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Congitive Abilities Tests (aka 'CAT Tests')

What are CAT Tests ?

The Cognitive Abilities Test, or 'CAT', is used by schools, educational authorities and government to assess children at key times during their education.

CAT measures the 'cognitive ability' of your child. 'Cognitive ability' is the mental process of understanding, memory, reasoning and decision-making.

'Reasoning' is the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts.

CAT Tests determine how well children can come to correct conclusions from a few basic facts - this requires clear and quick thinking.

The tests are designed to measure the 'natural' ability of children. The CAT test is a type of intelligence test. CAT questions are NOT based on what they learn at school.

For example, in the CAT tests, your child will not be tested on knowledge like "When should you use a capital letter ?" Instead, they will be asked a question that is supposed to not assume ANY prior knowledge, such as trying to identify the next matching pattern in a sequence of changing patterns by correctly working out the rule for the pattern sequence.

Important Note to Parents

We suggest you use this information as a starting point and check any specific facts you need to know with the schools you are interested in.

What Are The Types of CAT Tests ?

There are three types of CAT tests (your child's school could one of them or a combination of them) -

  • Non-verbal (NVR)
  • Verbal reasoning (VR)
  • Numerical

CAT Tests: Non-verbal

The non-verbal reasoning part of the CAT test assesses you child's reasoning using shapes and drawings.

Questions will show a sequence of shapes. Your child must indentify the rule that changes one shape into another and using this rule deduce the missing shape from a set of possible answers.

Put an example here.

Since these non-verbal CAT questions require no knowledge of English or numbers, they are useful to help assessing children with poor English language skills or children who achieve poorly in academic work for some other reason.

Non-verbal reasoning CAT tests are designed with low language demands to be least likely to be influenced by teaching, and is supposed to best reveal a child’s 'natural talent' for understanding, memory, reasoning and decision making.

CAT Tests: Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning part of the CAT test assesses you child's reasoning using words. There will be questions where your child will have to identify the relationships between words.

Put an example here.

CAT Tests: Numerical

The numerical CAT tests are similar to the CAT verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions but use numbers instead of words and shapes.

Put an example here.

When Will My Child Do CAT Tests ?

There is a range of CAT Tests suitable for testing children age 7 years 6 months to 17 years.

CAT Tests are commonly used by Secondary Schools for testing new children joining them from Primary Schools.

CAT Tests are the most widely used test of reasoning abilities in the UK. Two thirds of all secondary school children in the UK take CAT Tests every year.

What Are CAT Tests Used For ?

In the UK, CAT Tests are commonly used by Secondary Schools for testing new children joining them from primary schools. Secondary Schools also look at Primary School teacher assessments and Year 6 SATs Key Stage 2 results as well as the CAT results.

The results of the test can be used for these purposes -

  • Help understand individual pupil potential
  • Help understand individual pupil learning styles
  • Helps determine the initial 'banding' of children into classes of similar ability
  • Identifying 'talented' children (in understanding, memory, reasoning and decision making), some of which might not have 'academic' success
  • Which children might need extra help
  • A basis for year-on-year comparisons
  • A measure of the added value that the school creates for its pupils.
  • Provides indicators of future results in national tests.

Take a look this revealing Guardian newspaper article, where a secondary school headteacher explains why they look at CAT Tests when they have access to Key Stage SAT Results, click here.

Can Parents Obtain CAT Tests Past Papers ?

No. Parents cannot obtain example papers as the idea of the tests to provide a measure of the child's 'natural ability'.

How Can You Prepare Your Child for the CAT Tests ?

We believe that your child’s ‘natural ability’ is dramatically by how parents support their children's learning. We’re not alone in our thinking; experienced teachers know this and research reveals this too.

This is the idea behind EasyStreetLearning.com, click here to find out more.

The best way for your child to practice for CAT Tests is to . This will help your child become used to the kinds of questions that are asked and feel more comfortable while doing the tests.

It is essential to start early,

We provide help with these questions here.


  • The CAT test is a type of intelligence test.
  • CAT questions are NOT based on what they learn at school.
  • In CAT Tests your child will need to come to conclusions from the facts given, this requires logical and quick thinking.
  • Parents cannot obtain example papers.

FAQ: CAT Tests

What if My Child Has a Bad Day and Performs Badly

in The CAT Tests ?

Decisions about your child are made using information from a number of sources, not just CAT Tests.

For example, Secondary Schools using CATs Tests for new Primary School intake will also get their SATs Key Stage 2 results and a teacher assessment.

How Do CAT Tests Differ From SAT Tests ?

CAT tests aim at measuring the 'natural talent' of a child whereas SAT tests aim at measuring how well a child has learnt the topics covered by the National Curriculum.

A child who does well in SAT tests might do poorly in CAT tests, and the opposite is also true.

What is the Format of the CAT Test ?

The CAT test is multiple choice and may be taken using a booklet and answer sheet or it may be taken using a computer with access to the official CAT software.

The school supervises both methods in a controlled environment.

Who Runs The CAT Tests ?

In the UK the CAT tests are run by GL Assessment.

Are There any Other Tests Used by Secondary Schools to Assess Their New Intake ?

Yes, the '11 Plus' Test is used by some schools.

What are CAT Tests ?

Why Do Secondary Schools Re-assess New Intake Children When They Have Just Done SATS Key Stage 2 Tests ?

Take a look this revealing Guardian newspaper article, where a secondary school headteacher why they ask their new intake to take the CAT Tests, click here.

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