What are CATs? (Cognitive Ability Tests)


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.

Reference https://www.theschoolrun.com/year-7-cats-what-every-parent-needs-know

Questions to Ask at Parents’ Evening


Questions to Ask at Parents’ Evenings

Are you concerned about your child’s learning at school? Is your child struggling? We have put together a list of questions which should help you to get more information from your meetings with teachers.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Can you explain to me the difficulties my child is experiencing?
  • How are these difficulties affecting my child’s self-esteem and confidence- as reflected in the classroom?
  • What are you doing to help with this?
  • Could they be dyslexic or have some other specific learning difficulty?
  • Have you screened my child for these? (This tells them whether your child may be at risk of difficulties, but is not a diagnosis.)
  • Can I have my child diagnostically assessed for dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties?

If a diagnostic assessment not available through school, then contact the National Dyslexia Network for a FREE ADVICE SESSION to discuss diagnostic assessments by Educational Psychologists and Specialist Teacher Assessors. Many Parents find this very helpful, as it puts them in control of knowing specifically what their child needs. It can also be comforting to the individual to know there is a reason to why all of their hard work is not paying off.

Other Questions

  • How are you helping my child with these difficulties?
  • How effective has this help been?
  • What effect has this lack of success with these activities had on my child?
  • If these have not been successful, would you agree it’s time for something different, rather than more of the same?
  • Are the groups run by a Specialist Teacher of Specific Learning Difficulties?

Hopefully they are, otherwise, they will be ‘more of the same’- which your child has failed at previously.

  • Has my child been considered and assessed for access arrangements for their work in the primary/secondary classroom and for tests and exams?

If you would like to discuss any of these questions or answers you’ve been given, please book a 30-minute FREE ADVICE SESSION with a highly qualified and experienced professional.                                           www.ndnetwork.org

Finding Dyslexia Tuition or an Assessment


At the National Dyslexia Network -NDN (not-for-profit organisation) we encounter many parents who are confused about the learning needs of their child. Some having been told their child is doing fine, but the parents knowing they are capable of far more. Others knowing there is a problem, but thinking their child is too young to have the issues assessed or hoping they will grow out of them. If this sounds like you- then read on.

Often it can prove very helpful to take advantage of our FREE ADVICE SESSIONS. The opportunity to express your worries, to not just a highly qualified professional but also very experienced too (the directors for NDN are former Dyslexia Action Area Managers.)


There are a variety of assessments and making sure you have the one to suit your needs is important. Our Educational Psychologists and Specialist Teacher Assessors are happy to carry out diagnostic assessments on children as young as 6 years and 6 months. For younger children, it is not possible to rule out other causes, so we are able to offer an assessment which highlights their strengths and weaknesses and provides a set of individual recommendations for taking them forward. This is also available to older children and adults, but does not provide a diagnosis.

An assessment enables us to use a child’s strengths to help them to nurture their weaknesses.


When considering specialist tuition, the following information may be useful:

·         How much experience has the teacher of teaching learners with specific learning difficulties within very small groups (2 or 3) or individually, since they were trained?

·         Teaching qualifications with dates.

·         Specialist dyslexia teacher training is essential. You are advised to check for which level[s] they are accredited and have experience. One of the following qualifications would be advisable:

·         A SpLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Certificate qualification for either primary, secondary or adult levels.  SpLD Certificate holders are qualified for teaching, and may assess for the purposes of establishing a teaching programme only;

·         To provide specialist teaching and diagnostic assessment, the qualification should be a Level 7 SpLD Diploma including specialist training in diagnostic assessment accredited by SASC (the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee, www.sasc.org.uk ) and accredited for AMBDA;

·         Specialists should be regularly updating their specialist knowledge through continuing professional development.

·         Ask about his/her current teaching post(s) if any and note relevance for your child.

·         Teachers with specialist training may hold professional membership of PATOSS, Dyslexia Guild, ADSHE or the BDA.

Book your FREE ADVICE SESSION so you know, what will help your child.

E: enquiries@nationaldyslexianetwork.org.uk


Exam ACCess Arrangements (EAA) – 8th September 2017


Exam ACCess Arrangements (EAA) – 8th September 2017

Think you or your child should have support for upcoming exams? The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) publish a definitive guide every August about what and how, exam access arrangements (EAA) are put in place. The guide is generally for England and Wales.

EAA can be applied for if a candidate has a persistent and significant difficulty and/or substantial long term impairment. Within the JCQ regulations, a candidate can be assessed for and granted EAA without a diagnosis of dyslexia. EAA are to ensure that a candidate is not disadvantaged.

Two pieces of information must be in place to support an application:

1.       The EAA requested must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working and evidence of this must be held on file. For example, EAA should be put in place for internal tests and mock examinations prior to the main examination and this evidence should be recorded.

2.       Recent statistical evidence recorded via an assessment by a qualified practitioner and/or medical evidence, where appropriate.

The changes to the JCQ regulations for 2017/18 are minimal. However, one notable change is that,

“In exceptional circumstances 25% extra time may be awarded to a candidate where the assessment confirms that the candidate has at least two low average standardised scores (85-89) which relate to two different areas of speed of working.”


“Where there is a cluster of scores (at least three, relating to three different areas of speed of working) just within the average range (90 to 94), in rare and very exceptional circumstances 25% extra time may be awarded.” However, this candidate must also have a report undertaken by a specialist diagnostic assessor confirming a significant learning difficulty or disability.

Although EAA, particularly extra time, for candidates whose assessment scores were above 84 were always available, if applied for on a case by case basis, the current regulations clearly state what is acceptable regarding assessment scores.

Whilst the regulations are comprehensive, a reasonable adjustment may be unique to that individual and may not be included in the list of available EAA. This does not mean it cannot be applied for.

Finally, for assessors the content of ‘at least 100 hours relating to individual specialist assessment’ has been clarified to include lecture, seminar and tutorial time, study time, assessment time and time spent completing assignments.

For more information speak to your school/educational setting and get in touch with National Dyslexia Network.





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