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SCAT Test: Guide and Tips

SCAT Test: Guide and Tips

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This article is a general guide for parents of children who are going to be taking the School and College Ability Test (SCAT) to identify whether they would be accepted to a gifted and talented program.

In this guide, you will find a full breakdown of the SCAT, how it is administered and what to expect at each level.

You will find information on the types of questions that will be asked in the assessment, how many questions there are and how long the test will take.

You will also get some handy tips to help your child perform at their best in the SCAT, as well as ways to minimize any stress or concerns.

What Is SCAT?

The SCAT is an aptitude test that focuses on a student’s ability to understand and use words and numbers.

Created by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), this test was first administered in 1985 and became computerized in 1996.

The purpose of the SCAT is to assess students in grades two to 12 to see if they should be admitted into a gifted and talented program. The top performers in the tests are invited to a course at the CTY.

To evaluate students, they are asked questions that are appropriate for children at least two grades higher; this is what is known as an above grade test and is the simplest way to differentiate the results of the highest performing students.

The test can be taken at any point in the academic year, and students who take the assessment will usually have to visit a specific test center. The test costs $60. The test can be taken at home but must be proctored via webcam.

There are three levels of the test available, depending on the current grade of the child who is taking the test:

Elementary – 2nd and 3rd grades Intermediate – 4th and 5th grades Advanced – 6th, 7th and 8th grades

The test comprises two sections, verbal and quantitative.

Each section has 55 questions, and a 22-minute time limit, with an optional 10-minute break between, making the total time for the test under an hour.

To keep the tests relevant and up to date, each section of the test has five questions that are not scored; these are known as experimental questions.

The test does not identify which questions are experimental, and they all need to be answered.

What Are the SCAT Test Levels?

### Elementary – For 2nd and 3rd Grades

The elementary test is used to assess children in the 2nd and 3rd grade.

Students in the 2nd grade will answer questions aimed at those in the 4th grade, and students in the 3rd grade will answer questions for the 5th grade.

The first section is verbal reasoning and there are 55 questions to be answered, with five of them not counting towards the final score.

The student will have 22 minutes to complete this section.

An optional 10-minute break follows.

The second section is quantitative reasoning, and also comprises 55 questions to be answered in 22 minutes.

Intermediate – For 4th and 5th Grades

Students in the 4th grade will answer questions aimed at 6th graders in this test, and students in the 5th grade will answer questions for 8th graders.

In the verbal reasoning section, students will answer 55 questions (including five experimental questions) in 22 minutes, followed by a break if they want or need it.

The quantitative reasoning section also lasts 22 minutes, with 50 scored questions and five that are unscored.

Advanced – For 6th, 7th and 8th Grades

In the advanced level SCAT, students in the 6th grade will answer questions set for those in the 9th grade, 7th grade students will be asked questions for those in 10th grade, while 8th grade students will face questions that are suitable for students in the 11th or 12th grade.

This is the most challenging of the SCAT levels.

In 22 minutes, the student must answer 55 questions in the verbal reasoning section, and then they will have another 22 minutes to answer 55 questions in the quantitative reasoning section.

Each section has five experimental questions. There is the option for a 10-minute break between each section if the test taker needs it.

SCAT Sample Questions

Verbal Reasoning

This section of the test for all the levels is about the understanding of words and their meanings.

The student is presented with a pair of words in each question, and they have to find the correct answer from the multiple-choice options presented.

The words are analogies, and they share a relationship – so the right answer will be the pair of words that have the same relationship with each other.

It should be remembered that there could be more than one answer that might be correct, so in that case the student should choose the one that fits the analogy best.

Elementary Level

Example Question

Which pair goes together like the example pair?

HAT : HEAD

a) Eyes : Face
b) Shoe : Foot
c) Soup : Bowl
d) Gloves : Scarf

Intermediate Level

Example Question

Which pair goes together like the example pair?

LION : ROAR

a) Dog : Bark
b) Whale : Swim
c) Parrot : Soar
d) Cat : Scratch

Advanced Level

Example Question

Which pair goes together like the example pair?

PHOTO : PORTRAIT

a) Fiction : Non-fiction
b) Likeness : Caricature
c) Queen : Castle
d) Drama : Comedy

Quantitative Reasoning

In this section, the student is being assessed on their ability to understand and use general math and number operations.

Each question provides two sets of numerical data that must be compared with each other to determine which is larger.

These might need the student to perform a calculation or change a set of values to be of the same type to make the decision.

No calculators are allowed in this section.

Elementary Level

Example Question

Which is bigger?

10 + 13 or 14 + 11

Intermediate Level

Example Question

Which is bigger?

The number of days in July or 29.

Advanced Level

Example Question

Which is bigger?

The greatest even number less than 30 or the least even number greater than 26.

How Is the SCAT Exam Scored?

The SCAT is scored in three ways, and each score is used to determine whether your child should be accepted into a CTY course or onto a gifted and talented program in their school or college.

Raw Score

This is the simplest form of scoring and is basically just the number of correct answers given out of the total amount of marks possible.

For the whole SCAT, your child will be marked out of 100, 50 from each section. Remember that five questions in each part are not marked as these are experimental questions.

Scaled Score

The scaled score is what is used to compare your child’s performance with the requirements for entry to CTY.

The scale goes from 401 to 514, and the score that your child attains is governed by the level that they are in, as below:

  • Elementary: Verbal – 401 to 471, Quantitative – 412 to 475
  • Intermediate: Verbal – 405 to 482, Quantitative – 419 to 506
  • Advanced: Verbal – 410 to 494, Quantitative – 424 to 514

To secure a place on a CTY course, your child needs to achieve a certain scaled score or above in both sections of the SCAT, depending on their grade, as in the table below:

Grade Verbal Quantitative
2 430 435
3 435 440
4 440 450
5 445 465
6 450 470
7 455 475
8 460 480
9 465 485
10 470 490
SCAT Test: Guide and Tips
SCAT Test: Guide and Tips

Percentile

The percentile score is usually used within the school to determine if your child should be placed in an internal gifted or talented program.

It is used to compare SCAT test takers with those taking the tests at grade level, to see where their performance lies.

Students who score in the 50th to 75th percentile are more likely to be accepted into a gifted and talented program, while those who score 75th and above are considered to be gifted and talented.

In most cases, students who score in the 90th percentile and above are those who are offered places on CTY courses.

The score that is attained remains valid until the student moves up to the next level (from intermediate to advanced, for example). This means that the student does not need to take the SCAT every year.

However, if your child does not attain the score that you are hoping for, there is an opportunity to take the SCAT one more time in the same academic year through a retake application.

How to Prepare for the SCAT Test

Step 1. Read the Booklet

When you apply for your child to take the SCAT, you will receive an information booklet from CTY.

This contains all the information you need to know about the test, including up-to-date information about the questions and the structure, as well as some tips to help you get the most out of revision and practice.

Make the most out of this resource; it is regularly updated to be the most relevant piece of information about the SCAT.

Step 2. Understand the Question Types

There are only two types of question on the SCAT, and you should make sure that the student thoroughly understands what is expected of them in each.

The first section is about understanding what different words mean and working out what the pairs of words have in common or what their relationship is to each other.

The second section is about comparing numbers to find the one that is bigger. Some pairs might require basic calculation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division). Others might need a conversion from one unit of measurement to another to work out the answer.

Step 3. Take Practice Tests Online

Part of the difficulty of a test in any circumstance is unfamiliarity – and this can be combatted by trying practice tests online.

The CTY website has some practice questions available, and you can find full-length practice tests for each level as well as in-depth revision guides and other helpful resources at TestPrep-Online.

Make the most of practice time by treating it like the real thing – a quiet environment without any distractions and a time limit.

From early practice sessions, you should be able to see whether there are any areas where improvements could be made and use this to guide any revision.

Step 4. Read Books and Magazines

Knowledge of word meaning becomes easier when your child is exposed to many more words, so reading widely from different sources can help develop a really good grasp of vocabulary.

Encourage your child to read different genres of fiction books, learn more about a subject through non-fiction books and even read journals and magazines as well as online news.

Let them discover new words and find their meanings in a dictionary, look for synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus and think about the suffixes (like ‘dis-‘) that can help them discover new word meanings.

Step 5. Extra Math Challenges

As the quantitative section of the test needs the student to be able to complete basic math without a calculator, brushing up on speed and accuracy in mental calculations can make a real difference in their confidence.

You can find downloadable game apps that can be a fun way for your child to practice their math skills and reinforce the simple methods that they would have learned in school to answer math questions in their heads.

Step 6. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

From the results of practice tests, you should be able to identify the areas where your child is strong, as well as where they might need a bit more practice.

While you don’t want to ignore the strong areas completely, it is wise to focus practice and revision on the areas where your child is weakest so they can develop these areas and skills more and be more confident in the SCAT when they have to take it for real.

Step 7. Set a Practice Schedule

Practice shouldn’t be left to the last minute and setting a schedule will help you make it part of a regular routine.

There is a fine balance between getting enough practice in and overwhelming your child, so make sure that there is room in the schedule for relaxation and fun too.

Step 8. Practice the Timed Conditions

This is a very short test considering the number of questions to be answered, and time pressure can be challenging if you are not used to it.

Practice answering some questions with a timer – on average, your child will need to answer more than two questions a minute, so they need to be prepared.

When taking practice tests, make sure that they are being timed for a more authentic experience and so that your student gets used to the pressure.

Step 9. Get Enough Sleep and Rest

As the SCAT date approaches, be sure that your child is getting enough sleep – although this can be challenging if they are nervous.

A well-rested student is more likely to be able to perform at their best than one who is sleep deprived, so focus as much as you can on the importance of self-care and relaxation in the run-up to the assessment.

Think about nutrition as well – the brain needs the right fuel to work properly, so balanced meals and adequate hydration are a must.

Step 10. Answer All the Questions

Your child will not be penalized in the test for a wrong answer, and they must provide an answer to be able to move on to the next question.

In practice, this means getting your child used to the idea of making an educated guess if they are not immediately confident of their answer so that they do not risk running out of time and missing easier marks later in the assessment.

If they have time at the end, they can go back through and check their answers if they need to.

Frequently Asked Questions

The School and College Ability Test (SCAT) is an aptitude assessment that is used to evaluate children in grades two to eight for entry to gifted and talented programs.

Designed and proctored by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, the SCAT is an ‘above grade level’ test that asks questions on verbal and quantitative reasoning, identifying students who are working at least two grades ahead of their age group.

There are two sections on the SCAT, each with 55 questions that need to be answered in 22 minutes.

Five of the questions in each section are experimental questions; these are not marked as part of the test but are used by the publisher to ensure that the test remains relevant and up to date.

When you apply for your child to take the SCAT, you will be sent a pamphlet with lots of useful information.

On the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth website, there are a few practice questions that can help with preparation.

For a comprehensive guide, including practice tests and revision resources relevant for each level in the SCAT, TestPrep-Online has PrepPacks available.

The SCAT is not a pass/fail type of test, but it is designed to be challenging.

Using the SCAT, schools are able to differentiate more between top-performing students, by asking them questions aimed at students at least two grades higher.

This type of ‘above grade test’ has to be difficult to be an indicator of whether the student is suitable for a gifted and talented program or for entry to a course at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

The SCAT is a test that was designed with the purpose of identifying students for entry to various gifted and talented programs.

It was created to ask these students questions aimed at grades higher than their current age, so that more delineation could be made between children who could be considered gifted and talented, and those who are already working at a higher level than their peers and need extra pushing to reach their full potential.

The SCAT is a timed test, in two sections. Each section has a 22-minute time limit, and there is an optional 10-minute break between sections, making the total test time 54 minutes.

You can find more sample questions for the SCAT test on the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth website, as well as some more helpful information about the assessment.

You will also find a host of resources, tips, revision guides and sample questions, as well as full-length practice tests and PrepPacks for each level at TestPrep-Online.

The SCAT is usually taken at a Prometric testing center, where it is proctored to prevent cheating.

If your child is taking the SCAT at home through the online portal, the assessment is remotely proctored through a webcam to prevent cheating.

The SCAT can be retaken if the right score is not achieved, but your child may only take it twice in an academic year.

If they have taken a test at a particular level, their score remains valid until they are eligible for taking the next level, so they do not have to take the SCAT every year.

For students taking the SCAT at a Prometric testing center, the results are generally available in the MyCTY account on the Johns Hopkins CTY website 48 hours after completion.

For students taking the online SCAT, results can take up to two weeks to be available in their online account.

Other than this article, there are a few places you can get valuable, relevant and up-to-date information about the SCAT.

These include the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth website, the pamphlet you will receive when you sign your child up to take the assessment, as well as on TestPrep-Online.

At TestPrep-Online, you can find resources such as study guides, tips and tricks and full-length practice tests with PrepPacks designed for each level.

The SCAT is scored in several different ways, but the most useful scoring is the scaled score that is used to compare your results with other test takers.

The best scores are those that will gain your child a place on a Center for Talented Youth (CTY) course, which means they need to score above the following in both the verbal and quantitative sections, according to their current grade.

Final Thoughts

The School and College Ability Test is a challenging assessment that is designed to identify students who should be in a gifted and talented program, either within their current school or as part of a course at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

As the test asks questions aimed at least two grades higher than your child’s current grade, it can be difficult and sometimes feel overwhelming, but with practice and preparation you can help your child perform to the best of their abilities so they can make the most of their aptitudes in both verbal and quantitative reasoning.


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