The Year 7 CATs Test: Everything Parents Need to Know

Haven’t heard of Year 7 CATs before?

If so, you’re not alone.

As a parent of a child who’s just made the transition to secondary school, no doubt you’ll already be familiar with exams like the SATs and 11 Plus. And you might have thought exams were done and dusted, at least for a little while…

Well, there’s one more hurdle to cross. Most schools arrange Year 7 CATs for the start of the academic year.

To help you understand these important assessments, here’s your comprehensive guide. We’ll address common questions and concerns, such as how to help your child prepare, what to expect in the test and how to understand their score. We’ll also explore the content of Year 7 CATs and what constitutes a “good” result.

So whether you’re a parent preparing your child, or seeking guidance on interpreting scores and supporting their ongoing development, we’re here to empower you with the information you need to navigate Year 7 CATs with confidence.

What are Year 7 CATs tests?

CATs (or Cognitive Abilities Tests) are taken by students in Year 7. These tests measure pupils’ abilities across various areas, including verbal, non-verbal and quantitative reasoning. Unlike traditional exams that assess knowledge, CATs evaluate potential to learn and solve problems, providing valuable insights into academic strengths and areas for development.

Year 7 CATs feature questions that assess a student’s ability to recognise patterns, solve puzzles and understand written instructions. They focus on understanding a student’s ability to think critically, solve problems and adapt to new challenges – a reflection of innate cognitive abilities rather than knowledge of specific subjects. 

By testing key cognitive abilities, CATs help schools identify students’ learning preferences, adapt teaching methods and provide targeted support.

What’s more, schools use CATs to compare one group of students to another, assessing the “quality” and “potential” of each year group. Schools also reference CAT results with Ofsted, demonstrating how they add value and measure progress.

Can I help my child for Year 7 CATs?

Although CATs are designed to assess cognitive abilities rather than knowledge, parents can still help children prepare for these tests. 

While preparation for CATs isn’t essential, parents can support their child’s cognitive development and familiarity with the test format. For instance, you can enjoy activities promoting critical thinking, problem-solving and reasoning skills – such as reading, solving puzzles, playing strategic games and family discussions stimulating intellectual curiosity.

For children who’ve previously taken verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning tests (usually as part of the 11 Plus), much of the content in Year 7 CATs will be familiar. However, for those who haven’t had this exposure, a little practice can quickly improve performance.

So, yes, you can help. But the question then arises: should parents help children prepare for CAT tests? 

While schools and testing bodies prefer “clean” data without parental assistance, the reality is many children receive preparation, particularly those at Grammar Schools. Despite this, schools still accept the results. It’s a complex issue, with some parents choosing to offer familiarisation while others opt against it.

What is in the Year 7 CAT test?

The Year 7 CAT test is typically 1.5 hours long and administered on computers without much warning to the students. 

You’ll be pleased (and perhaps surprised!) to hear that many children find the test fun due to its puzzle format and lack of pressure. 

The test assesses four main areas: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning and quantitative reasoning. Each section contains different question types aimed at challenging students at varying levels of complexity. 

The four topics include:

Verbal Reasoning

  • Evaluates skills in understanding and manipulating language, encompassing vocabulary, comprehension and verbal analogies.
  • Questions may include tasks like classifying words, spotting synonyms or identifying relationships between words.

Non-verbal Reasoning

  • Assesses abilities to identify patterns, solve spatial problems and deduce logical relationships without relying on language.
  • Questions might involve classifying visual figures or completing patterns.

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Tests numerical problem-solving skills, covering areas such as basic arithmetic, logical reasoning and mathematical analysis.
  • Questions could include tasks like finding analogies between numbers or identifying patterns in numerical sequences.

Spatial Reasoning

  • Focuses on students’ capability to visualise and manipulate shapes in their mind’s eye.
  • Tasks might involve analysing geometric figures or recognising spatial relationships between objects.

While official past papers aren’t available, introducing children to similar question formats through resources like Bond 11+ Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning books can help your child understand what’s involved.

What do Year 7 CAT results mean?

Year 7 CAT results offer valuable insights into a child’s current cognitive strengths. They serve as a roadmap for parents and schools to tailor teaching and provide targeted support where necessary.

For instance, if a student excels in verbal reasoning but struggles with quantitative tasks, you could focus on interactive learning activities at home. Activities such as maths games, flashcards or practical applications like cooking or budgeting can make numerical problems more engaging and accessible.

Similarly, if a student shows proficiency in non-verbal tasks but finds spatial reasoning challenging, targeted exercises can address this gap. Activities like building with blocks, assembling puzzles or fun learning apps can strengthen spatial reasoning skills.

Ultimately, CAT results provide a nuanced understanding of your child’s learning profile, enabling personalised support to enhance their education.

What is a good CAT score in Year 7?

A “good” Year 7 CAT score varies for each child depending on their academic journey. 

CAT scores are usually reported as “standard age scores” (SAS), comparing how well a student does against their peers.

If your child’s CAT score falls within or above the average range (around 100), that’s considered pretty good. It means they’re performing at a level on par with others their age. 

Scores between 89 and 111 are “average”, with 100 being the expected score for their age group. Anything 112 and above is “above average”, while anything 88 and below is “below average”. 

When it comes to spotting giftedness, a score of 120-129 in multiple areas identifies a child as highly talented. If they score 130 or more, that’s a sign of outstanding intellectual ability.

But remember, it’s crucial to look at CAT scores in context. Consider how your child is doing in class, what their teachers say, and their overall progress academically. CAT tests aren’t about passing or failing; they’re about understanding your child’s abilities. 

So really, the only “good” score is one that truly reflects what your child can do.

Do parents get Year 7 CATs results?

Yes, parents normally receive their child’s Year 7 CAT test results, either directly from class teachers or in a formal report sent home. 

These reports often break down the scores into standard age scores (SAS) for each cognitive domain, giving parents a clear picture of their child’s strengths and areas where they need more support.

Many schools also offer parents the chance to chat about these results with teachers. It’s a great opportunity to figure out how to give your child the best support possible – both at home and at school.

Do all secondary schools do CATs?

Not all secondary schools do Year 7 CATs. They’re not compulsory, so some do, some don’t.

If you’re unsure whether your child’s school administers CATs (or whether they use them as part of decisions surrounding sets), just ask.

Schools using CATs will be happy to provide information about their purpose, format and administration, as well as how they use results to inform and improve learning.

What if my child does badly in Year 7 CATs?

If your child’s CAT results show areas of weakness or scores that are lower than expected, it’s important to keep things in perspective. 

These scores are just one part of the puzzle when it comes to understanding your child’s academic abilities and potential. See them as a starting point for identifying where your child might benefit from a bit of extra support or intervention.

Remind your child that test scores don’t define their worth or limit their potential for success. By working together with teachers, specialist study skills tutors and your child, you can tackle challenges head-on, build their confidence and help them reach their academic goals.

Do you need help preparing for Year 7 CATs?

If your child is getting ready for Year 7 CATs, our expert academic coaches can help. With bespoke coaching and mentoring services, we provide your child with the exact support they need to reach their academic potential. Get in touch today to find out more.