CAT4 data: A quick guide to everything you need to know

New to middle leadership in an international context? Understanding CAT4 data could be critical for your new role

Emma Sanderson

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In schools around the world, GL Assessment data is frequently gathered and analysed to provide insight into a child’s ability, their academic potential and any potential barriers to learning.

Through CAT4s (cognitive ability tests), among other assessments, a comprehensive personalised report can be produced for each student to give a holistic view of their learning profile.

However, at times, the amount of data produced can feel overwhelming for teachers, particularly for those new to middle management in international schools, where CAT4 data can often be used to provide an insight into a child’s capabilities in the absence of primary school references or SATs data.

So, if you're not that familiar with CAT4 data, here is a breakdown of the key terms and how this data can be used to inform your teaching, interventions and curriculum planning.

What are the CAT4 tests?

CAT4 tests are assessments in four different batteries:

Verbal reasoning – “thinking with words”. This is linked to concepts framed in words: it may involve working out how words in a group are related or the relationships between words. This result is often used as a baseline of a child’s potential in essay-writing subjects like English and history.

Non-verbal reasoning – “thinking with shapes”. This doesn’t involve reading but measures a child’s ability to solve problems using shapes or patterns and is most similar to a typical IQ test.

Quantitative reasoning – “thinking with numbers”. This is the numerical equivalent of verbal reasoning and involves working out the relationship between numbers in a sequence. This result will generally be compared against a school’s internal maths assessment data.

Spatial ability – “thinking with shapes and space”. This involves the manipulation of shapes to demonstrate an understanding of the spatial relationship between images and is often linked to ability in Stem subjects.

What information do we get from CAT4 data?

For each battery, the following information is given after students have sat the tests:

Number of questions attempted. As a general rule, the data produced will be more reliable when all the questions have been attempted.

This column could be worth looking at to see if any student missed a large proportion of questions, thus skewing their results.

Standard Age Score. This gives a score to compare the results of students who were born in the same calendar month. Students who score exactly as expected for their age group would be given a score of 100 (scores between 89 – 111 are considered to be within the "average" bracket).

Scores of 112 and above are deemed above average and scores of 88 and below would be considered below average. SAS scores will range from 69 to 141.

Stanines. This mark shows how one student’s results compare with other students of the same age. Stanine scores range from 1 to 9. Stanines 1-3 are considered to be below-average results, stanines 4-6 are considered average results and stanines 7-9 are deemed to be above average.

National Percentile Ranking. This is measured against a representative sample in the UK (worth noting for international teachers). It shows where a child’s raw score falls in comparison to students of the same age.

For example, an NPR of 30 reveals that a student scored higher than 30 per cent of students who took the test, revealing that 70 per cent of students scored higher than them. This score allows for comparison against a bigger sample rather than simply comparing in one class alone.

How to interpret the data

Considering the data from all four CAT4 batteries for each student can prove to be insightful.

It may help you to personalise a student’s learning experience, particularly if you spot a discrepancy between a child’s ability as identified by CAT4 results compared with their current achievement in lessons.

A high verbal bias occurs when a student has a higher verbal reasoning SAS than their spatial SAS results. This could suggest a student feels more confident learning through writing or discussions and may not find STEM subjects to be their strength.

A high spatial bias suggests the opposite – this student may find learning through diagrams and charts more accessible than writing-based tasks. The implications for teaching and learning may be to compare this against the child’s reading age in order to be able to fully support the student.

A verbal deficit is the result of a high non-verbal reasoning SAS compared to a low verbal reasoning SAS. Discovering that a student has a verbal deficit could indicate that they may have difficulties in reading English – possibly as a result of dyslexia or having English as an additional language.

Stanine scores may be used to determine where students require either extra support or extra challenge. Students achieving a stanine 1 or 2 in any of the CAT4 batteries could imply a learning need of the child and may require specific intervention – your knowledge of the student and your teacher judgement will aid you in interpreting the results.

Additionally, a stanine of 8 or 9 could indicate that the student is able, gifted or talented in a certain aspect of learning and is worth comparing against class work and internal data for a comprehensive judgement on this.

While this data can be important, it cannot be used independently of class assessments and your professional judgement.

Only through a personal understanding of students as individuals can CAT4 data be fully interpreted.

Emma Sanderson is head of English at Hartland International School in Dubai and has taught internationally for six years. She tweets @emmanaomi

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