged between 11.5 and 14, the CAT4 Level E is usually administered in Year 8 (Secondary 2 in Scotland).

As with previous levels, the difficulty of the questions will increase to match the age of the child, but the basic structure and length of the assessment are the same. Split into three parts, the questions cover verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, and spatial ability.

Part One has a 20-minute time limit and 48 questions, spilt equally between figure classification and figure matrices.

Part Two covers both verbal reasoning and part of the quantitative reasoning questions, with 24 questions in eight minutes each for verbal classification and verbal analogies, and then 10 minutes to answer 18 questions on number analogies.

Part Three is the second half of quantitative reasoning questions (18 questions in eight minutes on number series) and the spatial ability battery, which consists of figure analysis and figure recognition, both having 18 questions that need to be answered in nine minutes.

Level F

For students in Year 9 and Year 10, or Secondary 3 and 4 in Scotland, the Level F CAT4 test is used as a standard admission tool for gifted programs or exclusive schools.

In the Level F test, students aged between 12 and 15 are faced with a three-part test following the same structure as the other tests (Level A to G).

The first part is figure classification and figure matrices, each with 24 questions to be answered in 10 minutes.

The second part of the assessment lasts 28 minutes. There are 24 verbal classification questions and 24 verbal analogies questions, each to be answered in eight minutes. The last subsection of the assessment is number analogies, with 18 questions that need to be answered in 10 minutes.

For the last part of the test, there are three subsections. The first is the number series questions. There are 18 that need to be answered in eight minutes. Following this, there are 18 questions on figure analysis and 18 questions on figure recognition, both with a nine-minute time limit.

Level G

For students in Year 11+ or Secondary 5+6 in Scotland, the Level G assessment is designed to challenge students as they prepare or leave the secondary education system and choose their further education focus.

Like the earlier tests, the assessment is split into three distinct parts and lasts a total of 78 minutes, although breaks can be taken between parts. Part One consists of non-verbal reasoning questions, with figure classification and figure matrices, with a total time of 20 minutes and 48 questions.

Part Two has three types of question. The first two are related to verbal reasoning, with verbal classification and verbal analogies having 24 questions each to be answered in a total of 16 minutes. The last section is number analogies, and students have 10 minutes to answer 18 questions.

Part Three begins with 18 number series questions to be answered in eight minutes, and then two sets of questions on spatial ability (figure analysis and figure recognition), lasting 18 minutes in total with 36 questions split equally in that time.

If you want 12 month access to all the practice resources for this test, our partner TestPrep-Online.com offers a Family Membership.

Family Membership gives you access to all the TestPrep-Online resources for the next 12 months. You will also get two separate accounts, which can be very helpful if you have two children preparing for their tests.

What Is Being Assessed?

The CAT4 tests four areas (or batteries):

  • Verbal – Expressing ideas through words. This is useful for language-heavy subjects, such as English and History, and will highlight those children who have a natural way with words.

  • Non-verbal – Problem-solving using visuals. It is needed for a range of subjects, such as maths and sciences where diagrams and infographics are commonly used.

  • Quantitative – Using numbers to solve problems and looking at sequences and the relationships between them. This is not just for maths-based subjects, though, as analytics can be used across research-based subjects like business studies too.

  • Spatial reasoning – This is the idea of working out how a child thinks and comes to conclusions. Again, this is useful for STEM subjects involving data but also subjects where reflections are included, such as any involving research projects.

The CAT4 aims to cover all subject areas, with many overlapping into multiple batteries.

The CAT4
The CAT4

Question Formats and Type

Each of the four batteries of verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial reasoning are broken down into smaller subsections.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect on each test and what skills are required:

Part 1

  • Figure Classification – In this section, students must work out how three shapes are connected and choose which shape also connects.

Example Question 1

Identify the next shape in the sequence:

CAT4
CAT4
  • Figure Matrices – This set of questions look at pattern recognition. Again, the student will have to look for a pattern in a set of shapes and figure out which answer fits best with the shapes given.

Example Question 2

Which answer option completes the pattern?

Figure Matrices CAT4
Figure Matrices CAT4

Part 2

  • Verbal Classification – This part of the test shows a set of three words that all have a connection. Students must work out how they are similar and select an answer that continues the pattern.

Example Question 3

Which word completes the pattern?

red, yellow, pink...

a) colours
b) green
c) light
d) dark

  • Verbal Analogies – In this section, a pair of words are given as an example. These words are connected somehow, and candidates need to figure out how they are linked. They then need to apply the connection to the third word to find the answer.

Example Question 4

apple – green, strawberry – ?

a) fruit
b) green
c) red
d) raspberry

  • Number Analogies – This section is the same as Verbal Analogies above but with numbers instead. The student must spot the rule between a pair of numbers and apply the same rule to the third number to get the answer. There will be a mixture of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division used.

Example Question 5

3 – 5, 5 – ?

a) 7
b) 9
c) 2
d) 10

Part 3

  • Number Series – A series of numbers are given and students must work out why they are in that order and use the same rule to find the final number from the answers given.

Example Question 6

1, 2, 4, 7, 11, ?

a) 16
b) 13
c) 15
d) 20

  • Figure Analysis – This section focuses on how candidates think about shapes and symmetry. They are shown a diagram and must work out what it would look like flat and unfolded to pick out the answer.

Example Question 7

A piece of A4 paper is folded in half and a hole is punched in it. What will the paper look like when unfolded?

Figure Analysis CAT4
Figure Analysis CAT4
  • Figure Recognition – The final section is also about shapes but looks at how they are hidden. Each question has a given shape, which is hidden in one of the answers.

Example Question 8

Find the hidden shape in the answer options below:

Figure Recognition CAT4
Figure Recognition CAT4

The correct answers are:

1. d)
2. c)
3. b)
4. c)
5. a)
6. a)
7. d)
8. c)

What to Expect When Taking the CAT4

As seen above, the CAT4 is broken into three parts. Each part consists of multiple-choice questions and must be completed in 45 minutes; in total, two hours and 15 minutes.

Students are required to complete all questions in this time; however, some students, such as those with SEN, may be given extra time to finish.

The test can be sat both online and on paper, with many schools now preferring students to sit the online version.

Regardless of the format, the tests have the same scoring and results reports sent out.

CAT Test Scores Explained

Each student will receive a raw score out of 130; this is the number of questions they have answered correctly.

These figures are then calculated into three different normative scores to give an overall picture.

These three normative scores are:

  • National Percentile Rank (NPR) – This is the percentage of students overall who scored higher or lower than the candidate. For example, if the student received an NPR of 65%, it means that they scored the same or better than 65% of all students in their age group. It also means that 35% of students scored higher than them.

  • Standard Age Scores (SAS) – The standard for each age group is an average of 100 with a standard deviation of 2. If pupils from different age groups achieve the same SAS, they’ve done equally well compared to others in their age group. Also, if a student achieves the same score on two different batteries, they have done better compared to others of a similar age.

  • Stanines (ST) – This scale is split into nine different levels and is based on both the scores above. It shows teachers the level of performance of each student and where they sit on the scale.

The Stanine Scale

  Stanine Percentage of Cases Corresponding of Percentiles Corresponding SAS
Very High 9 4% 97 or higher 127 or higher
Above Average 8 7% 90–96 119–126
7 12% 78–89 112–118
Average 6 17% 59–77 104–111
5 20% 41–58 97–103
4 17% 23–40 89–96
Below Average 3 12% 12–22 82–88
2 7% 5–11 74–81
Very Low 1 4% 4 or under 73 or under

Source: https://www.testprep-online.com/cat4-scores

Advice for Parents

The CAT4 is not a knowledge-based test; it requires logic and reasoning.

The test-makers advise against taking practice tests as practice beforehand could result in inaccurate results.

The questions test how each student’s brain responds to different areas, such as words, numbers and shapes.

Some of the questions will be recognisable to the child as they will be similar to those they have seen in previous academic exams. However, some cover multiple subjects and wouldn’t fit into a curriculum-based exam.

By practising these types of questions, the child will be more aware of how to answer and may score highly in a section that they would normally struggle with, such as number patterns and sequences.

Ultimately, the best advice for parents is to encourage your child to relax.

This is not like a regular exam; it is not designed to test their knowledge on any subject. The idea is to get an overview of which areas of learning they excel in and which areas they need a helping hand with.

Each student will get a comprehensive report sent back to the school and you should be offered the opportunity to discuss them with a teacher. Many schools will enlist the help of parents to pick a suitable learning schedule for the student.

Frequently Asked Questions

The CAT4 cognitive abilities test assesses verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial reasoning. This multiple-choice test takes around two hours to complete. This test is usually taken by secondary school pupils, but it can be taken by anyone aged six or over. The test has seven levels of difficulty, with Level X taken by 6 to 7-year-olds and Level G taken by 15 to 17+ year-olds.

A person’s CAT4 results provide an overview of their learning potential. This can be used by education staff to identify students who may need additional support, as well as students who will need to be challenged to reach their full potential.

Many teachers use CAT4 results to categorize students, grouping students with similar abilities and learning preferences together.

The CAT4 is not marketed as being an IQ test, however it has some similarities to IQ tests for adults. Your CAT4 results provide a baseline for your overall potential and strengths, as well as helping to highlight any areas of weakness.

Yes, and it is important to do so. The most effective way to prepare for the CAT4 test is to become familiar with the test format and improve your vocabulary.

TestPrep-Online has several online resources designed to help you to prepare for the CAT4 test, including practice tests, tips, tutorials and study guides.

The average CAT4 score is 100. When taking the test, your results will include a Standard Age Score (SAS).

This score is based on your raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) and adjusted according to your age. It is placed on a scale that is designed to draw comparisons with a sample of other students in your age group.

CAT scores are calculated in comparison to a pupil's peers. There are also different ways to calculate the scores depending on the purpose they are being used for.

Students will be given a raw score which is the overall number of correct answers alongside a variety of scores that are calculated using averages for age and grade.

The average score can vary from year-to-year depending on the levels attained by others. In general terms, a good raw score would be considered to be above 112.

The test will usually take around two hours to fully complete, although each separate battery of questions can be taken individually which allows for students to take breaks in-between sections.

There are 9 different levels on the CAT4 test and each one relates to the level of difficulty. Generally, a different level of test would be given to students in each grade from the age of 6 to 17.

When you are given the results of your CAT4 score, you will notice that you are given a variety of different formats. Each one will have a slightly different meaning.

  • Raw score – This is the total number of correct answers across all of the batteries. This is scored out of 130 and a score of above 112 is considered above average.

  • National Percentile Rank – This ranks all children who took the same test at the same time. Essentially, the score given here will inform parents where their child scored in relation to others. This means that if your child is given a score of 65% then they scored better than 65% of children their age.

  • Standard Age Scores – This is the average score for children of the same age. For example, this means that all of the scores of children aged eight will be averaged and students will be given a percentile score which shows where they would stand within a lineup of 100 eight-year-olds.

  • Percentile Rank – This is a simplified version of the average scores. Students are given a score which is between one and nine. A score of five or above is considered good.

Final Thoughts

Compared to other tests your child will sit in their academic career, the CAT4 is the least intimidating.

Whilst they might not know what to expect from the test itself, the fact that there is no revision required could relieve some of that pressure.

A child may show promise in a certain area of the test, which can be used to help them develop their learning skills.

There may also be an area that they are struggling with or do not feel as confident in. Teachers will then be able to use this knowledge to guide their learning.

The CAT4 is a tool for students, teachers and parents alike to see where the child is currently at and where they can be. Learning can be tailored towards these results and all three parties involved can work together to ensure the child feels as supported and challenged as they need to be.

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