You are here:Home > OLSAT® (Otis-Lennon) > What your child needs to know to do better on the OLSAT®

At particular times of the year when results come out we get asked a similar question over and over again.


The question is something like this:


We just got our child's OLSAT® results back and to our surprise they did really poorly.  His teacher thinks he's one of the best students in this class and he did really well on the state standardized testing.  What does it mean?



The answer is something like this:


The Otis Lennon School Ability Test® is a screening test.  It doesn’t provide a definitive measure of how smart a child is.  If your child does well in school and you think he’s smart then the problem is more likely with the test than with him.  Parents have a pretty good idea of whether or not their child is gifted.  If your child has been tested using the WPPSI or WISC- IV or Stanford-Binet the score from that testing is more accurate than the OLSAT® score.


Perhaps the questions were so different from what she’s come across before that it took her a while to work out what she was supposed to do.  Perhaps she didn’t understand some of the instructions.  Perhaps this was your child's first multiple choice test and the novelty of the testing situation and what she was required to do meant she put less effort than she could into working out the correct answers (our youngest son come home from his first testing experience and told us how difficult it had been to color inside the circles).


For young children who are fluent readers it can be difficult to concentrate on questions delivered orally for the length of time necessary.  The version of the OLSAT® usually used in Pre K - Gr 1 is read to the children (as is 2/3 of the test usually administered in Gr 2)  The question sheet the children see has pictures, figures and numbers.  Children shade a bubble under the picture they choose as correct to indicate their answer.  Sometimes fluent readers do much better in Gr 3 when they can read the questions themselves and manage their own time during testing.


Perhaps your child over analyzed the questions and chose answers that they could justify as being correct but that weren't the correct answer.  Very bright children who are famliar with a variety of word meanings can have difficulty answering some simple questions because they read more into the questions than is intended.  Bicultural and/or bilingual children can see connections that are different from what other children see.


Perhaps your child has difficulty switching gears.  One unusual thing about the OLSAT® is that the questions spiral.  Usually tests have blocks of questions of different types and within each block the questions get gradually more difficult.  The OLSAT is one big test with no subsections.  A verbal question might be followed by a numerical question then by a verbal question with a different format then by a spatial reasoning question etc.  This variety can throw some children off.  A child can get stuck on one type of question and spend more time than they should on it.  A child can spend more time than the norm switching between the types of thinking needed for different questions.

Often the follow-up question is What Can I Do?


Building Thinking Skills is a good place to start for verbal and non-verbal reasoning.  Let your child work through that and you'll quickly get a sense of whether or not there are areas that they don't understand.


If you're looking for a little more than that browse the suggestions below.  These suggestions are a little different than what you'll find reading our OLSAT® recommendations by grade level.  We're assuming below that you've identified a particular area of weakness in your child's reasoning abilities and that you want to focus in on that.  For that reason we've recommended more titles below that we suggest for general OLSAT® preparation.  If your child has an area of relative weakness you'll want to attack it from different directions to give your child the best opportunity of being able to demonstate their true potential in all areas of reasoning.  If possible you'll want to choose something that your child will enjoy (or at least not dislike) doing. 


The links below will take you to titles in a series.  Take your best guess at the appropriate level and browse the sample pages - click on "more info" at the end of the brief product description then on "sample pages."  You might like to print some of them out for your child to try.


If you've got questions contact us and we'll do our best to help.


For listening skills we recommend (relevant up to Gr 2)

·         Can You Find Me?

·         Dr. Dooriddles

·         Mind Benders Warm Up




For verbal reasoning we recommend:

·         Building Thinking Skills (second half of book)

·         Language Smarts (up to Gr 2)

·         Think Analogies and Thinkanalogy Puzzles (Gr 2 and up)

·         Vocabulary Smarts (up to Gr 4)

·         Word Roots (Gr 3 and up)

·         Punctuation Puzzlers (Gr 3 and up - for developing awareness of how sentence structure changes meaning) 


For non-verbal reasoning we recommend:

·         LUK Learning System (up to Gr 1)

·         Visual Perceptual Skill Building (up to Gr 2 but used remedially for all ages)

·         Building Thinking Skills (first half of book)

·         SET (all ages)

·         Visual Mind Benders (also logic)  (Gr 3 and up)




For quantitative reasoning we recommend:

·         LUK Learning System (up to Gr 1)

·         Mathematical Reasoning  (all ages)

·         Scratch Your Brain

·         Cranium Crackers

·         Math Analogies

·         Math Detective


For logic we recommend:

·         Mind Benders

·         Cranium Crackers


For increased flexibility in thinking (practising changing gears)

·         Red Herring Mysteries

·         Creative Thinking Puzzlers (Dr. Funster)

·         Think-a-Minutes (Dr. Funster)

·         Cranium Crackers (has both math and language exercises)


For test taking skills we recommend:

·         Spectrum Test Preparation

·         Spectrum Test Practice

·         Learning on Purpose

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test®  (OLSAT®) is published by NCS Pearson (previously Harcourt Assessment Services and now operating as Pearson Assessment).  OLSAT® and Otis-Lennon School Ability Test® are registered trademarks of NCS Pearson.  The recommendations made here are those of Think Tonight and are not endorsed by NCS Pearson.