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CAT score interpretation help needed

(23 Posts)
musu Sat 25-May-13 15:09:39

Ds is 8 and in year 4. We got his CAT scores today and I'm struggling to understand what they mean (despite extensive googling). There are four scores - verbal, quantitive, non-verbal and spatial. The first three scores are 111, 111 and 107 so above average but nothing special and below average for his school year. His spatial score is 120 which is high and higher than his school average.

I don't really understand why his spatial score is so much higher than his other scores and what that actually means in terms of how he learns. The tests were administered by GL assessment and looking at their website it states that pupils with high spatial ability (which a score of 120 would be) means they should flourish in STEM subjects but they will struggle because most subjects are taught with a verbal bias.

This quote is interesting to me

Pauline Smith, senior psychometric consultant and developer of the CAT4 tests at GL Assessment, said: "Historically educators have tended to define intelligence in their own image, that of the verbally-biased children who work well on writing and language based tasks.

"In reality, much intellectual achievement has sprung from the minds of the spatially-biased, those like Einstein or Newton, who think first in images and only afterwards in words."

His teacher says he is bright but it doesn't seem to manifest itself in his school work. Even though he is only in year 4 we are expected to give the school an indication of what senior schools we are aiming for. I had hoped the CAT scores would make that task easy but I'm confused on what I should be looking for and what I can do to help ds's learning.

Ladymuck Sat 25-May-13 15:43:01

CAT scores are a part of the overall picture. The other key part of the picture is how he is actually achieving ie in line with the CAT scores of differently.

As for senior school choices, the degree of helpfulness will depend on the schools available to you. This one set of data would indicate that your son might do better in a school that has a strong STEM bias rather than one that specialises in languages or humanities say. If CATs of 110 put him below average then he is presumably in a selective school, and you may wish to (re)consider how selective a school you want at the next stage. He may do better being a stronger candidate in a less selective school. My instinct would be for a boys school rather than co-ed if you stay in the indie sector, just because the pattern of non-verbal ability exceeding verbal ability is a common one.

But I would emphasise that this is just one small piece of data in a far more complex picture. What does he enjoy, what is his character like? Do these CATs make sense in light of how he performs? Were they sensibly administered (and how were they standarised ie against what population). And of course what options are open to you in terms of senior schools

musu Sat 25-May-13 16:04:27

Ds wants to go to Winchester or Eton. Based on these results he has absolutely no chance of going to either. He is currently at a co-ed non-selective prep in the lower sets. His teacher says he is capable of more but struggles to 'stay on task' and concentrate. He moans about being in the lower sets but refuses to learn his times tables or make any effort to change this.

I'm not really sure of how these results reflect how he does at school. He changed schools for year 4 and he has gone from being very good at maths to not being very good at all (previous school was also non-selective).

He is the sort of child that people meet and go on about how 'bright' he is but I think that is because he is very happy talking to other adults and children and comes across as very very confident. However he will not settle down and do homework or music practice without an argument first and looking at his end of year effort grades he does what is necessary but no more. He never actually struggles with homework and grasps new concepts quickly so academically I'm inclined to agree with his teacher that he is capable of more. However these scores don't indicate that at all.

Afaik the results were standardised to take his age into account (he is in the youngest 25% in the year).

I know that parents in other years got their dcs tested privately as they said these results didn't give a proper indication of ability. That was based on looking at the movement between year 2 and year 4 scores. Unfortunately ds refused to do the CAT tests in year 2 so we have nothing to compare.

I will make an appointment with the school to discuss options but I'm wondering whether it is also worth getting an EP assessment as focus and concentration have been an issue for him since he started school.

Ladymuck Sat 25-May-13 18:00:03

Is this a prep which sends children to Eton & Winchester? If not how come he has settled on those? I think that it is safe to say that lower sets of a co-ed non-selective school aren't usually aiming for those 2.

I guess lack of maturity is an issue, and you may notice a change over the next year or two. One of my sons had CAT scores of 115 or so in Year 4, but 130+ in year 5. Whilst I'm still occasionally sceptical about the testing itself and how the standardisation is performed (as I wouldn't have expected such a large jump), I do think that he probably had matured a lot that year which would have impacted how he performed in the tests.

I would talk to the school about an EP. I suspect that it will only be of ouse if the school supports any findings, so at the very least you would probably want an EP who has worked with the school.

musu Sat 25-May-13 18:36:28

Thanks. He knows pupils who are going on to E and W as well as Harrow, Radley etc hence his wish to aim for those types of school too.

I'm wondering whether an EP would be of any benefit and I wouldn't do it without the school's support as I've read on here how useless an EP report is if the school refuse to acknowledge its findings.

I suppose I'll have to talk to the school and see what they say. I feel a bit disappointed for ds as he has high ambitions for himself but I'm now not sure whether he has the real intelligence to aim so high. I'd hate for him to go to a senior school and struggle. I went to a grammar school in the days before tutoring and had friends who unexpectedly passed the 11+ (actually 12+ as our LEA experimented with changing the year we moved up). They really struggled and had an utterly miserable time until they were allowed to move to the secondary school.

I also want to understand how ds needs to be taught to make the most of his apparent higher spatial ability.

Niceweather Sat 25-May-13 19:05:38

My DS has had CAT tests and a proper IQ test carried out by a qualified psychologist and the IQ test results are way higher. 27 points higher on full scale score and 31 points higher on the verbal. He does however have dyslexia. It might be worth investing in a proper IQ test which is meant to be more accurate than a group test.

musu Sat 25-May-13 19:11:06

That's interesting. I'm thinking an EP may explain why he struggles to concentrate and also why his spatial ability is out of kilter with his other scores (and what that actually means in practical terms).

LIZS Sat 25-May-13 19:13:18

I think it is a mistake to over rely on these tests. imho They only reflect how he was thinking on any particular day. The score difference isn't that remarkable as there is a 5 % tolerance which could bring them much closer together. You really need much more information, and a pattern of tests taken over several years, to meaningfully interpret the scores and even then I'm somewhat dubious. One of our dc was pretty indifferent in cats/pips the other was rated very highly. Guess which got an Academic Scholarship ! Unless he is evidently underperforming his potential I don't think an Ed Psych report at this stage would necessarily help. A good school will use different techniques anyway to ensure all children are engaged.

musu Sat 25-May-13 19:46:20

I don't know if he is underperforming or not. I don't understand how these results translate into how he is doing at school. At the first parents' evening the teacher said how very bright ds was (early in the term). At the second (beg of Jan) she said he was in the bottom third of the class and not concentrating or focusing and easily distracted. I assume these test results just confirm that he is one of those children who is nearer the bottom of the class than the top.

He doesn't struggle at all with homework and always finds it easy. I'm not a fan of homework at primary age so I don't expect him to have work he will find difficult.

What I find difficult now is I have to come up with a list of senior schools to consider and submit that list after half term. I now have no clue what schools to consider if anything selective is no longer possible.

LIZS Sat 25-May-13 21:14:09

CATs are basically reasoning tests ie. verbal , non-verbal and numerical . They assess "potential" in these areas but are far from definitive imho. If he only sat these type of tests for the first time it could prove difficult to draw a conclusion. Scores can improve by about 5% with practice (although dd's once went up by over 10% !). You really need to have a discussion with the school as they may base the secondary suggestions on such data but for your ds it could be too early for that and if they feel there are gaps between potential and performance may also have ideas about addressing this.

musu Sat 25-May-13 22:14:28

First time he has done this type of test. I found this article which gives some interesting indications for spatial learners. I recognise a lot of ds's traits, which is interesting.

Farewelltoarms Sun 26-May-13 16:24:00

To be honest OP I know very little about CAT scores. Actually I know nothing as they don't do it as far as I know at my dc's school (state).
However, I think you should be wary of extrapolating lifelong lessons from one set of tests. Nurture Shock has a good chapter on how early testing is a total waste of time as it provides a very transitory snap shot. Sometimes children leap ahead at a given moment, sometimes they seem behind because behind the scenes they are laying down some amazing neurological pathways for far more interesting talents in the future. I really wouldn't start basing a life on him being possibly advanced in terms of spatial awareness. It might be that this year/term/week that's what his brain is doing, but next year it's completely different. I was convinced my son was a great artist - three years on, he's staggeringly rubbish at drawing. I thought he'd be non-academic because he was such a late talker, turns out he is pretty academic after all.
I'm sorry that you feel under pressure to choose schools now especially since it can seem that some of them (your Etons etc) open up one glittering pathway and the others not so much. People do very well out of far less academic schools than I'm sure the ones you're looking at.

musu Sun 26-May-13 23:07:21

Farewell that's so true. I've had a good time to think and have realised that I need to continue encouraging ds to work towards his school choices until someone tells me otherwise. I've no intention of submitting a list to school any time soon. The end of year 5 will be soon enough even for those schools that do year 6 pre-testing.

basildonbond Mon 27-May-13 07:10:31

Surely your current school will be making suggestions and guiding your choices?

Dd's in year 5 at a non-selective private primary which mainly feeds into London day schools. The head has a meeting in year 5 with all the parents individually to discuss school choices and think about which schools would suit that particular child and which he/she has a realistic chance of getting into - that's partly what you're paying for, no?

seeker Mon 27-May-13 07:19:04

You really need to make an urgent appointment to talk to your ds's form tutor. CAT scores are complicated and need to be properly explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about. On the face of it, your ds's scores don't look Etonish, but you need more information. Don't make any decisions until you have talked to someone who knows.

LIZS Mon 27-May-13 07:23:06

agree BB we had meetings in Year 4 and 5 , and Yr7 if relevant, to discuss where dc might be heading , what open days to go to, when to register etc . OP, has the school suggested these destinations or have they come about from ds overhearing his peers ? Has he visited any of them ? If they are not realistic targets then I think you need clarification sooner rather than later to enable you to consider others and persuade him there is more opportunities available in life than Eton et al.

musu Mon 27-May-13 09:49:50

Eton would be a geographical choice. It is a school ds knows and we know pupils and teachers there as well as dcs wanting to go there (mainly because of parents teaching there).

Winchester is because of their golf scholarship. Whilst ds would have a good chance of getting that or possibly a music scholarship it won't be any good if he would then struggle academically. That is the bit I'm not sure of. He doesn't struggle at all with school work but is one of those that does what he has to and no more. We are going to an open day at Winchester next weekend designed for years 3 and 4 so it will be interesting to see whether that changes. I've told him that if he wants to try for Eton or Winchester he has to show the school that he is has the potential to get in.

It is a non-selective school but with some parents who are very driven. I overheard a conversation at the school fete recently where a parent was saying their dc was upset at having to go to the fete as they would miss their 11+ class. Another parent questioned why the dc was doing 11+ classes and they replied it was basically a better thing to do than sit at home and watch tv, even though they have no intention of the dc actually doing the 11+. I was shock at this but I don't think that sort of thing is uncommon (albeit tutoring rather than 11+ coaching). Ds told his boarding master that he was upset at having to go to the fete as it meant missing horse riding!

Ds has no time to be tutored at all (and I don't expect to have to do that either) and has an incredibly busy day (chorister) so I need to see what he is really capable of. That is why I wonder whether an EP would be a worthwhile thing rather than relying on CATs which my googling shows are not very reliable being a group test.

Ds was new to the school this year, as was the head, so I'm thinking that in a few more months we will be in a better position to assess where we are. I've spoken to a number of older parents all of whom have said that CATs aren't reliable at all and all of whom have children with offers from leading public schools, which they wouldn't have aimed for had they accepted their dcs CAT scores and chosen accordingly.

RosemaryandThyme Mon 27-May-13 13:33:46

Twice there are mentions that the lad refuses to practice outside school and refused to sit Y2 CAT's - when he refuses is he just let off ? surely he's not allowed to pick and choose when he'll do tests and if /when he'll make an effort at studies ???

musu Mon 27-May-13 14:47:54

Rosemary Where have I said he refuses to practice? Can't comment on year 2 CATs as I wasn't told why he didn't do them or what the teacher did about it. All I was told, many weeks later at parents' evening, was that they had done some tests in class but I couldn't have the results as ds refused to do the tests. It wasn't seen as any big issue at all. He was 6.

He makes as much effort as he needs to at school. His report states for nine of his subjects he "makes a very good effort and maintains a positive and enthusiastic approach for work", the other five he "generally maintains a good effort and has a positive approach to both class work and prep. There are occasional inconsistencies". What he doesn't have is any effort grades stating "makes an outstanding effort at all times and approaches work with great enthusiasm and care".

His teacher says he will ask for help when he doesn't actually need it so I assume that is a confidence or attention-seeking issue. I have no idea what I can do about that other than to tell him to stop asking for help. He doesn't behave like that in his activities outside school but I think that is because the activities he chooses to do are ones that he is naturally very good at so has the confidence of knowing he can succeed.

RosemaryandThyme Mon 27-May-13 15:40:14

"he refuses to learn times tables "

RosemaryandThyme Mon 27-May-13 15:42:04

In a state school he wouldn't be permitted to Refuse to do KS2 tests.

RosemaryandThyme Mon 27-May-13 15:55:20

Age is irrelevant - refusal to participate in Y1 tests (age 5) wouldn't wash either.

musu Mon 27-May-13 17:12:54

Fair comment, he does refuse to learn times tables because when he has tried to learn them they really don't stick. I assume it will be a bit like when he started learning to read - started well, struggled and fell behind but since year 2 has been one of the best readers with a high reading age.

I don't know how you would make a 6 yr old or any child actually do tests if they don't want to. His year 2 teacher was deputy head and very experienced. I assume if the tests mattered I would have been contacted.

In any event this thread has drifted off my original question of what to do with results that show a variance between spatial and nvr and what that means in terms of how ds learns. I did manage to find an academic paper that was interesting and gives some clue of what teaching methods would favour a good learning outcome. I will discuss that with his school as I doubt ds is unique.

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