Gifted and Talented Test Preparation Curriculum

For those facing the test in the next few months, see the cramming section at the bottom.  The material here is for pre K through 1st or 2nd grade, suitable for 12 to 8 months before the exam.  It is background work before critical thinking exercises; practice tests will follow.

August 2012:  I moved the reading section to it's own page.  It's the best page in the blog.
April 2014:  I added PDF versions of my "Bob" books for math.
July 2014:  I thoroughly review most test prep material in my blog.

General math and arithmetic is fine 12 to 3 months before the test.  By as that date approaches, switch to word problems, shapes and vocabulary, series, anything but arithmetic.
Resource Comments
AGAT Books for Math
These books introduce math vocabulary and concepts and a prerequisite for critical thinking.  It's so much easier to teach math when you have a vocabulary base to work with. I started using these at age 3 and my son started to comprehend the material at about 4.

Book 1: xps version pdf version
Book 2: xps version pdf version
Book 3: xpx version pdf version
Since these are so hard, I've created a few easier ones that are more focused:
Book 4 - Series xps version pdf version
Book 5 - Lines xps version pdf version
Book 6 xps version pdf version

All of the rest of math vocabulary through 2nd grade, like monetary terms, are not pertinent to test prep, so I never actually used any more terms than what you see in these books.  I consider these "pre-test prep" books, suitable for kids with no exposure to math who don't face a test in the next three months.

To print:  Print these on a colored printer, with the printer setting of "2 sided - flip page on the short edge". Then you cut the stack in half, place the top half on the bottom half, and it magically comes out in book form, like a Bob book.  Then staple in the middle like a book. For more "school math", I print the worksheets 2 grades up and go through them, 1 to 4 pages per night.  This is my bread and butter for math.  It's free.  Here is the link I use. If you are home schooling and need a script, use can use this material.  I also use as a supplement to a basic math course.  I'm not sure any of this will help on the GAT test, but it will help you child from getting crushed in acelerated math.
Sylvan At some point, you might get stuck with eduplace material.  I stopped at the chapters on addition and subtraction and moved to the Slyvan Kindergarten math workbook.  It's more conducive to teaching K math to a 3 year old.   We did one or 2 pages a day.  You can save any computation (like adding/subtracting) for after the test.  This material is the closest I can find to "test prep" math.  After first Kindergarten, math diverges from test prep.
Building Thinking Skills, Primary I got this for my older son but never used it.  The math is too easy for K, and the writing is too hard.   At least in my house.   But for a 3/4 year old doing a page here and a page there, it works fine.  I alternate with the Sylvan and the material.  So every day there is something to do, and it doesn't have to be the same.  If we get stuck on one, I pull out the other.   Before you know it, at 2 pages a day, we're done.
Every Day Math Journal Once we're ready for 2nd grade math, I switch over to these. No text book. But I do supplement with flashcards, worksheets, and work books as needed.
Basic Workbook Gifted and Talented material is long on thinking and short on rote practice.  We take a break every few weeks to do some good old fashion arithmetic.   I am using Spectrum math for 1st grade.  You can find many of these for a low price at any bookstore.
Other Home Grown Material When you train for athletics, there are certain days where you do big activities, like a marathon.  For example, I created a worksheet that has 200 addition and subtraction problems.   (This needed a big incentive.)  I'll post some of this stuff after I get through pre-K.


We never had much success before school, although we bought many science kits.   I also replicated at home for my 3 year old, the experiments that my 1st grader was doing in school.  These were fun:
- freeze and boil water
- pour water in a variety of containers
- plant a flower or grass on the window sill
- talk about the weather
- mix unpopped popcorn, rice and cornmeal in a bowl.  Separate with a variety of colanders.
- Vinegar and baking soda in a variety of containers
- Food coloring - mix primary colors to make blue, purple, orange, and brown
For preTest reading, we switch to books by National Geographic or DK - things with lots of names, classification, vocabulary that might be fodder for a test.

The Offseason

The offseason is where average kids become bright and bright kids get way ahead.
ResourceMy Review
The LibraryThe #1 thing to do in the offseason is get as many high quality children's books by award winning authors as you can and read them to your child. Bring a laundry basket to the library each week.
Phonics and introductory readingIt's debatable whether early reading gives you a leg up in test prep.  If you have time, definitely do it because test prep becomes easier if your child can read the directions of the work book.
BrainQuest Workbook by Workman Publishing Company (R/V)For a busy parent, this is my #1 recommendation for the off season.  As the off season draws to a close, Building Thinking skills becomes my #1 recommendation, but Building Thinking Skills requires more parent involvement.
Building Thinking Skills Book series ( consider these a mandatory part of test prep curriculum and the only book I would strongly recommend.  However, you have to work at least 1 level up from where the child is now for them to be effective.  If you are totally organized, you can complete these in the offseason.  Otherwise, it's test prep. (R/V)Eduplace itself is a great free resource. The link I provide here is my math curriculum for my 3 year old. Click on the link with the duck. I am printing each worksheet, 3 per subsection.  Nothing good for test prep.
www.ixl.comThis is a great way for a parent to orient themselves to math curriculum. For gifted children, this means one to two years ahead. I find it easier to work with workbooks than websites for my child. I might try this again for child #2.  Nothing good for test prep.
edhelper.comNot a bad website. If I had an older child in need of additional help outside of school, I might use this more. I don't think the primary target is gifted children. I have a subscription but use it sparingly. Might be very useful to English as a second language families.
Pathway Readers at (R/V)After the Kindergarten/1st Grade level Dick and Jane, we switched to these readers and went about 1/2 way through the second grade level. These cost about $6 a piece.  Of course, this won't help you with test prep.
Timberdoodle.comThis site is notable because it's a store for homechoolers. It's interesting to see what they offer. I think I can do the same for about 10% of what they recommend you spend. (R/V)It is the only "computer" or "video game" my children are allowed to play at home.  Not suitable for test prep.

Gifted and Talented Test Prep Cramming

My review of popular test preparation aids. I am not affiliated in any way with any of the sites or books I recommend here, which is why I don't recommend any of the over priced ones. If there is an (R) next to the item, I recommend it. If there is a (V) next to the item, it's a good value or free. My area of focus is 3 to 6 year old. In Chicago, by this time, the child has already tested for the Gifted and Talented Program (renamed Options Program).   One Barnes and Nobel store near us carries most of these now.

These are listed in the order I used them to get ready for the test.  If you are facing the test next month, go to the bottom of the list.

ResourceMy Review
Building Thinking Skills Book series ( consider these a mandatory part of test prep curriculum and the only book I would strongly recommend.  However, you have to work at least 1 level up from where the child is now for them to be effective.  If you are totally organized, you can complete these in the offseason.  Otherwise, it's test prep.  
Test Preparation by Steck-Vaughn (R/V)Yes, practice tests for 4 year olds. What have we become? My older son had fun doing these, since he likes puzzles, challenges, and figuring things out.  If you see chapter 3, you'll see why these are good for a cognitive skills test.
Iowa Basic Practice TestsThese were challenging and super hard.  Of course, the test is way harder than you think.  I gave these to my child (2 grades up) to teach him the test taking strategies, like guessing and staring blankly at a question that is way to hard.  These aren't bad ways to prep for the OLSAT, for certain types of questions, primarily reading comprehension.  I also like finding material that throws in unexpected questions from out of the blue, like 'what's a compound word.' 
testingmom.comI review more fully in my May 24, 2014 posting. This works well for tests that are easy to prep for with little kids, like the OLSAT/NNAT, but not so much with the COGAT.
COGAT Test PrepMy review of the COGAT books is June 28, 2014.  I recommend 2 books from Smart Cookie Ink for 1 or 2 years ahead of your child's grade.  Any more than that is a waste of time.
OLSAT Test Prep booksI tried these as well.   These are expensive, not hard, and not a good way at all to study for the OLSAT.   They are not bad at evaluating which areas require further study.   These are truly "practice" tests.   I feel like the $10 general test prep books, Flash Kids, and Brain Quest actually taught something, but these did not.


  1. Hello, thank you so much for sharing this material! Was wondering where I can download the series 2 and series 3 GAT books?

  2. I completely forgot that I did these. I'll have to look around and get back to you. I've got a few hundred more questions that I'm trying to figure out how to get on the web. I'm not sure this is going to be easy. In the meantime, I think the Kaplan book is an excellent resource at this level, although it takes longer to work through than the little booklets I created.

  3. Thanks for the resources! Will look forward to the other series in the future!

  4. I'm not sure what test you're taking, but in about a week we sit for the 1st grade, which was my original target 3 years ago. After that, I'll have about 6 months worth of updates to upload.

  5. DO you have the first set in PDF format ? (AGAT)

    1. This is a good idea. The current format is xps, which is Microsoft's version of xps. Since this is a visio document, I'm not sure the pdf version is going to print well, or look ok, but it's worth a try. Give me some time. I'm working on an interactive format that will be ridiculously hard and will be the destination of the rest of the material (I'll need 3 months or more for that).

    2. The pdf versions are now published.

  6. This is such a wonderful blog. Do you do private tutoring?

    1. I offer free parent coaching, usually at social events when the parent really doesn't want any coaching, but sometimes outside of that. I'm like a combination of Susie Orman and Super Nanny. I tutor my own 3 kids about 5 to 10 hours a week depending on what's going on, and that pretty much uses about 125% of my available reserve of patience.

  7. Which book did you mean for COGAT Test prep mentioned above?

  8. Also for Iowa tests too, which book/resource did you mean when you mentioned it above?

  9. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I really enjoyed reading your blog. We are in Houston, Texas, would you mind to recommend a test prep book for Texas?

  10. Thanks for this - a great list. Question on the Building thinking skills book series from critical thinking. They also offer test prep bundles. Do you recommend the bundle or just the thinking skills book?

  11. The test prep bundles are a pretty good list of options for your child, depending on strengths and weaknesses. I did math separately, for example, and made my own manipulative with scissors and craft paper. Also, I checked the list up 1 to 2 grades and not grade level. I liked Can You Find Me and also Mind Benders, which seemed out of reach at first. Mainly I just bought Building Thinking Skills and test prep books. By the way, except for skills assessments, the OLSAT test prep books are useless.

  12. Thanks much for this one stop shop! Can you please share the links to your recommended ITBS prep materials/books/sites? Thanks in advance!

  13. Hello,
    Thank you for this helpful site. My son is in third grade and will be taking the COGAT test in a month. I noticed that your information is recommended for the younger grades. Is there a book(s) that you recommend for a third grader?

  14. It depends on how insane you are. What I would do is get 3 test prep books for 4th grade. Smart Cookie is out, so that leaves 2 from Mercer and 1 one from Bright Kids. Do 2 books nightly and save the 3rd for a practice test. If you've got an hour to spare each night on top of that, work in the grade 4 to 6 book Building Thinking skills and only do the reading and vocab parts. This one might be a bit easy.

    Everything I put in here applies to all grades through grad school, with the exception of battling the whining and crying with a 5 year old. I hope.

  15. Hi my 6 yrs old will be taking the gifted an talented test in January which. Book you recommend I am from NY..


  17. OK, I'm working on this. I'm not sure you're going to like my answer, and I think it's going to deserve it's own post. Fortunately, I don't advertise my blog so it will be our little secret.


    1. My recommendations for NY are in an Oct 9, 2014 post. Also, read a stack of children's books and children's poetry each night from award winning writers and authors.

  19. I am looking to test my kid in Jan for Tag in austin tx could you please recommend some books (honestly i found your blog bit confusing as to where to start the prep )

  20. Sorry about the confusion. 20 minutes a week is barely enough time to refine my content. You have to read my blog to understand the program.

  21. What a great blog!
    I'm the mom of a 3 & 2 Y.O. based in Los Angeles and gavé a couple of questions:
    Is it too early to start prepping and should I do it together?
    I'm originally from France and only speak/read in French at home. Should I switch language?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Wow - these are 2 great questions. I need to know what month your children were born, but in general you can start test prep by following my reading program page especially the read-to section and the letter blocks. Do it in English, and you and your children can learn English together. I wish we spoke French in this house, but as soon as my 10 year old came from a French speaking country, we had to go 100% English for him to catch up. He can relearn French in high school. All of your academic activities have to be done with the parent until the child is about 9, in my opinion.

  22. Many thanks for this feedback. My oldest boy was born on December 18, 2011, and my youngest in May 19, 2013 (life is busy!!!).
    I work full time but try to get a full hour every day for reading activities. The pediatrician had recommended me to stick to French at home since this is my mother tongue, but I now realize could be a serious issue for testing.
    I really appreciate this page and you sharing your experience. Thank you!

  23. I know some gifted kids who get to 1st grade with 2 languages. From what parents tell me, they focus on English until the child is performing well. Then they start the child on language instruction for Polish, Korean, etc. English is the language of school, and the native language is the language of home. After a few years, the child catches up again and is twice as smart as the rest of us. Don't give up French, just hold off until later.

  24. Wow!Thanks for great informative blog 6 YO currently in 1st grade will be taking CogAT n IOWA assessments in jan n feb ...any quick recommends please.

  25. I recently wrote an article on the COGAT test prep books. This is what I recommend. The COGAT is a good test to study for because the cognitive skills it tests for are learnable and immediately applicable to academic work. For the IOWA tests, get ahead in vocab and math. But since you are pressed for time, get a IOWA practice test for 2nd grade and do it with your child. Hopefully, the 1st grade version will be easier.

  26. Hello,

    Wonderful aggregation of knowledge and material on your site! Any luck on finding the series 2 and series 3 GAT books? We weren't aware of how the system works and are late to the game, trying to last minute prep our 4 year old for the test on January 5th.

  27. I never found a finished version. I think it was because we went right into reading for about 6 months at that time. I'd like to point out that my target all along was next year's test, which is completely different that the one you just took. So you have to reread all of my boring material and get ready for next year.