What is the CAT4 test and how can you prepare your child to take it?

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HollyOwl Tutor

11 Plus, 13 Plus, Other School Entrance, University Admissions, English & Maths

August 10th, 2023Last updated: February 7th, 2024

In this blog, Holly explores why schools use CAT4 testing, the different elements of the test, what the results of the CAT4 test mean and how you can help your child to tackle the tests.

What is the CAT4 test?

Don’t let the name put you off! CAT4 tests are Cognitive Ability Tests which aim to measure a child’s achievement against that of their peer group. They are designed to be accessible to all abilities and are mainly used so that schools can organize their students into sets or classes. They can also give GCSE predictions (and potentially indicators for how well your child will perform through to A-Level) and allow you to see what kind of profile your child has (for example, whether they prefer working with words or numbers). If you have a child aged between 6 and 17 who attends a UK school (or an international school with a UK curriculum), it is very likely they will have done CAT4 testing.

What are the different elements of the CAT4 test?

CAT4 tests are split into four different elements: verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial. Verbal and non-verbal reasoning will be familiar to many parents; spatial reasoning is a 3-dimensional-based reasoning involving cubes, models and other 3D shapes. Quantitative questions test mathematical ability. CAT4 tests are usually taken online, at the start of the school year (September). Each section will have practice questions before the real questions start.

How can you prepare your child to take the test?

Although the CAT4 test does measure cognitive ability, and it could be considered that this cannot be changed, there is certainly no harm in becoming familiar with the types of questions asked. Children studying for an 11+ test, for example, will be much more familiar with verbal reasoning than a child who has never taken these tests. Children who cope well with and have practiced timed exams will have far less anxiety on the day. There is certainly a lot that a tutor can do to ensure your child performs as well as they possibly can and reaches their potential.

There are reasoning books available to buy so you can practice at home too; just make sure you have checked with your child’s tutor that they are suitable for CAT4 preparation. It should be noted that GL assessment, who administer the CAT4 tests, do not recommend or endorse any specific preparation materials.

What do the results of the CAT4 test mean?

Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s school for their CAT4 results. The school should be able to provide a ‘parent report’ which your child’s tutor can help you decipher if needed – just ask! The report will give you details of how well your child is performing compared to the national average and it can be very useful when deciding which school to aim for at 11+, 13+ or 16+. Many children have a ‘spiky’ profile, meaning they perform better in one type of question than another. This may help to give a specific aim when organizing tuition, and can be incredibly helpful for a tutor to see. You will also be able to see how many questions your child answered, giving an indication of their speed, exam technique, and possible exam anxiety. A standardised score like this is very reassuring for parents and child alike.

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