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Non Verbal Reasoning of CAT

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: Would you please explain what the non verbal reasoning part of CAT (Cognitive Abilities Test, or CogAT) is about, and the kind of questions that test would have included. My boy of 12 has done fine (within the average scores band for chronological age) in the verbal and quantitative tests but less well in non verbal reasoning (i.e. below average).

A: The CAT test is a way of assessing strengths and weaknesses of individuals in the way that they learn. It can be used to support a student to address their weaknesses and ensure that each student is actually using their inherent strengths. Now, the results from the test is usually used by the school to initially set target grades, to assist teachers with planning appropriate activities and support; and to assist teachers in creating seating plans and group work.

According to the NFER site, Non-verbal reasoning (NVR) tests are group intelligence tests requiring recognition of similarities, analogies and patterns in unfamiliar designs, are referred to as non-verbal reasoning tests. Like verbal reasoning tests, NVR tests are comprised of a variety of item types, including series completion, codes and analogies. However, unlike verbal reasoning tests, none of the question types requires learned knowledge for its solution.

NVR tests are presented in multiple-choice format, which more recently have enabled some NVR tests to be machine scored via the use of an optically-read answer sheet. In an educational context, these tests are typically used as an indication of a pupil's ability to understand and assimilate novel information independently of language skills. Scores on these tests can indicate a pupil's ability to learn new material in a wide range of school subjects based on their current levels of functioning. If you would like to read a little more on this, please refer to National Foundation for Educational Research for details.


Additionally, here are a few ways to support your son's weaker non-verbal reasoning skills

  • Constructing Maps - Encourage him to explore the local environment and construct maps of their immediate surroundings. For example, you could ask him to draw a map to show the journey form home to school; a floor plan of your house, his room, etc. Further to this, encourage him to read and use maps; indicate the travel direction, distance in kilometers from home or to the next destination, etc.

  • Computer Games - Support computer games that require players to navigate form one area to another using grid references, distances or directions.

  • Making Models - On a small scale, this could mean using building blocks or construction kits; on a larger scale, it might involve carpentry, metalwork, and brick building and so on. This helps develop visual analysis, spatial judgment and manual dexterity.

  • Last but not least, sketching and drawing can be very useful as well. This helps develop the ability to estimate lengths, heights, angles and relative proportions.

Hope the information will help your son's NVR skills.

[Note: Click here to find Online CogAT Practice Tests!]


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