What are the CAT4 Tests? A Guide for Parents - The 11 Plus Journey

The 11 Plus Journey


What are the CAT4 Tests? A Guide for Parents

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CAT4 or the Cognitive Abilities Test is an assessment to understand our children’s academic prowess. In this short blog, I will explain its significance, and show you the different strategies to support our children in navigating these assessments with confidence.

Understanding CAT4 Tests:

  • CAT4 tests are not your typical exams. Rather than focusing on specific subjects like maths or English, they delve into a student’s cognitive abilities across four key areas: verbal, non-verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning.
  • The word cognitive means a conscious intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering.
  • This test is administered in schools to students aged 6-18. CAT4 tests provide educators with valuable insights into each student’s unique learning profile, enabling tailored teaching strategies and informed decisions.

Why CAT4 Tests Matter:

  • CAT4 results offer an interconnected view of a student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, guiding educators in personalized learning approaches.
  • Both teachers and parents can use the results from these tests to formulate a plan for future work.
  • They inform decisions such as setting academic targets, identifying students who may benefit from additional support, and guiding career counselling efforts. 

Preparing for CAT4 Tests:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format: Practice with provided materials or online resources to get comfortable with the question types. Some important links are mentioned at the end of this blog.
  2. Develop Time Management Skills: Practice completing questions efficiently within the allotted time. Start with a no-timing test where your child finishes the test in his or her own time. Then you can assess how much time was taken versus the allocated time and start to work on how this can be managed.
  3. Strengthen Your Cognitive Skills: Engage in activities that challenge verbal, non-verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning abilities. Board games, card games and video games can all help activate higher-order cognitive skills, as they involve socialising, strategizing, reasoning and solving problems.

Games that are particularly good for enhancing cognitive thinking skills include the following:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Chess
  • Bridge
  1. Stay Relaxed and Confident: Approach the test with confidence, knowing that it’s just one measure of your abilities. They are not the benchmark of success. It is a way to learn how your child can improve and what they are good at.
  2. Get Plenty of Rest and Nutrition: Prioritize sleep and nutrition leading up to the test for optimal cognitive performance. 
  3. Review Test-Taking Strategies: Learn strategies like process of elimination and time management to tackle questions effectively.


Additional Resources:

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Independent Schools take CAT4 into account

If you plan to apply for an independent school, know that the school may ask for a reference from your son’s head teacher at the start of Year 6. If your son’s school has administered CAT4 tests, the scores will also be provided to the independent school. The scores should cover four aspects, spatial being one of them. There are cases where some schools may accord more importance to one score than another. This is of course not a published policy.

·       Independent schools look at the head teacher’s reference, CAT4 scores (if available) and ISEB Pre-test scores when deciding whether to allow a candidate to go to the next round of assessments.

·       CAT scores can be used by independent scores when deciding admission, and when making initial as well as final decisions. Some use it only to give baseline assessments, others use it for selection.


Reasoning Skills: A Guide to Smarter Thinking

Why Reasoning Skills Matter:

Reasoning ability (which the CAT 4 tests), whether it be Verbal or Non-Verbal is an important skill to have not just for the 11 plus tests. These skills help a child learn to decide what information is necessary to answer questions or solve problems. They assist young children to look for relevant information, spot patterns, identify data and draw conclusions. Gaining these skills, they come up with alternative explanations and recognise patterns in data amongst other things. 

Further ahead in secondary school, these skills are tested in exams such as UKCAT and civil service exams (verbal and numerical tests). 

  1. Transferable Skills: These skills aren’t just for one subject—they can be used in any area of life. Developing them gives you a wider range of abilities to tackle all kinds of problems.
  2. Essential Thinking: They’re like the building blocks of advanced thinking. You’ll need them in school and beyond to really understand complex ideas.
  3. Meta-cognition: This is like thinking about your own thinking. It helps you keep track of how you’re learning and what skills you’re using. Think of it as being the captain of your own learning ship!
  4. Decision Making: Reasoning skills help you make smart choices based on facts, not just feelings. They help you see the truth, not just what you want to believe.
  5. Deep Thinking: If you want to understand big issues in society or ethics, these skills are essential. They let you dig deep and really understand what’s going on.
  6. Seeing Different Views: They help you understand things from other people’s perspectives. This makes you more empathetic and open-minded.
  7. Boosting Creativity: Being good at reasoning helps you come up with new ideas and solve problems in creative ways. It’s like having a superpower for thinking outside the box!

How to Develop Reasoning Skills:

  • Recognizing Tricks: Watch out for sneaky language or attempts to twist the truth in arguments.
  • Debating Counterarguments: Learn to respond to different viewpoints and see things from all sides.
  • Checking Sources: Figure out if the information you find is reliable and trustworthy.
  • Evaluating Evidence: Judge how good the evidence you find really is.
  • Thinking Differently: Come up with new explanations and ideas that others might not have thought of.
  • Spotting Patterns: Notice trends or connections in data or information.
  • Getting Creative: Use your imagination to think up new possibilities and solutions.

Tips for Building Better Reasoning Skills:

  • Try New Things: Explore different hobbies to develop a range of skills.
  • Stay Active: Regular exercise keeps your brain sharp and improves memory.
  • Keep a Journal: Writing down your thoughts helps you learn from them and reduces stress.
  • Read Widely: Fiction books help you see the world in new ways and inspire creative thinking.
  • Play Games: Chess, puzzles, or language games challenge your mind and improve reasoning.
  • Get Creative: Drawing, writing, or playing music all exercise your brain in different ways.
  • Be Mindful: Pay attention to your thoughts and decisions to understand your own thinking better.


CAT4 tests are integral to understanding a child’s cognitive abilities and shaping their educational journey. By demystifying these assessments and equipping ourselves with effective preparation strategies, we empower our children to approach CAT4 tests with confidence and maximize their potential. Remember, while CAT4 results provide valuable insights, they are just one piece of the puzzle in our children’s educational adventure. Let’s support them on this journey with knowledge, encouragement, and unwavering belief in their abilities.


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Resources referenced

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