Gifted & Talented Resources

Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Explained
Every second grade child throughout Jeffco takes the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in the fall as a screening tool to assist in the identification of gifted potential. The CogAT is a 90-minute assessment that is comprised of three subsections:

  1. Verbal - reasoning and vocabulary
  2. Quantitative - relational and number concepts
  3. Nonverbal - understading and spatial relationship

The Cognitive Abilities Test appraises the level and pattern of cognitive development of students in grades K-12. The development of these abilities, which starts at birth and continues through early adulthood, is influenced by experiences both in and out of school. An individual’s score on the CogAT primarily reflects his or her ability to discover relationships and to demonstrate flexibility in thinking at this particular stage in their cognitive development. To learn more about your child’s individual Student Ability Profile go to Simply click on the interactive profile Interpretation system button and select the profile from your child’s report.

The two scores that are generally reported on the Cognitive Abilities Test are: 

Differences in percentile scores can lead to over interpretation of small differences in scores between individual students or among scores for the same student. For example, there will be no observable differences in the classroom between a student who has a Percentile Rank of 45 and one with a Percentile Rank of 55. They would both exhibit average levels of development in a particular area. On the other hand, you would see observable differences in the classroom for students with more than one stanine difference in their scores. Three different students with Stanines of 9, 6, and 4 will show clear differences in the ways they approach learning and problem solving tasks, in the ways they interact with different instructional strategies and learning environments, in the rate in which they learn, and in the amounts and kinds of help they need to learn successfully.

Stanine and Percentile Rank. Although related, each has subtle differences in their interpretation. A Percentile Rank is a score ranging from 1 to 99 that indicates what percentage of grade-mates or age- mates a child out performed on a particular sub-test. A student scoring at the 40th percentile means they have scored better than 40% of grade level students who initially took the test nationwide. A percentile can also be found when comparing ages of children. Stanine scores range from a low of I to a high of 9. Stanines are groupings of percentile ranks. A higher stanine equates with a higher level of cognitive abilities development. A comparison of Stanines and Percentile Ranks are summarized in the table below:

Table showing Gifted and Talented Stanine Percentile and Rank

As you analyze your child’s data, and if there is one or more areas of strength in the 9
th stanine, I encourage you to talk your child’s teacher to begin the body of evidence data collection process to assist in content specific programming, which includes your input in the form of a Parent Perception document. It is important to note that no educational decisions are made based on a single data point – the CogAT is one piece of data that is incorporated into your child’s body of evidence. As we continue to gather a body of evidence around an area of academic strength, an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) may be created. If an ALP is generated based on this data collection process, you will be informed by your child’s classroom teacher.

We are committed to the success of every child in our district. If you need assistance interpreting data or would like to learn more about programming strategies and options, feel free to visit the Jeffco Gifted and Talented website. GT Resource Teachers are available to assist you with questions, support your child’s classroom teacher and your child.

G/T Areas of Strength

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal students have strength with language. They process (think) in words. These learners are strong auditory learners and have the potential to master language (receptive and/or expressive) quickly.

Students with advanced potential in the verbal reasoning area need oral language opportunities that include analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills. It is important to provide accelerated vocabulary development and to build verbal fluency through drama, poetry, storytelling and debate. These students are likely to develop strengths in reading and writing, but not necessarily at a gifted level.

Verbal Reading

Verbal Reading students have strength with the five components of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. They process (think) in words. These learners are strong auditory-sequential learners and have the potential to master language (receptive and/or expressive) quickly.

Verbal Reading students, who have demonstrated formal achievement in reading, need complex reading materials that include analytical, critical and creative thinking skills. They may respond orally or in written form, responding to questions about the meaning of text, indicating they thoroughly understood the material. Verbal Reading students will benefit most from materials that provide an in-depth reading process at their level and accelerated vocabulary development through a variety of strategies and materials.

Verbal Writing

Verbal Writing students have strength with language. They process (think) in words. They use words effectively to convey complete ideas to a variety of audiences. They write with advanced vocabulary, voice, fluency, clarity, and organization. Conventions may not be perfect all the time, but they do not interfere with the conveyance of meaning.

Verbal students who have demonstrated formal achievement in writing need activity and product options that include analytical, critical and creative thinking skills. These students will benefit most by having opportunities to workshop with other advanced writers (at least some of the time) and to participate in creative and other types of diverse writing opportunities. They will flourish with opportunities to write like professionals.


Students with strength in the quantitative category often demonstrate the following abilities: spontaneous formation of problems, flexibility in handling data, mental agility of fluency of ideas, data organization ability, originality of interpretation, and ability to transfer ideas and the ability to generalize (Greenes, 1981). It is important to note that this list of characteristics of the advanced quantitative learner does not include "computational proficiency".

Students with advanced potential in the quantitative area differ from other students in the pace at which they learn, the depth of their understanding of math concepts, and the levels of abstraction and the interests that they hold. Students need math activities and learning experiences that challenge them as they process and analyze problems. Their teachers need to differentiate instruction using a variety of methods, strategies, and accommodations to provide these opportunities.


Students with a non-verbal strength acquire information and solve complex problems through the use of visual images and hands-on reasoning rather than language based reasoning. They perceive patterns and are keenly aware of underlying relationships. Non-verbal learning often occurs suddenly, without apparent intermediary steps. Non-verbal learners tend not have a strong linear and sequential concept of time, but are more event-driven. Instruction which is based on step-by-step, auditory-sequential methods can present difficulties for non-verbal learners.

Non-verbal tasks involve skills such as the ability to recognize visual sequences and remember them, understanding the meaning of visual information and recognizing relationships between visual concepts, performing visual analogies, and the recognizing causal relationships in pictured situations. Instructional strategies that will aid non-verbal learners include the use of visual imagery, novelty, movement, music, graphic methods of presentation, computers, graphing calculators, movies, demonstrations, use of color for organization, and instruction which proceeds from whole to part. To the extent possible, timed tasks including tests should be restructured to eliminate that constraint.


Creative students can be recognized by their imaginative thinking ability, and their ability to come up with many, varied, and unusual responses to problems or questions. They solve problems, see problems others do not see, see connections among seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas, find humor in many situations, are imaginative, and/or make adaptations or improvements on ideas and things. They are non-conformists, taking intellectual risks and always thinking, "What if?"

Developing the skills of creativity (fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration) and techniques of creative thinking (i.e., brainstorming, creative problem solving, etc.) are important to nurture the creative spirit. Creative students should be encouraged to understand their creative natures, to use creative products to demonstrate their learning, and to make connections among disparate topics and ideas.


Talent-identified students exhibit exceptional ability in art, music or drama as demonstrated by high-level products and/or performances in the talent areas. Talented students are good at role-playing and acting out situations, are sensitive to rhythm, melody and differences in musical tone, or are able to arrive at unique and unconventional solutions to artistic problems.

Students with advanced potential in the talent areas need their talent nurtured by developing an awareness of opportunities in and out of the classroom. They need the opportunity to integrate their talent strength areas in the regular classroom in various products and activities. They also need flexible scheduling to allow for special performances and talent opportunities.


Students with leadership potential articulate ideas well, orally and/or in written form, have clear opinions on actions and ideas to pursue, and are able to convince others to carry them out. Leaders may be quiet or extroverted. They are skilled at bringing structure to activities on which they are working, at following through, and at cooperating and getting others to cooperate.

Students with potential in the leadership area need to be able to read about actual leaders in order to learn what leadership is and what leaders do. These students need to have opportunities to use creative thinking, problem solving, and planning skills. They also need opportunities to learn and use personal/intrapersonal skills when working with others to accomplish goals.

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