Top 10 List for Gifted and Talented Test Preparation

Here is my prescription for GAT success.  All of this should be done from birth, but most of us get our acts together when the child is age 3 or 4 or later.

1.  Talk A Lot
A gifted test is 75% vocabulary, even the quantitative and spacial sections.   A child in a home full of lively discussion will have a bigger vocabulary.  If you're not a talker, and your child is not a talker, work through your math and test prep verbally.  I hate to say this, being a math guy, but reading is more important to education.
2.   Start By Acting Like A GAT Parent
Think about families you know with really bright kids.  Image a family of ridiculously bright and successful children, and act like that.  Remove TV's, hide screens, stop looking at your email before the kids are asleep, cancel cable, buy a little electric piano, get lots of art supplies.  If it takes wearing a tweed jacket with patches and saying things like "indubitably" with one eyebrow raised, well, get with the program. 
3.  Read As Much As Possible As Early As Possible 
The parent should read to the child 30 to 60 minutes each day from birth through 3rd or 4th grade, and that's just the Read-To time. Check out a laundry basket of books on all subjects each week from the library.  Look up famous children's illustrators on the web and borrow their books from the library. Don't forget children's poetry. Find a good phonics course, preferably one that has a gifted program in mind.
4.  Stop Answering Questions
The gifted and talented test is measuring thinking ability, not knowledge.  The test does not require that the child that the child knows anything*, but can think through problems. If you tell your children stuff a lot, they know stuff.  If you make them answer their own questions and think through things, then they learn to think, and by the way thinkers end up knowing a lot more because know how to learn.
*The asterisk is there because a child who has a broad vocabulary (don't forget math terms) is going to have an advantage on gifted and talented tests. To resolve the contradiction between not telling and lively discussion, I follow the rule of no telling during math, but during reading I generally talk, tell, demonstrated, etc. in the context of discussions.
5.   Get A Stack of Material
Your starting point is a stack of workbooks that your child can do.  It's a lot easier to start with 15 minutes a day at age 3 (you'll be lucky to get 15 good minutes at this age), but every child should have some math work, a vocabulary book and another subject standing by. Look beyond school curriculum.  This used to be my number one rule under the heading of "Get in the game".
5b.   Be prepared To Backtrack
I've never met children who start with the full range of skills needed to work at a reasonable level.  A reasonable level to teach thinking is a level where the child will be totally stuck.  If you are working on advanced math and your child gets to an unknown and insurmountable concept, take a break for a few weeks to cover the concept.  If your child is struggling with figure matrices, spend a few weeks just looking at the top row.
6.  Be Tough And Nice At the Same Time
When you start using the right level test prep material, occasionally backtracking, your child might start out totally baffled because he has never been asked to think before, and you'll get "I can't do this", crying and whining.  I expect about 6 weeks of this for most children.  Many older kids don't have the tools to understand a question or a diagram.
On the mean side, if the child doesn't understand the question, he has to read it again, and again, and again one word at a time.  If it's a diagram, the child has to explain it in detail. I've answered "I don't understand this" with "Then explain it to me" at least 200 times. 
On the nice side, of course they don't get it.  It's too hard.  They'll get the wrong answer 5 times, and you'll probably have to backtrack. Eventually both parent and child will learn that it's not punishment to think through a hard problem for 20 minutes, as opposed to doing 20 uselessly easy problems in that same time, and thus both will learn the secret of GAT.  Keep a bag of skittles or an easy workbook standing by for bad days.
Some day when I have time I'm going to publish the top 10 list for teaching grit and it will look a lot like this list, starting with #5.
7.  Create The Word Board
Start posting new words on the refrigerator or a poster board with "Word Board" at the top, and drag your child in front of it once or twice a week to see if any words can come down.  It's a good way to catch up in vocabulary and school subjects like science.  It's a good way to teach public speaking.  It's good for memory. 
When you come across related words, feel free to add them.
Having you child announce the definition is just the start.  Think of the child as the CEO of Learning Inc., and you're a tough Board of Directors.  If the child knows the definition of a word, ask for synonyms, kind of, part of, used by, used while and other types of analogies and classifications, and throw in history, etymology, and Greek or Latin roots while you're at it.  
This is not an alternative to flash cards or practice books. This is a whole different lifestyle choice.
 8.  Set Your Expectations At Zero*
On any given day, you have no idea how your child is going to perform.  There are numerous cognitive skills at work, interacting with grit and working memory, which vary each day as well depending on a lot of factors like sleep, exhaustion, and health.  You have no ability to measure any of this accurately.  If your child finds out that he is not meeting your expectations, a bad situation is going to get worse.
*Does not apply to behaving, turning in homework, being nice to siblings, chores, practicing the instrument, putting shoes on.  Not available in all parent moods.  Other terms and conditions apply.
9.   Start Out Slowly
In almost every case, the material I chose for the main curriculum takes about 2 or 3 weeks to get through the first lesson.  When I said "workbooks your child can do" in item #5 above, I meant "workbooks your child can't do".  No one learns anything with material they already know.  A grade level child might spend 20 minutes on 2 pages, but a child 2 years behind is going to take 45 minutes for a single page and get most of it wrong.   The pace quickens over the succeeding months, almost magically. The child is stuck doing this hard material, and they learn to do it, because they have no choice.  Kids tend to get better with whatever they work at on a daily basis and eventually the pace quickens on its own.  
10.   Don't Forget The Second Child
I've noticed some parents appear to burn out after lavishing so much attention on the first child, and 95% of children in GAT programs are the oldest child.  It should be easier with the younger ones, even though they get at most 50% of the attention that their older sibling enjoyed, but they get a parent who has more experience.

22 comments:

  1. Hi, my daughter is in 2nd grade. Can you please advise me for ITBS the whole preparation should be done for grade 3 or there will be a mixed portion of Maths and English from 2nd and 3rd grade. TIA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I've found with standardized tests is that the child usually needs to be about a year ahead in math to get above a 90%. I think this is true for the verbal section as well. If I were you (and I was at one point), I would just jump in with 3rd grade math. Hopefully, you are following the rest of my recommendations.

      Delete
  2. Hi, My twin boys who are in 1st grade have a CogAT scheduled in 2 days! I like many parents didnt think of preparing them as many parents, especially whose kids are in gifted programs tell me, they are not supposed to be prepared! If they are gifted, they will get in!! But I agree after reading quite a few of your blog posts that, it may be different for people coming from different countries like in our case. I am panicking now since I never prepared my boys and their test is now in 2 days. What can I do at this point? Do you recommend Mercer CogAT test prep for Grade 1 or Practice Test 1 for the CogAT - Form 7 - Grade 1 (Level 7)? Any pointers and help would be helpful, even if it is an online resource that I could pay for and get them some practice!!! Please :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The COGAT measures academic skills and cognitive skills that are all learned. All of the parents in the program who said they didn't prepare their children lied. Definately do a practice test. I have recommendations for what you would do in the year leading up to the test, but at this point, you need a practice test.

      Delete
    2. I feel ridiculous for listening to these parents...!! Where can I find a practice test at this point? I went on Amazon and they don't have this stuff in stock! I went to a couple bookshops and they are out too! Any place that I could find it. Really appreciate your help on this!!!

      Delete
  3. Hi

    With your help and a LOT of practice, my little one got through the program in Grade 1. However, my older one who prepared more is yet to get in despite being in grade 3. I am getting her to test again for Grade 4. Now, smart cookie does not seem to have any prep books for grade 4 or 5. I am at my wits' end. My older one rushes through work. That is the only problem. I can tell she will get through if she slowed down. So, I just need one book where I am going to have him practice how to slow down. He has been doing this GAT thing for 3 years now and I do not believe it is as much the technique as it is the speed or too much of it. My little one is a slow poke in everything and I can see how he got through easily. Any suggestions for ONE good test prep book. I amazon-ed your Test prep book but it wont return any relevant result. Please help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have an older one like yours and a younger one like yours, judging from your other comments. Either that or there are 4 identical people who just read a bunch of posts in my blog. Test Prep Math (try searching amazon for Test Prep Math COGAT) was written to fix this problem, as well as in the 2nd section there are 120 more problems that are twice as hard as the test. When you find it on Amazon, you can peak inside to read the introduction. I think the peak inside presents one sample easy problem to lull people into buying the book, even though most problems are so long and convoluted to no child will ever be confident that they got the right answer without checking again. There is no material on the market at this age, which is why I wrote Test Prep Math. By the way, my kids made me remove my lame problems. You'll see what I did on another comment.

      Delete
    2. You should send me an email. I want more details about their curriculum.

      Delete
  4. Hi,
    Few days ago one of my colleague mentioned that his son is going attend COGAT test. That was the first time I heard about COGAT and while I was browsing for it, came across your site. My kids are currently pre-k and 3rd graders.
    I have not enrolled them for COGAT test yet, however, would like to know best way for preparing for it.
    Could you please share some of the tips that would help them?
    Also, so many books/material online ….which one shld I buy/use? Little confused…
    Looking forward for your tips and advice.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt the same way when I started.

      See the curriculum page in the top right. You might find some other pages that help. The test date is the key in terms of what you do. There's not much for the 3rd graders. I would recommend Test Prep Math Level 2 only if you have 4 months to prepare. It builds some really powerful skills, but it takes about 3 months and then you would need another month to prepare for the test format.

      The key to the Pre-K kid is age, test, and reading level.

      I've been thinking about writing The 8 Week Crash Course, and you just provided the excuse. Give me a few days.

      Delete
    2. OK, I created a page on the right of my blog for you to give you an idea of what is important, after chapter 3 of my on going book. There is plenty of material for pre-k. The 3rd grader is more of a concern. I recommend BTS grades 4-6, a reading comp book for grade 4 (continental press), and of course a practice test. You can find this all on the blog. I've got harsher measures for grade 3, but I would need to interview you first to see if you're ready.

      Delete
  5. Hello,
    My child will be taking a 3rd grade OlSAT for 4th grade entry GATE program. Would you please direct us to some prep materials? Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please see the link Gifted and Talented Test Prep Curriculum on the top right of this blog and scroll down past early ages until you get to the section on 3rd and 4th grade. Most of this is for the COGAT. I consider the OLSAT an easier version of the COGAT, but I've always thought of the OLSAT as more verbal.

      Delete
    2. I see. I did visit that page and was not sure which materials would be best for the OLSAT specifically. Knowing the OLSAT is more verbal is helpful. I appreciate your quick response and thank for this blog for clueless parents (like me!).

      Delete
  6. By the time I found your blog , my daughter's are 6 and 4 and I did my education in India. I am little scared reading all this.. Is there a program that can prepare my kid for English and vocabulary.. because my English is not that good to teach some one. Please let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Join the club of people who found out late, including me. If your 4 year old is at the very beginning of English, Pre-K Phonics and Conceptual Vocabulary is great. You can even send questions to the author. For the older one, get Vocabulary Workshop and for both kids, take a large bag to the library a few times a week and fill it with picture/board books. You can learn together. Look at my videos on the Word Board in the Verbal Series on my youtube channel to see what the word board is all about, or read about it on one of the links on the left.

      Delete
  7. My child is in 4th now and will be taking test next summer (june 2018), can you please suggest how to prepare and which books?
    is testprep a gud website for prep?


    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've gotten mixed reviews for testprep. Seems like an autonomous offsshore website run by a computer. I like their questions, but it's expensive. In the curriculum link above , I need to add some more material for the later ages, because it's said in earlier sections and not repeated. Get a decent vocabulary book like Wordly Wise or Vocabulary Workshop, Reading comp from Continental press 5th grade (assuming your kid is a reader), BTS grades 4-6, and if your kid is below 75% in quant or nonverbal, do test prep math level 3 with no drawing or writing down of equations, just the answer. The word problems are the best part, but they're not hard for a bright 4th grader until question 46 which makes my brain hurt, but the non-verbal section and the quant section are about twice as hard as the test. Unlike testprep.com, you know where to find the author. By December, you should go through a practice test at grade level, and again in May. The BTS non-verbal section isn't really hard, but the verbal half is decent. All of this except for the reading comp should go quickly. I assume your child attends school which limits the amount of time available for daily work.

      Delete
  8. Hello. My son is moving to first grade in couple months and his teacher asked me to make him appear for Gifted test in first grade as she thought he is good. How can I groom my kid for the exam? I am looking for books that I should use. I have approximately 6 months to prepare. Thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry.. i found the answer on your blog. Thanks.

      Delete
  9. Hi,
    My daughter starts 2nd grade at a public school in downtown manhattan. She scored a 50% on the test in Pre-K and ever since then we have been discouraged and haven't practiced / prepared nor taken the test. This year I would like to give it a shot but don't know where to begin. She is at reading level for her grade and is a year ahead in math. Can you please advise on where and how to begin with preparing for the test? What materials to get? How many hours a week to spend preparing? a sample study plan? Is there a checklist of what she should know for the test? She has 6 months (until January)to take it I believe.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You need to begin at the beginning of this blog. You should be reading for at least 2 hours a day, 30 minutes of thinking math a day, like Test Prep Math, an hour of vocab a week, and 30 minute of test prep. For a solid year. The kids coming into the gifted program may exceed this on their own just out of interest. You have a shot, but there is a big gap in terms of how you spend your time, what you spend it on, and what the kids in the program do. That's where we started. You may find that you're ready in 3 months, but keep it up after that to make it permanent. Keep me posted.

      Delete