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OLSAT Scores: Understand Test Results

OLSAT scores are calculated using your child’s percentile rank within his or her current age group among other students being tested this year. Most gifted and talented programs require applicants to score within the top 1-3% to become eligible for admission (among a host of other factors, like total number of available seats), so you’ll want to look for a score in the 97th – 99th percentile range if that’s why your child is taking the OLSAT test.

Three Steps to Calculate a Child’s Unique OLSAT Scores:

  • Raw Score. The raw score is the sum total of correctly answered questions. For example, a raw score of 50 indicates that your child answered 50/60 correctly. Each of the verbal and nonverbal sections have a maximum score of 30 points apiece, so your child’s score will be broken down both by subsection and overall raw score (out of 60).
  • School Ability Index (SAI). The School Ability Index (SAI) score is determined by comparing raw scores amongst children within the same age group. The highest possible SAI score is 150, while an average score is around 100.
  • Percentile Rank. Your child’s overall percentile rank is determined by comparing their SAI score against other students within that same age group. If your child ranks in the 97th percentile, he or she scored as well as or higher than 97% of students tested in the same age bracket.

Please note that due to the complexity of calculating OLSAT test scores for each student, it may take up to two months to receive a detailed score report showing your child’s individual results in the mail.

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More details on how OLSAT scoring works

The OLSAT scoring process involves converting a child’s raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) into a School Ability Index (SAI), which is a standardized score that compares the child’s performance to that of other students in the same age group.

Raw Score: The raw score is simply the total number of questions that the student answers correctly. This raw score by itself doesn’t tell us much about how the student performed compared to others.

School Ability Index (SAI): The raw score is converted into the School Ability Index (SAI). The SAI is a normalized standard score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. This means that an SAI score of 100 represents average performance for a child’s age group.

For example, a 1st grader who answers 25 questions correctly might have an SAI of 105, meaning they performed better than average for their age group. The higher the SAI, the better the child’s performance relative to their peers.

Percentile Rank: The SAI score is further converted into a percentile rank, which represents the percentage of students in the norm group who scored lower than the student. For example, if a student’s percentile rank is 85, this means the student scored better than 85% of the students in the norm group.

Stanines: Stanines are another way to compare a student’s performance to that of their peers. Stanines are scores from 1 to 9, with 5 being average. A stanine of 9 represents the top 4% of scores, while a stanine of 1 represents the bottom 4%.

Stanines break down the entire range of student scores into nine segments, where a score of 1 is the lowest, 9 is the highest, and 5 is the average. This is useful for providing a broad-strokes picture of a student’s performance relative to others.

Here is a rough guide to what each stanine represents:

  • Stanine 1 (1-3 percentile): Well below average
  • Stanine 2 (4-10 percentile): Below average
  • Stanine 3 (11-22 percentile): Somewhat below average
  • Stanine 4 (23-39 percentile): Slightly below average
  • Stanine 5 (40-59 percentile): Average
  • Stanine 6 (60-76 percentile): Slightly above average
  • Stanine 7 (77-88 percentile): Somewhat above average
  • Stanine 8 (89-95 percentile): Above average
  • Stanine 9 (96-99 percentile): Well above average

The distribution of stanines is not equal; the middle stanines (4, 5, and 6) cover more of the percentage range and therefore include more students than the extreme stanines (1, 2, 8, and 9). This is because student performance on most educational measures tends to follow a normal distribution, where most scores cluster around the average, and fewer scores fall in the extreme high or low ranges.

In the case of the OLSAT, stanine scores provide an easy-to-understand measure of a student’s performance compared to a norm group. For instance, a student with a stanine of 8 performed better than approximately 89-95% of the students in the norm group.

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Norming Process: The OLSAT is normed based on a representative sample of students in the United States. This means that the test’s difficulty and scoring standards are set based on the performance of this representative group. During the norming process, the test is given to a large number of students from different backgrounds and locations. The scores from this group are then used to establish a “norm group,” which serves as the standard of comparison for future test-takers. The purpose of norming is to ensure that the test is fair and that scores are meaningful. By comparing a student’s score to the norm group, we can get a sense of how that student’s abilities compare to those of their peers.

The OLSAT norming process follows these general steps:

  • Gathering the Norm Group: The first step in the norming process is gathering a sample group that is representative of the larger population of students in terms of age, gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This sample should reflect the diversity of the U.S. school population.
  • Test Administration: Once the norm group is assembled, the test is administered under standardized conditions. This means that all students take the test in the same manner, with the same instructions and time limits. This ensures that the test measures the abilities it is intended to measure, rather than factors related to the test administration.
  • Analyzing Raw Scores: After the test is administered, each student’s raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) is calculated. These raw scores are then statistically analyzed to determine their distribution and other characteristics.
  • Standardizing Scores: The raw scores are then converted into standard scores, such as the School Ability Index (SAI) and stanines. This process involves adjusting the scores so that they follow a normal distribution, with most scores clustered around the average and fewer scores at the extremes. The standard scores are easier to interpret than raw scores and allow for comparison between students.
  • Updating Norms: The norms for the OLSAT are updated periodically to ensure that they continue to accurately reflect the abilities of the current student population. Each new edition of the test undergoes a fresh norming process.

The result of this norming process is that a student’s score on the OLSAT can be compared to the scores of other students in the same age or grade level, providing a measure of the student’s abilities relative to their peers. This makes the OLSAT a valuable tool for identifying students who may benefit from gifted and talented programs or other educational interventions.

Remember, the goal of the OLSAT isn’t to pass or fail students, but rather to measure their reasoning abilities and potential for academic success. It provides a snapshot of a child’s cognitive abilities compared to others in their age group.

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Current Events involving OLSAT Scoring

What happened recently, you ask? Simple: NYC Gifted and Talented scores came out. As you know, Testing Mom caters to parents all over the country and indeed all over the world, so chances are you aren’t among the parents in NYC wringing their hands over their child’s recently-released OLSAT test and NNAT-2 test scores. But my hunch is that no matter where you live, you’ll be able to relate to what these parents are going through just by the fact that you are a parent who cares about your child’s educational well-being.

Many NYC parents happily wrote in to share the good news and their gratitude that their child scored in the 99th percentile on the OLSAT test, qualifying them for a seat in a citywide G&T program. To those parents, I say, “Congrats and good job!”

On the other side of the fence, we were also bombarded with calls and emails from frantic, disheartened and upset parents who were shocked at their children’s low OLSAT test scores. We at Testing Mom spent the year educating parents about the test, handing out advice, and giving parents thousands of practice questions along with the best way to prep for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests. unfortunately, the same thing happens every year. Without fail, there are two types of parent: those who are elated and those who are crushed.

Worst of all, it seems like this year we heard from many more parents who were disappointed in their children’s OLSAT verbal test scores, and despairing that their children now have infinitely fewer opportunities available to them than they have in the past. These are parents who less than a week ago thought their children had the world in their hands, and who were convinced that, as parents, they had done everything they could. But I guess the real question is: did they?

So, in an attempt to help these parents discover what went wrong, while educating the rest of us, I want to share with you one of the many emails we received from disappointed parents this week. Here’s a nightmare story from a mom written to me (who we’ll call Stephanie). She fears that she’s not the only one who has experienced the heartbreak she describes:

Dear Testing Mom,

I apologize for the long-winded email, but I believe a big mistake has been made on our son’s G&T test scores and thought you would like to know in case your other customers have experienced the same. This could be another DOE (Department of Education) test score debacle in the works!

Currently our son is in second grade in a district gifted and talented program in Brooklyn. He took the G&T test this year (third year we used your materials – the past two years he placed in the 98th percentile).

I received our son’s tests scores from an email sent by the DOE and I strongly believe there may be a huge error. He scored only in the 96th percentile (89th percentile OLSAT verbal and 99th percentile NNAT-2  non-verbal), so why do I believe it is a big error? Many reasons – for the past two years he placed in the 98th percentile with very high scores in both sections (we diligently used your materials for test prep each time including this year, and his performance is stellar in school – he is one of the top students in his class).

However, I also believe this score could be a mistake because his school administered the test to him before he was actually scheduled to take it. The date he was supposed to take it was on a snow day. When I heard the school was going to be closed, I contacted the test coordinator to reschedule it, only to find out that they had already given him the test!

You can imagine how incredibly upset we were that they gave him the test early on an unannounced day without telling us! The school test administrator assured us that “he took the test well.” However, when I asked my son about it, he said that he rushed through the test so as not to miss the “really cool science experiment his class was doing.” He did not expect both the NNAT-2 test and OLSAT test that day, so did not even know how important it was to concentrate and do his best.

The school administrator admitted their error both verbally and in an email. At that point, they said the only thing they could offer us was for him to retake on another day and with a different test. We were incredibly upset about this, but given the feedback our son had given us about the first test (that he did not focus too well), we felt we had no choice but to have him retake the test.

Now we have no idea what the second test he was given was like – could the verbal part have been a very different format from the other tests? Could they have meant to type 98 and not an 89 on his score? So much is unknown that it is hard to decipher whether this is an error on their scoring part or an error on the school’s part. Yet, we find it very strange that he only got an 89 on verbal, which is incongruent with the last two years of his performance on the test, as well as his stellar performance in 2nd grade work.

I have the emails in writing from the school admitting that they screwed up. They practically begged me not to report them to the DOE – we wanted to go forth in peace, but now it looks like we will have to take other measures to have this investigated. It is sad that one test can determine a child’s fate.


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4 Responses

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[…] parents around New York City are frantically preparing their child for these tests, since every extra point on the OLSAT test score can make a difference between getting a citywide seat vs. a district wide The process of […]

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[…] can gently correct them, and show them how not to make that mistake moving forward. This will help increase their test score […]

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What I have a concern is that these tests are scored in comparison to other children in the same age group??
What happens when your child was held back one year because the birthday did not fall before
September. In our case the Birthday is in the first week of Pctober which means the child is almost fully one year older than any children in the same grade.
This would mean that it will be compared to all the children in agrade higher than the current grade level. What do you recommend in this case???

See if supports your child’s test by your school district. If you don't see your child's school district listed, check with us! We have practice for other tests as well.

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