What are CATs?
Many secondary schools use Cognitive Abilities Tests (CATs) to test general intelligence and to stream children into sets.
They are designed to assess a pupil’s ability in three different areas:
1. verbal (thinking with words);
2. quantitative (thinking with numbers);
3. non-verbal (thinking with shapes and space).
Many secondary schools don’t like to judge Year 7 pupil’s attainment on entry to school solely their Year 6 SATs result. This is due to concerns surrounding ‘over-coach’ for the tests, resulting in artificially high results.
CATs are used to give a snapshot of a child’s potential, what they could achieve and how they learn best. The results can help teachers to set the right learning pace for each pupil, monitor their progress and identify areas where they might need extra support.
The tests are designed to be taken without any revision or preparation so they can assess a child’s potential in his or her ability to reason. CATs are not testing children’s knowledge and understanding as a maths or English exam might, so they can’t ‘learn’ how to answer the questions. Though many parents feel familiarity with the format and style of the test would improve their child’s performance. Past CATs papers are not available for parents to buy from any official assessment body.
The result will be given in SAS (Standardised Age Scores) so they take into account a pupil’s age. The average SAS is 100. The scores can be used to calculate predicted academic levels and can also be used to predict the outcome of GCSEs. If there is a wide variation between the scores in different aspects of the test, this may flag up a child who is experiencing difficulties in one area and can lead to a diagnosis, such as dyslexia. Extra support can then be put in place to help the child with or without a formal diagnosis.