How to Study for the NNAT Test: 5 Tips and Tricks

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Is your child applying to a gifted and talented program or seeking admission to an advanced or selective school? If so, you might be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of testing options, especially for young children. In this article, we’ll discuss the NNAT, or the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, as a means to measure a child’s ability to reason and solve problems.

Regardless of if your child is 5 or 17, we’ve got some tips for you! We’ll be discussing everything from the general structure of the test to how it compares to other similar tests. We’ll also be offering you some of our favorite tips and tricks to help your student crush the NNAT.

What is the NNAT Test?What is the NNAT Test?

The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, commonly called the NNAT, is one of a number of tests that are used to test children’s reasoning and problem-solving ability. This test is often used as an entrance test to decide if a student is a good fit for a gifted and talented program or an advanced school.

The NNAT test is given to children ages 5 through 17 and takes 30 minutes to complete. It is not quite as commonly accepted as tests like the CogAt, but it is still quite common across the US. Which tests are offered and accepted by your school or program will vary depending on where you live, so make sure you check what your program accepts before signing your child up for any test.

Since the NNAT is nonverbal, it is a great mediator for students who might not use English as their first language or for students who might struggle with language skills in general. The test is mainly based on visualization, puzzles, and patterns, making it an excellent test for students who speak any language.

What is the Format of the NNAT Test?

What is the Format of the NNAT Test?

The NNAT3 test, the most recent publication, consists of questions spread out across four different categories. The categories are all given over a total of 30 minutes, making the NNAT a much less daunting test than other comparable tests, many of which take over 2 hours to complete. Although a few hours might seem normal to an adult for a large test, focusing for over 2 hours can be a massive challenge for many students who might otherwise excel.

The categories of the NNAT are:

Pattern Recognition

In the pattern recognition portion of the test, children will be shown a visual pattern composed of shapes and other simple designs. They will then be asked what is missing or to complete the pattern.


During the analogy section of the NNAT, children will be shown geometric shapes and asked about the relationships between the shapes. Again, this section is all about shapes and not about words.

Serial Reasoning

The serial reasoning portion of the test will have children recognize sequences. Similar to the previous two sections of the NNAT, these sequences will be shape or design-based, not word-based.

Spatial Visualization

The spatial visualization section can be challenging for some students, while others find it a breeze. The section will ask students to combine shapes in their heads and pick the picture that represents the final product. Think of this as folding a paper into quarters, punching a few holes, and then asking a child what that paper would look like unfolding.

Is the NNAT Difficult?

Is the NNAT Difficult?

The NNAT is made to test their ability to problem solve and think. The NNAT is not designed to be difficult in the sense that a child would need immense amounts of knowledge to pass the test. The test is not structured similarly to the SAT or ACT, where the test taker requires a good understanding of the knowledge they have learned through school or life.

That being said, the NNAT is designed to help determine which students will be a good fit for advanced, accelerated, or gifted programs. Since this test aims to find those above average, the average student will only do ok on the NNAT. Still, this test doesn’t meet any of the traditional criteria to be considered difficult, so this is a tricky question to answer.

5 Ways to Study for the NNAT Test

5 Ways to Study for the NNAT Test

Understanding how to study for the NNAT test can be challenging, but there are so many options out there that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Of course, you could find traditional NNAT study guides or NNAT practice tests, both of which we will discuss, but there are some more exciting ways to help your child prepare for the NNAT, especially if they are younger.

Here are our top tips on how to prepare for the NNAT test:

Family puzzle time!

Puzzles are a great way to help your brain improve its visualization ability. Maybe your family loves to do jigsaw puzzles, or maybe puzzle books are more your style. Whatever works for your family, incorporating puzzles into your daily or weekly life is not only great for the whole family’s mental health, but it will also help your child prepare for the NNAT without making them feel like they’re studying all the time.

Using puzzles to help improve focus and visualization is especially great in young children. Getting a young child to sit down and go through practice questions can be challenging, but if you turn studying into something fun, you’ll see better results from your child, and they will be more willing to study.

Make physical practice problems to play with

Making a physical representation of the visualization problems that your child might see on the NNAT can be a great way to help introduce the concept of visualization to your young child. This is especially great for the spatial visualization section. This lets your child physically explore the question and start to see it more clearly in their brain. Try finding some good practice questions and see if you can make them out of paper.

An excellent example of this would be taking a piece of paper and folding it into quarters or triangles. Once the paper is folded, try cutting out a circle and a square or any combination of shapes from the folded paper. Make sure you go through all the layers! Have your child guess what the paper will look like unfolded, and then let them play with it to see if they were right.

Practice every day in daily life

A considerable part of the NNAT is reliant on a child’s ability to see and interpret patterns. Patterns are something that is present everywhere in life, so this is a super easy part of the test to practice for. Help your child find patterns everywhere you go in daily life. This will make the test more approachable to them since it is testing something that they are used to doing.

Finding ways like this to incorporate the test principles into your daily life without making it feel like studying is a great way to get little kids to study. You could go on a pattern hunt around your neighborhood or house to get your little one excited without making them feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Utilize a good practice test

We know we just talked about all the options besides a practice test, but practice tests are a great resource. If you have a slightly older child, investing in good practice tests or fun practice questions might be the best way for them to study. Just because a child is younger, though, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t introduce them to practice tests.

Practice tests do so much more than just present your child with practice questions. They also allow your child to get accustomed to the structure and pacing of the test. That way, on the day of the test, they will know what to expect and be mentally prepared for what they will see when they sit down.

Study a little every day for many days

It is important to remember that your brain is a muscle and, just like any other muscle, you don’t want to overwork it all at once. Brains need plenty of time to absorb new material and form those new neurological connections in order for the new information to really stick. Just like other muscles, they also need plenty of food and rest, so taking care of your body is just as important as it is when playing a sport.

If you study for a small amount of time every day for a few weeks, you will be more than ready for the NNAT. Getting in the habit of studying a little every day for a while is also a great way to help instill productive and healthy study habits in your child at an early age.

What is the Difference Between NNAT and CogAt?

What is the Difference Between NNAT and CogAt?

There are several tests out there that gifted and talented programs use as admissions tests, but the CogAT and the NNAT are some of the most common. The main difference between these tests, other than the length and basic structure, is the verbal aspects of the tests.

The NNAT is a great testing option for children who struggle with language since the whole test is shape and design-based, not vocab based. On the other hand, the CogAT has a section called the Verbal Battery and a specific vocabulary section. The CogAT is a great test, but the NNAT might be a better fit for students who struggle more with language.

It is also worth noting that neither test is an IQ test. One of the most common questions is, “Is the NNAT an IQ test?”. The answer for both the NNAT and the CogAT is no. Both tests test a child’s ability to problem-solve and reason through challenges, while an IQ test is designed to test human intelligence, which is different.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Study for the NNAT Test?

Studying for the NNAT doesn’t have to be stressful! We hope that through this article, we’ve cleared up any questions about the test itself and provided you with some fun and engaging ways to help your child prepare for their NNAT. Remember that the NNAT is designed to test your child’s problem-solving ability, so by allowing them opportunities to develop this skill through puzzles and daily engagement, you are helping them.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More