CogAT Test Contradicts Performance - FamilyEducation
CogAT Test Contradicts Performance
07/05/2007 at 07:23 AM

My 7-year-old daughter has been tested for GT in Kindergarten & 1st grade (both times at the recommendation of her teachers).  However, when the test scores are received, they show her to be around the 60th percentile for her age/grade?  Her academic performance in school is outstanding--high A's in all subjects, 100 every 6 weeks on comprehensive math testing, etc.  I work with her at home as well where she is reading at the level of a 3rd grader and learning multiplication with ease.  Has anyone has a similar experience or can anyone tell me why there would be such a large discrepancy between her standardized test scores and her school performance (especially since the test indicates it is a measure of ability to perform in school).  Also, are there any suggestions of what I should be doing to help her with this hurdle (short of "teaching to the test")?

When you are talking about the test scores, which tests are you talking about? If you are talking about school, state or national comprehension tests, you may have a child that doesn't test well. That can mean many things and your school should give you advice,  there are also tutoring companies that can help specifically with test taking skills. It can mean that she can't focus well on a page of questions. Some kids do better on computer tests that display one question at a time. Some are so bright that they make every question more complicated than it has to be, because they read too much into it. (My son has that problem.) If you can't find someone to coach her on proper test-taking, it can turn into test anxiety. We waited too long and my son has test anxiety. 

Here's an example: When my son was 16 and had to take a very difficult test for becoming an EMT, I got so frustrated trying to help him with the practice tests that I suggested he go to his crew (who had all passed the test) and ask them to tell him how to interpret each question. For example, What does the question: "What is the first thing you do when you approach an automobile accident victim?" mean?  He couldn't answer it because he had too many ifs in his head: Well, if there is a lot of traffic, you have to get him out of traffic first, if you smell gas, you have to get him out of the car first, if he is bleeding from an artery you stop the bleeding first, if none of those, you brace his neck......etc.  They taught him how to look for the simplest version and answer that instead of thinking too much (you brace his neck). The irony. If you think too much you'll do poorly. He ended up passing it his first try which is unusual.

If you are talking about school tests and you get the test back, go over it with your daughter. You may see very clearly which problem it is. But, it usually takes an expert to help one through it. Even though I'm a teacher, I couldn't help my son. I sent him to one tutor, but she wasn't effective. I wish I hadn't given up and had sent him to a testing expert instead. I think that would have helped.

Thanks, hownaive, for your quick feedback!  The specific test is the CogAT from Riverside Publishing.  It is evidently widely used for GT testing, but the results are reported across age and grade norms for all types of students.

My son is in GT (5th grade) and, last year, experienced some of the same things you describe with your son.  We had to go through the process of teaching him how to study.  My daughter seems to test very well on her school exams, but struggles with the standardized tests. I've heard of this problem before, but never gave it much thought until this scenario happened with her.  It is very odd to me that a bright child can perform very well in school but not on an exam that is developed to predict performance in school.  I am in the process of locating an expert in the field to meet with us.  Thanks for the advice on not waiting...I won't!


i am from the uk and not familiar with these tests, and couldn't find anything on the web to show exactly how they are administered - i wondered, because my kids always do a lot worse in certain uk standardised tests than in 'proper' exams when the tests are multiple choice line-in-a-box, because they are dyspraxic and can't get the line in the box!! i made my poor dd's life a misery as she sat school exams of this type (tho got into a school that used 'proper' exams) with ds, i know better and will not put him thro that


just wondering we have had very similar issues with one of our children.  did you find anyone in the field who was helpful? let me know your experience if possible



My daughter experienced the same thing in 3rd grade. She is very bright and is in all the enrichment programs, but her COGAT scores simply do not reflect this. I have talked to several other moms who have experienced the same thing. It is very strange. I looked for information on this test on the website and found very little information. Finally I found some sample  questions. From my observation, the questions were poorly written and hard to understand. This is a possible explanation, but it is troubling that children are not being given opportunities based on these tests. 


60th percentile is not bad.  A 60th percentile indicates that the child scored better than 60% of the population norm. It does not mean she only got 60% on her test


I've had the same experience with my daughter and it is enormously frustrating.  My older daughter is in the GT program, but my younger daughter---who makes better grades in school is not.  They are both very bright.  For example, the one not in GT gets 100s on almost everything and when she doesn't it is because of a careless mistake.  At our school it doesn't matter how well she is doing if she can't score well on the CoGAT, they won't let her in GT.  I wonder if she is really being challenged, or learning anything if she gets 100s on everything.  I'm trying to figure out how to get the system to work for her.



I would ask what version of the test was administered. There are 3 different levels. Low, Average, and High. If you daugher was administered the low or average it won't reflect her abilities. I'd ask her to be tested again using the higher level test.


My son is 1st grader.  In K-5 he scored in the 75th percentile in all areas except math...he scored in the 80th.

He makes all A's, but does slip up on a few tests here and there.  His reading level is also 3rd grade.  I will say don't pay much attention to the standarized test.  They not only test the ability to retain knowledge but also the ability to reason.

I just had a 10 minute argument with his 1st grade teacher about math.  She wants him to remember 13-6=7 (which he will in time)...I have taught him to reason why 13-6=7.  Her comment was he can add 169+172 and get the right answer, but there are times he misses 9-4 the first time...then thinks about it and changes it.  I told her he changes it because he has figured it wrong and he knows it.

Don't make much of it now (the standarized test). To help with the "reasoning" learning - read, puzzles, shape-number sequences (what comes next).

He has a class-mate that reads at 4th grade level and another at 3rd grade...they all make A's.  He has always outscored them on standarized tests, reasoning, and read and retain type tests (which burns one of them up).  At the same time, he makes more careless errors on the standard-memory type testing.

It will even out in time.  She will learn to take the standarized test.  Don't worry too much.


Better school districts use test scores on the Cogat as one of about 4 different scores or criteria to access a child for gifted programs. It should be a screening test and not the deciding factor. Better school districts will actually do a complete IQ test done by a licensed physchologist. Standardized tests such as ITBS, and cogat may also be considered. One very important factor is creativity and "think outside the box" ability. Here in Texas the Cogat is the end all. My kid who has an IQ of 150 just barely made in in based on the Cogat. I also have another daughter who scored 142 on an IQ test given by a school district that took 2 days in testing to determine her eligibility. In Texas she only got in by 2 points on the cogat???? My friend's daughter was told not to even try for GT as she was a bad speller!! Your child could be profoundly gifted and many school districts wouldn't qualify your child for GT. Here in Texas very few children in the GT program are actually gifted - they are just high acheivers. If your school district uses the cogat as the only test than rest assured the program probably isn't worth being in.

My son took the Kaufman (KTEA) test in kindergarten. He tested at 99.9% in reading and comprehension (3rd grade). Math he tested in at 99.8% second grad. Here is the kicker. The school doesn't care. I've been trying like crazy to get help for him and they tell me that I should wait and eventually things will get harder. I even talked to the gifted coordinator and he said, "he doesn't see it in my son." He told me too, just wait and it will get harder. He reads books beyond his first grade class as his tests score show, but the teacher says that while he has amazing comprehension skills, he doesn't always think metaphorically while reading. So here's my question. Does all this mean these achievment test are wrong? or is the school just dragging their feet in doing anything. He is not challenged at all in school. He has to do all of the challenge work on his own outside of school at home. It's ridiculous! Should I have him retested, or does it even matter?

My son is currently in 3rd grade. He took the CogAt test last September. I am having some of the same issues with the test results as many of these other parents. My son scored 92 Verbal , 71 Quantitative, and 87 Non-verbal. I thought they were great scores but I was wrong. The school told me that he wasn't accepted into the GT program because his composite score was below a 90 (his was 86) The only reason he scored low in the Quantitative section was because he didn't answer all the questions. He answered 46 out of 60 questions and answered them correctly. I was under the impression that GT students have a hard time with perfectionism. He has to make 100% sure he has the correct answer to move on. So because the test is timed he didn't answer all the questions. Both his current teacher and his teacher from last year told me they are filing a formal compliant about the decision. I just don't want him to get bored in class and cause a fuss for his teachers. I am also living in Texas and was unaware that they only use the CogAt test results as a determining factor for GT placement.

My daughter is in 3rd grade and was placed in the gifted program at the beginning of this year. We live in Pennsylvania and the Cogats is given each year in January. This test is used as a screening test. If a child does very well, then they can be recommended to be tested for the program. The final factor is an IQ test which is given by a psychologist through our school district. We just received the results from this years Cogats and my daughter's composite score was a 142. Any parent that feels their child should be tested can, atleast in PA, request the district to test the child, even if the Cogats score isnt very high.

Hello! I'll share my thoughts on this as a teacher and a mom. Just because a child gets all A's doesn't mean he is gifted. I've had many kids who get all A's and they are hard workers and many are overachievers. They can be perfectionists too. Don't judge your childs intelligence, whether it be academically, creatively, etc by whether they are in the gifted program. Look to see that your child is being challenged and meet with the teacher if this isn't happening. If you see that progress isn't happening with the teacher, then refer your child to IST and together work with the team to come up with ways to challenge your son or daughter. Also work on challenging your child at home. I agree with another poster a good gifted evaluation isn't one just based on Cognitive test scores. There are lots of things to measure and tests should only be a part of the evaluation. So my biggest suggestion is to just make sure they are being challenged and if not do something about it, as I mentioned above. Don't let the Gifted label be so important. Just make sure your child is doing the best he or she can do. Also you can request testing, but many school districts won't retest for a year or two later after the orginal testing. From what I just learned with my son, cognitive tests done within 6 months of each other make them invalid. Good luck to you. Only

This from my ed psych friends: It's also important to know that the results COGAT and similar "aptitude" tend to be less valid with younger children. "Giftedness" can be hard to Identify in young children because the tests tend to reflect the advantages (or disadvantages) of the kids' background. This is less true as kids get older, so tests given to older kids are more likely to mean something. On another note, my daughter tested in the 95th-98th percentile on the different components of the Cogat, and I was frankly shocked. I know it seems weird to say as a mom, but she didn't seem THAT much more capable than her peers. So I don't know what it all means....

My son scored verbal 75th percentil on Verbal and 86th percentile on Quantitative. I am trying to get some insight on what the scores mean.

I have twin daughters in 5th grade and have experienced the exact same thing. They both get highest honors and usually 100s in all of their school work. They both score advanced on every reading and math standardized our state gives. On Cogat, they were in the 50's and 60's. I was blown away. The only thing the school and I could determine is that the COGAT is a timed test and I have always taught them to be careful and check their work. I don't think they even managed to answer many of the questions. Still, it is a shock to see that score for any mother.

Understood that timely submission is also a part of every test. However, I would like to see is a provision for "minimum number of questions answered" to be considered for percentile ranking. E.g. Criteria could be that 48 out of 50 questions must be attempted. That way no student is put on lower percentile just because he couldn't finish last 2 questions in time. And at the same time, keep the count of minimum questions attempted close to 100% (in above example, 96%) so that we are collecting good enough "sample" to judge whether a student really has exceptional cognitive ability. I bet a student attempting 48 out of 50 and answering all 48 correctly, has equal or better Cognitive ability as compared to a student attempting all 50 but answering only say, 49 correctly.