CAT4 - A guide to the assessment

Cognitive Abilities Testing for Third year and Transition year students
01-February-22
CAT4 - A guide to the assessment

What is CAT4?

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) is an assessment that is designed to help students and their teachers understand how they learn and what their academic potential might be. It assesses how students think in areas that are known to make a difference to learning.

CAT4 is designed to give schools a much broader, more rounded view of each child, their potential and how they learn. Results help teachers decide about the pace of learning that is right for a student and whether additional support or challenge is needed.

Tasks involve thinking about shapes and patterns (Non-Verbal Reasoning), words (Verbal Reasoning), numbers (Quantitative Reasoning) and some questions are answered by mentally generating and transforming visual images (Spatial Ability).

CAT4 is based on years of research and development. The current edition took five years to develop and involves testing and standardising students across the UK and Ireland. It is a well-known assessment in schools; teachers value its ability to provide an understanding of what a child is capable of rather than defining them by their understanding of a body of knowledge in particular subjects.

How is CAT4 used?

CAT4 provides teachers with information that can form the basis for discussions about how best a student can learn and reach their potential in school.

Teachers are provided with an individual profile of learning preference along with a range of indicators of likely future performance. Used with other information, these data can support teaching and learning for all children.

How does CAT4 compare to an exam?

CAT4 is a timed assessment and is administered under formal conditions. However, each section of the assessment includes introductory information with practice examples, and these will familiarise the children with the style and format of the questions. These sections are not timed and may be repeated.

Should my child revise or train for CAT4? Can I get practice tests?

We strongly advise against any kind of practice ahead of a CAT4 test as this will alter the reliability of test scores. The point of CAT4 is that it is not a test of learnt knowledge and it needs to be as unaffected as possible by any external factors, such as practice. Think of it like an eye test; if you practice ahead of an eye test and memorise the card, your diagnosis may not be correct and valuable information may be missed.

CAT4 consists of four test batteries, each of which contains two tests for all but the youngest children.

These batteries and tests are described below.

Verbal reasoning battery

In the Verbal Classification test, each question presents three words that are all similar in some way. Students have to identify the conceptual link between the three words and then select from a list of five further words the one that best fits with the first three.

This test assesses general verbal reasoning and the ability to extract general principles from specific examples by identifying similarities and relationships between the concepts. Also assessed are general knowledge (for example, that an ankle is a joint), word knowledge (for example, that ‘cold’ can mean a virus or a low temperature) and language development (for example, that some words can be verbs or nouns, or how to use words like ‘although’ or ‘moreover’).

CAT4 Verbal Classification example question

In the Verbal Analogies test, each question presents a verbal analogy in the form of ‘A-B: C-_’. Students have to work out how the first pair of words is related to each other and then select from five answer options the one that completes the second pair.

These questions involve two elements to the reasoning. First, students have to look for similarities and differences between the first pair, for example the second thing is an element of the first or a descriptive term for the first. Second, they have to duplicate that relationship starting with the third word presented.

<p>In the Verbal Analogies test, each question presents a verbal analogy in the form of ‘A-B: C-_’. Students have to work out how the first pair of words is related to each other and then select from five answer options the one that completes the second pair. </p><p>These questions involve two elements to the reasoning. First, students have to look for similarities and differences between the first pair, for example the second thing is an element of the first or a descriptive term for the first. Second, they have to duplicate that relationship starting with the third word presented.</p>

Questions have been written to maximise the students’ flexibility in identifying and using concepts rather than taxing their background knowledge or vocabulary.

Quantitative reasoning battery

In the Number Analogies test, each question presents three pairs of numbers, such as ‘4-6, 8-10, 9-_’. Students have to work out how the pairs of numbers are related and then complete the third pair by selecting the answer from the five options presented.

The questions in this test assess the same basic reasoning processes that are assessed in the equivalent Verbal Analogies test, as well as basic arithmetic knowledge (for example, that 6 is twice 3), accuracy in doing simple arithmetic and flexibility in identifying and being aware of numerical relationships (for example, that 7 might be twice 3 plus 1 or 4 times 2 minus 1).

CAT4 Number Analogies example question

In the Number Series test, students have to work out the rule underlying the progression in the number series in each question and then select the next number in the series from the five options presented.

This test assesses the same underlying basic reasoning processes and number facility as Number Analogies.

CAT4 Number Series example question

Nonverbal reasoning battery

In the Figure Classification test, each question presents students with three separate figures. They have to identify the conceptual link or underlying characteristic that all three figures have in common. They then have to select the one figure from five answer options that goes with the first three.

This test assesses the ability to identify similarities, differences and relationships between elements.

CAT4 Figure Classification example question

In the Figure Matrices test, each question presents a figural analogy in the form of ‘A-B, C-_’. Students have to work out how the first pair of figures is related to each other and then select from five answer options the one that completes the second pair.

CAT4 Figure Matrices example question

The tests in the Nonverbal Reasoning Battery do not make use of words or numbers, and the geometric and figural elements used bear little direct relationship to formal educational instruction. The tests emphasise the discovery of, and flexibility in, manipulating relationships expressed in figural designs.

Spatial ability battery

In the Figure Analysis test, each question presents students with a square that is repeatedly folded and then has one or more holes punched through it. Students have to work out what the final product would look like when unfolded, and select this from the five answer options provided.

This test assesses visualisation processes; the ability to create a complex mental image, retain it in mind and manipulate it before comparing the imagined result with other presented material.

CAT4 Figure Analysis example question

In the Figure Recognition test, students are shown five complex designs as line drawings with a target shape below. Students have to identify which of the five designs contains the exact same size outline of the target, including each side in full.

This test assesses visualisation skills, particularly the ability to create and retain a firm mental image of a shape that represents angles and lengths accurately.

CAT4 Figure Recognition example question

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