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Testing for Gifted & Talented or GATE Programs

Whether your child is older or younger, getting into gifted and talented programs can be a very daunting prospect.  You can navigate to the different types of tests given for admission into these programs using the tabs above.

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Tips for Younger Children, who are Testing for the First Time

  1. Avoid the “T” word when preparing! When doing test prep activities, call what you’re doing “brain games,” “special homework,” “puzzles” or something fun and motivating to your child.  You want to take all the stress out of your preparation and (in most cases) it helps to avoid the word “test.”  Here’s the only exception – some parents have had good luck telling their children that the “special work” they were doing was to prepare for “The Future Scientists of America Test” or for “The Princess Test” (or whatever your child aspires to be when she grows up).  When it comes to explaining what he will be doing on “Test Day,” you can say something like this:  “You’re going to be meeting with a special teacher who wants to know everything a 4-year-old knows.  She’s very nice and loves little kids, just like your teacher Mrs. Jones.  So just go in there and show her everything 4-year-olds like you know, and you’ll do great.  Do your very best to show her how smart 4-year-olds are!”


  1. Keep your test prep fun and playful. Anything you can do to make your test prep feel like a game to your child will motivate her to prepare!


  1. Mix up your test prep activities. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the tip above.  Young children have a hard time focusing and paying attention to printed practice questions or workbooks.  If your child starts to lose interest working through questions, switch over to one of our online games that is designed for the test you are preparing for. By moving to different prep activities, your child will strengthen his focusing skills (see next tip!), build up his test stamina, and have fun at the same time.


  1. Work on focusing skills. Early childhood tests can take as long as an hour.  That’s a long time for a little one to pay attention.  To help your child focus, time how long she can focus during your first practice session using a fun egg timer.  Then, the next time you prep, tell your child, “Yesterday you paid attention for 15 minutes.  Today, let’s see if you can focus for 18 minutes.”  Allow your child to set the timer.  If she can pay attention for the full 18 minutes, give her a small reward like a sticker or temporary tattoo.  The next day, let her set the timer for a longer session.  Each day, increase the time you work together until your child is able to do test prep activities (which can be varied) for 45 minutes to 1 hour!


  1. Work on listening skills. Most early childhood tests have questions that are read aloud to children – then, the child must choose the picture that answers the question.  For most tests, the questions can only be read aloud once.  Kids must listen to what is being asked, remember the question, and then choose an answer.  When you first start preparing, tell your child to “Put on your listening ears” before you ask a practice question – be sure they are “prepared to listen” before you ask the question.


Tips for older Children Taking Gifted and Talented Tests

  1. Tap into your child’s own motivation to get into the gifted program or private school.  With younger kids, we rarely tell them that they are practicing to take an important test.  We don’t want to stress them out, and for very young kids, they can’t process the importance of doing well on a test that will get them admitted to a better school program.  It’s different with older kids.  Often, they are coming from a place of being bored in their classroom.  Or they have a friend or older sibling who is already in a gifted program or private school that they want to join.  If this is the case, your child is old enough to understand that practicing the types of questions that she may see on a group intelligence or achievement test can help them do better and can get them into the program they want.  If your child wants to get into the program, it will be easier to motivate her to do the practice questions that will help her excel.


  1. Make sure your child practices each type of question he’ll see on the test.  Most tests are comprised of a number of different subtests – each with a different type of question – that make up the whole test.  When doing practice questions, make sure your child gets experience with each type of question that will be on the test.  This way, he won’t need to spend valuable time during the test itself trying to figure out what he’s being asked to do.


  1. Help your child avoid some of the most common mistakes in test-taking.  For example, kids rush through the questions, they don’t consider all answer choices, they don’t eliminate absolutely wrong answers before they guess, they skip questions that are too hard, they lose focus, they don’t read directions, and more.  Your child will lose valuable points if she makes these common mistakes, and they can be avoided if you gently correct your child when she makes them during practice.


  1. Start with questions that are too easy for your child, then do grade level, then do one grade ahead. No matter what grade your child is in, always start with questions that are too easy for him – at least one or two grade levels below your child’s grade if possible.  This will give your child confidence that he can handle the questions.  Let your child work up to grade level and then go at least one grade level ahead if he can do these questions without frustration.  Often questions build on concepts introduced in easier questions, so doing this helps kids handle the tougher questions more readily.


  1. Practice Filling Out a Bubble Sheet. As kids get older, they are required to fill out separate bubble sheets when they take important tests.  Give your child practice ahead of time.  Kids lose points if they don’t fill bubbles in correctly, or if they lose track of the question they are on and fill in the wrong bubble.  Sometimes kids spend so much time filling in bubbles perfectly that they lose test-taking time – and these tests are timed!

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