What is the OLSAT®?
The OLSAT® (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) is a test given to children ages kindergarten through 12th grade to measure their reasoning skills. The test is often used by schools to determine whether children qualify for gifted and talented programs. The test includes 21 different types of questions across verbal, non-verbal, figural and quantitative reasoning categories.
The test can be taken either online or by using pencil and paper. It takes 60 to 75 minutes to administer and includes 40 questions for kindergarteners, and between 60 and 72 black-and-white questions for children grades 1 and above.
The OLSAT’s main advantages are that it doesn’t require a psychologist and can be administered in groups, which make it easier and less expensive to administer than many other types of tests. However, the test has faced criticism for being less accurate than tests like the WISC and the Stanford-Binet in identifying very gifted children or being accurate for students in higher grade levels. In some school districts, it is administered with another test, often the NNAT.
Students receive a verbal and nonverbal score for the test, which collectively are called the School Ability Index, or SAI.
TestPrepExpress offers practice tests and materials for the OLSAT. Our platform allows you to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses so you can spend time prepping effectively. We offer both online, interactive, questions and printable materials.
OLSAT Test Level vs. Grade Level
OLSAT scores are determined by measuring children against their peers who were born around the same time as the relevant student. For example, children born between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1 are measured against one another.
Children in different grades will be given different levels of the test:
- Children in kindergarten take a Level A test.
- Children in first grade take a Level B test.
- Children in second grade take a Level C test.
- Children in third grade take a Level D test.
- Children in fourth and fifth grade take a Level E test.
- Children in sixth through eighth grades take a Level F test.
- Students in ninth through twelfth grade take a Level G test.
There are some differences between the levels. For example, the Level A test measures abilities that are not taught in school. Children ages 3 and 4 will only be given 40 of the test’s 60 questions; 5-year-old children will be given all 60 questions.
The questions in levels A through C are read aloud to children.
OLSAT Test Format
It typically takes a student 50 to 60 minutes to finish the OLSAT test. The exact length will depend on several factors, including whether the questions are read aloud to younger students. Although the test is famous for being administered in groups, for younger children it is often given individually.
Importantly, students do not lose any points for answering a question incorrectly, so children are often encouraged to guess if they are not sure of the answer. The test is purposely designed so that students don’t get discouraged: easy and difficult questions follow one another, so a student will never encounter a consecutive string of difficult questions.
Verbal and Nonverbal Skills Assessed by the OLSAT Test
The subsections on the OLSAT test are as follows:
- Verbal Comprehension: Consists of Following Directions, Sentence Arrangement & Completion, and Identifying Antonyms questions.
- Verbal Reasoning: Consists of Picture Classification, Picture Analogies, and Picture Series questions.
- Pictorial Reasoning: Consists of Picture Classification, Picture Series, and Picture Analogies questions.
- Figural Reasoning: Consists of Figural Classification, Figure Series, and Figural Analogies questions.
- Quantitative Reasoning: Consists of Number Matrices, Number Series, and Numeric Inference questions.
The purpose of the OLSAT isn’t to measure what children have learned or are learning in school. Rather, the OLSAT is designed to test students’ reasoning and thinking skills. As a result, it’s important for children to have exposure to the types of concepts and questions they will encounter on the test, especially since they may not see those types of questions in their normal studies. Students kindergarten-level and older should also practice filling in bubbles, especially if they have not had to do this on other tests in the past.
Students should consider each answer before choosing one. On certain questions, more than one answer may seem like it could be correct; in this instance, students should choose the best answer. Since students are not penalized for a wrong answer, a child should always guess if he or she isn’t sure which answer is correct.
The following chart provides a breakdown of the different skills measured at each grade level:
|Grade (Test Level)||Kinder|
|Word/ Letter Matrix||✔️||✔️||✔️||✔️|
Tips for the OLSAT
OLSAT Analogy Questions
The OLSAT has picture analogy and figural analogy questions. Students should familiarize themselves with the process for solving analogy questions:
- Discover a rule that accurately describes how the 3 items on top are related.
- Apply that rule to the second row, and specifically to the missing item.
- For each answer choice, determine whether choosing that answer will make the items on top related to one another in the same way that the items on the bottom are related.
Some common “rules” that are found in figure matrix puzzles:
- The figures stay the same.
- Pieces or added to, or taken out of, the figure.
- The figures change color or shade (getting lighter or darker).
- The figures increase or decrease in size.
- The figures rotate or otherwise move.
- The figures mirror one other.
- The figures double or divide in half.
OLSAT Classification Questions
The OLSAT has picture classification and figural classification questions. OLSAT classification questions are somewhat like analogy questions; however, for classification questions, the main issue is the commonality that makes the items on the top belong together. A good way for children to work through this is to go through each answer and determine whether all 4 items on top will belong together if that answer is chosen. If the student can’t find a reason for any of the answers to fit with the items on top, they may need to re-think the rule that binds the items together.
OLSAT Following Directions Questions
Following Directions questions are fairly self-explanatory: students will be show an image and asked to point to the image that fits a certain description. Depending on the grade level, these questions can range from simple (“point to the picture that shows a bird flying”) to quite complex (“Point to the box that has an equal number of the same shapes and an equal number of the same letters and one extra different letter.”)
OLSAT Matrix Questions
Matrix questions consist of a box with nine squares inside of it. Eight of the squares have a shape inside, and the ninth box (in the bottom right hand corner) is blank. The eight shapes relate to one another in a certain way, and the student has to choose the correct figure that goes in the ninth box to make the pattern complete.
OLSAT Reasoning Questions
OLSAT reasoning questions are designed to test children’s understanding of the natural order in which events or patterns unfold. These questions are split into serial reasoning, arithmetic reasoning, and aural reasoning questions.
Serial reasoning questions show a group of images depicting a series of events that take place over a period of time. The events progress in a natural order. Children must choose from a group of images to determine which image depicts the most likely next event in the series. An easier question may show a boy picking apples, washing them, mixing them, and putting the mixture into a pie crust. Students must then choose from images showing (a) the boy eating the pie, (b) the pie going into the oven, (c) the pie being cut, or (d) the apples being cut as the next most likely event. (The correct answer is (b).)
Arithmetic reasoning questions are similar to the “word problems” you may be familiar with from your own days in school. These questions show a certain number of items in the first box, describe something that happened, and ask students to choose the answer that shows the number of items following the happening of the event. For example, a question may show seven lollipops, and say that Grace is having a party and bought one lollipop for each guest. The question may then ask how many cookies Grace would need to buy if she also wants each guest to have a cookie (the answer is, of course, also seven!).
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