What is the Difference Between the NNAT and the CogAT?

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If you have a child who is applying to a gifted and talented program or an advanced school, you have probably heard of cognitive ability tests. There are many test options out there for gauging a child’s problem-solving and reasoning skills, but the NNAT test and the CogAT test are some of the most popular.

Although the CogAT and the NNAT are both used to determine if a child meets the minimum requirements for joining an advanced program, there are some significant differences between the tests. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the structural differences as well as the content differences. By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of which of these tests will be the best fit for your child.

What is NNAT?What is NNAT?

The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, or the NNAT for short, is one of many tests designed to test a child’s ability to problem-solve, reason, and visualize. These are skills that are often cited as being linked to a student’s academic success, so these are used as indicators of if a child is ready to join a gifted and talented program.

The NNAT stands apart from other tests of its kind because of its lack of language. The NNAT is entirely nonverbal, making it a perfect option for students who struggle with language or don’t speak English as their first language. The whole test is based on a child’s ability to visualize shapes and designs and to complete patterns or answer questions about those shapes and designs.

The NNAT is a short test, taking only 30 minutes to complete. Since the test is so quick, it is a relatively low-stress test for children, especially if they are younger. The test is given all across the country and is a fairly common test, although not entirely as commonly accepted as the CogAT.

The students who take the NNAT have a vast age range. Any student between the ages of 5 and 17 is eligible to take the NNAT. The test is offered at seven different levels, called levels A through G, depending on the age and grade level of the student taking this exam. This allows students of various ages to take and benefit from the NNAT.

What is CogAT?

What is CogAT?

The Cognitive Abilities Test, also known as CogAT, is the most widely accepted cognitive test used across the US to see if students meet the criteria to join a gifted and talented program or an advanced school. Although CogAT is just one of many tests, it is accepted at over 50% of school districts across the country and is offered in both paper and computer versions, making it an excellent option for many students.

The CogAT is divided into three sections called batteries. The verbal battery, as a whole, tests a student’s vocabulary and a general understanding of language. You will find three subsections in the verbal battery: picture analogies, sentence completion, and picture classification.

The following battery is the quantitative battery which also has three subsections. These subsections are number analogies, number puzzles, and number series. The quantitative battery is as close to a proper math section as you will get but focuses on more abstract numeric concepts as opposed to math equations.

The final battery in the CogAT is the nonverbal battery. The nonverbal battery is most similar to the NNAT test and consists of three subsections: figure matrices, paper folding, and figure classification. These sections test a student’s ability to visualize shapes and figures and to expand upon what is seen before them.

The CogAT test takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, depending on how old your child is and, thus, what test level they will be taking. Each battery takes between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the battery and the age level.

How is NNAT Different from CogAT?

How is NNAT Different from CogAT?

When you are thinking about the NNAT vs. CogAT, it is essential to have a good understanding of each test as well as know what will be best for your child. In general, younger children may find the NNAT to be more engaging and less stressful, while older children may find the CogAT to feel more like a traditional test. As long as your school district accepts both tests, the choice is up to you and your child.

Here are some of the major differences between the NNAT and the CogAT:


In terms of the structure of the test, both are multiple-choice, but the length of each test varies greatly. While the NNAT only takes around 30 minutes to complete, the CogAT can take up to three hours to complete. The time difference between the tests can mean a lot to some students.


One of the most significant differences between the CogAT and the NNAT is the emphasis or lack of focus on language. The NNAT test has no language component, making it a perfect option for a child with language difficulties or just learning English. Conversely, the CogAT has a whole battery of verbal skills, making that test much better suited for a child who excels at language skills.

Question style

If both tests are accepted by your child’s school or the program your child is applying to, it is often worth finding some reliable, free sample questions from each test to help you choose which test is best. This simple exercise can give you all the necessary information to pick which test best fits your child’s needs. By offering your child both CogAT sample questions and NNAT sample questions, you will better be able to observe how your child handles each test.

What are the Benefits of NNAT and CogAT?

What are the Benefits of NNAT and CogAT?

Although the term gifted and talented is being phased out in many schools, most schools still have a similar program that operates under a different name. In general, the benefit of taking either the NNAT or the CogAT is that your child will be able to test into a more accelerated program. Allowing your child to pursue interests, such as academics, to their fullest extent is a great way to keep your child engaged.

Taking the NNAT, the CogAT, or any other cognitive tests available in your area is a fantastic way to know where your child’s skillset falls. The tests are also a great way to start introducing your child to taking tests at a young age. Learning how to prepare for and take an extensive test is a skill that must be developed, and taking the NNAT or CogAT can help with that.

NNAT vs. CogAT: Which Test is Better for Your Child?

NNAT vs. CogAT: Which Test is Better for Your Child?

In order to figure out if the NNAT or CogAT is better for your child, there are a few things you need to consider:

What does your school accept?

If your child’s school only accepts one of these tests, then the choice might be made for you! Even if you think the NNAT would be better for your child, for example, if their school only accepts the CogAT, you won’t have a choice. There are other tests that schools might accept, but the NNAT and the CogAT are the most common.

Assuming that your child’s school accepts both the NNAT and the CogAT, the next step is to figure out which test will be best for your child. Make sure you check which tests are accepted first because it wouldn’t be good if you picked one test only to find out that your child’s school won’t accept that test.

How are your child’s language skills?

Does your child excel at language, or do they struggle? This might be a good time to ask your child’s current teacher how they feel your child compares to their peers. There are many ways that a child can excel at language, so don’t be concerned if your child doesn’t have a massive vocabulary.

If your child does well with language skills, you may want to consider the CogAT, as this test has a verbal or language-based section. If you or your child’s teacher feel that language is not your child’s strong suit or your child is just learning English, the NNAT might be a better fit for your child.

How long can your child focus?

Understanding how long your child can focus is a good thing to consider when choosing between the NNAT and the CogAT. Since the NNAT is only 30 minutes, the NNAT is often better for students who struggle to focus or younger students since the NNAT can often feel more like a series of puzzles than a test.

If your child has good focus or is older and may be more used to focusing for longer, the CogAT might be a good choice for your child. The CogAT is an excellent option for older students because they can handle the extended test better and have often developed their language skills more.

How Do You Prepare for Both Tests?

How Do You Prepare for Both Tests?

Preparing for either the NNAT or the CogAT will take time. It is vital to give your child plenty of time to prepare and to spread the preparation evenly over that time. This will give your child the best chance of processing the information and creating the new connections and pathways that their brain needs to retain the information. Here are our top tips on how to complete your CogAT and NNAT test preparation:

Invest in good practice questions and practice tests

Investing in good quality and reliable practice questions and tests is a great place to start when thinking about how to prepare for either test. By taking the time to go through the practice materials, you will begin to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that the test asks. This will help you better structure the rest of your studying.

Find games and puzzles to help your child study

Once you understand how the test questions are structured, you can start to think about games or puzzles that might be similar to those questions. For example, doing jigsaw puzzles is a great way to help children improve their ability to visualize things, so adding puzzles into your family’s routine might be a fun way to help your child.

This is especially important if you have a younger child since a young child is less likely to understand how to study or why they should study. Finding fun ways to help them study without making it feel like studying is a great option. You could go on a walk and see who can find the most patterns. Simple games and activities like this can help get your child’s brain used to seeing patterns and shapes and the relationships between things.

Study every day

It might sound like overkill to study every day, especially with a young child, but it is essential that you get your child to study or practice in some capacity every day. The most effective study method is to study for a short amount of time every day for a few weeks.

If you have an older child, this might look like making a study guide and going through practice questions every day. If you have a younger child, this might look like a few small puzzles or games every day. Just something to help your child continue developing their skills over time. By studying for a little bit every day, the whole process is going to feel a lot less overwhelming, both for you and your child.

Wrapping Things Up: What is the Difference Between NNAT and CogAT?

Overall, both the NNAT and the CogAT are cognitive abilities tests, but the structure and content of the tests are remarkably different from one another. Finding the test that works best for your child is key to their success on the test. Make sure you take your time and do your research to find out which tests will be accepted and which test will work best for your child.

Once you have your test picked out, start by making a study schedule. With the tips and tricks we’ve provided, you should have the tools you need to help your child effectively study for either the NNAT or the CogAT. Take your time and remember that this is more than likely your child’s first significant test. With all this information, you and your child should be well on your way to crushing the NNAT or the CogAT!

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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.

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