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Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4)


The Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) is used to assess both pupils' progress and their academic potential. This guide will help to better understood the purpose and format of the test, and how best to help your child prepare for it.

Essential Information

  • The CAT4 is used by some schools as part of the entry process into Year 7.
  • It may also be used to decide on which set or stream a pupil will join.
  • Each individual test takes 8 to 10 minutes each to complete. The CAT4 is made up of 8 individual tests.
  • The tests are designed to assess reasoning and spatial awareness.


Purpose of the CAT4

The CAT4 is used to identify a pupil's strengths and weaknesses, allowing teachers and parents to help personalize their learning. It assesses reasoning and spatial awareness, rather than memory, so as to better understand how a pupil thinks and learns.

The CAT4 is useful for identifying children with a high level of ability who may otherwise be overlooked. This allows teachers and parents to provide further support and motivation to ensure they are reaching their full potential. Similarly, children who are having difficulties in some areas can be given the personalized help that they need.

CAT4 Exam Breakdown

  • The CAT4 contains four sections: Verbal Reasoning (VR), Non-verbal Reasoning (NVR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Spatial Awareness (SA). Each section contains two different types of question.
  • All questions have five answers to choose from, which are labelled A to E.


Figure Classification (NVR) | 10 minutes | 24 questions

Candidates will be given three different shapes which all have something in common. The candidate must work out what their similarity is and select the answer which shares this similarity.


In this example, the three shapes on the left all have four sides and are shaded in. The answer is therefore D.


Figure Matrices (NVR) | 10 minutes | 24 questions


Candidates will be given a set of shapes. They must identify the pattern within the set of shapes and choose which of the answers completes the set.


In this example, the square on the right is smaller than the square on the left. The answer is therefore D, as it is a smaller circle than the one on the left.


Verbal Classification (VR) | 8 minutes | 24 questions


Candidates will be given three words which share a similarity. They must identify how the words are similar and select the answer which shares this similarity.


In this example, the three words given are all colours. The answer is therefore D as it is also a colour.


Verbal Analogies (VR) | 8 minutes | 24 Questions


Candidates will be given three words. The first two words will be related to each other. The candidate must select which of the answers shares the same relationship with the third word.


In this example, the first two words are opposites. The answer is therefore E, as dry is the opposite of wet.


Number Analogies (QR) | 10 minutes | 18 Questions

Candidates will be given two pairs of numbers and one single number. The second number in the pairs is gained by performing an operation to the first number. This operation will be addition, subtracting, multiplication or division. The candidate must identify what this operation is and choose the answer which is found when the operation is performed on the one single number.


In this example, you need to first identify what operation gets from both 2 to 3 and 9 to 10. You need to add 1. The answer is therefore E.

Number Series (QR) | 8 minutes | 18 Questions


Candidates will be given a series of numbers. They must identify what rules have been used to arrange the order of the numbers, then select the answer which comes next in the series.


In this example, each number in the series is one lower than the previous number. The answer is therefore C.


Figure Recognition (SA) | 9 minutes | 18 Questions


Candidates will be given a target shape which is hidden in one of five designs. They will have to select which shape contains the hidden target shape.


In this example, the target shape is hidden within shape B. You can see that they are the same if you remove the lines shown as dashes in the image below.


Figure Analysis (SA) | 9 minutes | 18 Questions


Candidates will be shown a diagram of a piece of paper, which has been folded and hole punched. They will have to select the answer which shows how the piece of paper will look once it has been unfolded again.


In this example, the paper has been folded in half once horizontally. It has then had a hole punched in its left side. Once it has been unfolded, the line of the fold will act as the line of symmetry. The answer is therefore B.

Preparing for the CAT4

The format of the CAT4 will be unfamiliar to many candidates, as the test is used to assess reasoning and spatial awareness rather than knowledge retention. Completing practice papers in advance helps children to gain familiarity with the test format, allowing them to perform to the best of their ability.

Our practice papers are designed to replicate the format, question types and time limit of the actual CAT4 test. Familiarity with the tests gives children greater confidence during their assessment and helps them to focus on answering the questions, rather than trying to understand the format.

Each question provides individual feedback so that children can work on the areas they find challenging. Statistics are provided at the end of the test to allow you to see your child's progress in relation to others who have taken the test.

Even if the CAT4 is not required for entry into Year 7, the test can help parents to better understand their child's strengths and weaknesses so as to better support their learning. It can also be useful when helping children to decide their subject choices for GCSEs or think about their future goals and careers.

Our past papers can be accessed here. If you have any further questions regarding the CAT4, please do get in touch.