Some Thoughts on Practice Tests and Test Preparation
The Cognitive Abilities Test is a protected test. Specifics of the test content are confidential. Riverside Publishing, who publishes the CogAT, makes a practice test containing sample questions available for use by teachers and others administering the test. It's designed to reduce unfamiliarity so that children don't make mistakes because they don't understand the questions. It is not available for purchase by parents and, since there is no attempt to replicate the difficulty of question on the actual test, it is not what most parents would think of as a practice test and it would be of limited use to a parent even if it were able to be purchased. The links above provide information similar to that provided in the official practice tests.
The confidential nature of the test makes the CogAT different from tests like the SAT or GMAT where there is a history of released tests that can be used as a model to develop similar questions. The same CogAT test is used throughout the country for years before revision. For this reason there are no realistic "practice tests" which can be used by parents to get an idea of how their child might do on the real CogAT test.
We are aware of some publishers of practice tests. When we reviewed the material of one of these publishers we found it to be lacking in variety and challenge with much less range in question difficulty than there will be on the actual test. The material produced by the second publisher was clearly written by someone who did not have English as a first language. Given the importance of precision in the framing of questions this factor would substantially reduce the usefulness of the material. A third publisher provided many questions in the format of the CogAT but again that was the only value of their material - the range of question type and difficulty was not consistent with the actual test at any grade level.
For questions similar in content and difficulty to those on the CogAT test we recommend either Thinking Skills for Tests (for younger elementary children) or Building Thinking Skills . Either of these titles will give your child a lot more appropriate exposure for less money.
There are other reasons why Practice Tests are of less use with respect to a test like the CogAT than they are with tests like the SAT and GMAT.
Tests which most parents are familiar with are intended to identify whether or not your ability has reached a threshold and they test facts rather than skills. Knowledge above the threshold won't help you much in answering the questions. (This is why programs like Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? work.) For some tests time may be an important factor and practicing precisely the format of question which will be on the test can help you make the most of your time.
The CogAT, in contrast, is not designed to see whether or not you've reached a bar. It is designed to get a distribution of ability levels. Questions range from very easy to very difficult. For most children there will be material of a higher difficulty than that which they've come across in school. Learning this material will help test performance more than practicing and becoming fast on the easier questions. Conversely for some highly capable children the greatest challenge is slowing down and really reading the question. They need to practice paying attention to detail more than the test content and using questions in the format of the CogAT may be counter-productive because it may increase their perception that they know the answer before they've really considered the question.
We've considered offering Practice Tests on our website but for the reasons above have chosen not to. In our opinion a highly capable child is best prepared by:
Particularly with young children we do not think that the best way to learn and build skills is by practicing many similar questions. A good analogy is cross-training in sports. A marathon runner doesn't just run. They lift weights and stretch and any number of other things. Your child will get the most out of the time you put in, both in terms of test performance and skill improvement for life, if you vary how the material is taught.
- knowing the format of question used within each subtest (click the links at the top of the page for this)
- improving their skills in verbal, non-verbal and quantitative reasoning
- working on attention to detail and expectations