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Otis–Lennon School Ability Test

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The Otis–Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), published by the successor of Harcourt AssessmentPearson Education, Inc., a subsidiary of Pearson PLC—is, according to the publisher, a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability of children pre-K to 18. The Otis-Lennon is group-administered (except preschool), multiple choice, taken with pencil and paper, measures verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning ability. The test yields verbal and nonverbal scores, from which a total score is derived, called a School Ability Index (SAI). The SAI is a normalized standard score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. With the exception of pre-K, the test is administered in groups.

Test components[edit]

The test has twenty-one subtests that are organized into five areas—verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning—each with equal numbers of verbal and non-verbal items:[1]

Verbal Nonverbal
Verbal Comprehension Pictorial Reasoning
Following Directions Picture Classification
Antonyms Picture Analogies
Sentence Completion Picture Series
Sentence Arrangement Figural Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning Figural Classification
Aural Reasoning Figural Analogies
Arithmetic Reasoning Pattern Matrix
Logical Selection Figural Series
Word/Letter Matrix Quantitative Reasoning
Verbal Analogies Number Series
Verbal Classification Numeric Inference
Inference Number Matrix

The number of questions and the time limit varies accordingly:

Level Verbal Nonverbal Total Time Limit
A (Pre-K) 16 24 40 77 min.
A (K) 30 30 60 77 min.
B 30 30 60 77 min.
C 30 30 60 72 min.
D 32 32 64 50 min.
E 36 36 72 40 min.
F 36 36 72 60 min.
G 36 36 72 60 min.

Uses in primary and secondary education[edit]

In 2012 the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) adjusted its criteria for inferring gifted and talented needs of students in kindergarten through the third grade. Citing a disproportionate number of students scoring in the 99th percentile — the far right tail of the distribution curve — the NYC DOE replaced the Bracken (BSRA) with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), and changed the weighting, lowering the OLSAT from two-thirds to one-third and giving the NNAT two-thirds.[2]

A local news source reported that many parents were unhappy about the decrease in the weighting of the OLSAT and the implementation of the NNAT.[2] The objective, according to the NYC DOE, was to combat the advantages of children receiving pretest tutoring. The NYC DOE avers that the OLSAT is more preppable and the NNAT is less preppable.[3]

Uses by high-IQ societies[edit]

High scores on the OLSAT are accepted by high IQ societies such as American Mensa (requiring a total SAI ≥ 132) and Intertel (requiring a total SAI ≥ 138), the latter also accepting scores on this test's historical predecessor, the OLMAT.[4][5]



The fact that the OLSAT is easier and less expensive to administer than an IQ test, such as the Stanford Binet V or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, makes it more accessible; but its accuracy at higher levels is less reliable.[6] High scores on the OLSAT are nevertheless accepted as qualifying evidence by high IQ societies such as Mensa and Intertel.[4][5]

Test environment

Preschoolers taking the OLSAT for gifted and talented (G&T) kindergarten programs are more likely to be aware that they are taking a test. For that particular age, the test is given one-on-one. The test is presented in a multiple choice format, and either the child fills in the "bubble" or the tester does it for them. By contrast, many psychological, intelligence, and school ability tests (or assessments) are administered by psychologists who discreetly take notes while conducting introspective thinking activities. Under these conditions, the child is often unaware of being evaluated.

Test format for preschoolers

Some testing scholars have published concerns over whether the multiple-choice aspect of testing encourages guesswork over independent thinking.[7]

Preparing for the test

For the 2007–08 school-year, New York City began using the OLSAT to infer gifted pedagogical needs of public school children entering kindergarten through 3rd grade. Preschools – and a cottage industry of test preparation companies – soon thereafter began offering OLSAT test-preparation. OLSAT attempts to infer "school ability" for a particular grade. In New York City, a preschooler being screened for a gifted pedagogy at the kindergarten level would simply be assessed using the OLSAT that measures kindergarten scholastic ability. OLSAT test preparation programs for preschoolers have essentially incorporated an OLSAT oriented kindergarten curriculum.[8]


1st ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published August 13, 1979)
2nd ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published September 10, 1982)
6th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published November 15, 1988)
7th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published October 23, 1995)
8th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test


  1. ^ "OLSAT Questions: Explanations and Sample Questions". TestPrep-Online. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "New Gifted and Talented Test Leaves Parents Stumped" Archived 2013-01-21 at the Wayback Machine, by Julie Shapiro, DNAinfo New York, New Media News LLC, October 24, 2012
  3. ^ "Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs" Archived 2015-11-09 at the Wayback Machine, by Al Baker, New York Times, April 4, 2014
  4. ^ a b "Join Mensa Using My Past Test Scores". American Mensa. Archived from the original on 2021-05-07. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  5. ^ a b "Intertel - Join us". www.intertel-iq.org. Archived from the original on 2021-03-22. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  6. ^ A Comparison of WISC-III and OLSAT-6 for the Identification of Gifted Students, by A. Lynne Beal, PhD, C.Psych (Ontario), Canadian Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 2, 120-129 (1996); ISSN 2154-3984
  7. ^ Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890-1913, by Mark Sokal, PhD (born 1945) (ed.), Ch. 6, pg. 95, (citing Franz Samelson, PhD, "Was early mental testing: (a) Racist inspired, (b) Objective science, (c) A technology for democracy, (d) The origin of the multiple-choice exams, (e) None of the above? (Mark the RIGHT answer)", New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press (1990), pps. 113–127; OCLC 13580898, 812908050
  8. ^ Sharon Otterman, "Tips for the Admissions Test ... to Kindergarten" Archived 2014-04-18 at the Wayback Machine, by Sharon Otterman, New York Times, November 20, 2009

External links[edit]