Taking the SCAT Test and Testing for Talent

by Sandra Foyt on September 22, 2011. Updated February 11, 2012

in Enrichment Ideas

When these articles first appeared on www.TheJourneyMom.com, my eight-year-old son had just taken the SCAT test. In the years since, I’ve come to appreciate the inherent value in learning not to fear standardized tests as well as the opportunities that this admission test opens up – not least of which is the Johns Hopkins family academic and educational travel programs.

Taking the SCAT Test

cty_alex.jpgMy son took his first standardized test today.

In less than one hour, he completed the SCAT test on a computer where he quickly clicked on the multiple choice questions.  Perhaps too quickly.  The test administrator mentioned that he didn’t seem to be reading all the possible answers, and he seemed to choose “A” way too many times.  We’ll find out in three weeks whether he chose well, or not.

Afterwards, he told me that he didn’t understand some of the questions.  It took some digging but I finally figured out that he was introduced to analogy questions, the bane of college entrance exams.

I suppose that in our society this could be considered a rite of passage.  Today, he discovered the intricacies of  an analogy question.   Why, you ask?  Will he ever need to understand analogies in the real world?  Is this just a bizarre verbal question only found on college admissions tests?  What is the point of subjecting an 8-year-old to a standardized test?

I can’t say that I have a good answer.  The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a list of testing benefits, and I have a few of my own.   Mostly, I’m still figuring our what I’m doing homeschooling a child who may or may not be intellectually gifted.  I guess I’m hoping that this test will give me some indication of whether or not he excels in verbal or mathematical reasoning.

If he does excel in either area, I may need to reconsider whether I’m offering enough challenging instruction.  If he does poorly, I may want to review whether I’m giving him enough exposure to age-appropriate material.

Still, it’s just one assessment tool, and perhaps not the best one.  I’m still debating meeting with a Gifted & Talented Counselor who can administer a barrage of tests and give me specific advice for my son, especially about some of the social and emotional challenges that we face.  We’ll see.  I have to ponder that for a bit.

In the meantime, I asked my son how he felt about the SCAT test.  He said it was mostly OK, except for the math material that he had never seen before.  And he really didn’t like the self-assessment at the end where he was asked to rate his performance.  When asked why, he responded, “Well, I really don’t like to face the truth.”

Testing For Talent

One of the joys of homeschooling is the absence of tests. Yet, today I registered both of my kids in Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Talent Search. As part of this program, they can both look forward to taking the SCAT test which compares their verbal and math reasoning skills to that of students two grades above.

Why did I sign them up for the Talent Search? CTY provides an excellent list of benefits:

  1. Reveal or reaffirm academic abilities
  2. Provide statistical data about Talent Search participants’ test scores by grade
  3. Recognize your child for academic talent
  4. Provide access to CTY’s rewarding Family Academic Programs
  5. Give your child a chance to qualify for CTY’s Summer and Distance Education Programs

These are all good reasons to have your child participate in the Talent Search; but I would add two more: academic check up and ammunition.

First, the Talent Search test is a kind of academic check up. I already know or suspect that both of my kids are gifted learners. This has been confirmed through tests and experience with my older child, while my younger child appears to have similar abilities. What I don’t know is what impact our school choices (project based private school for one, homeschool for the other) will have on their ability to perform well on the standardized tests that determine academic opportunities. Testing this year, and in future years when required for the homeschooled child, will give us some insight about the efficacy of our schooling while giving them a chance to practice their test-taking skills.

Second, the Talent Search results provide a kind of ammunition when advocating for your child. School administrators and teachers are more likely to believe that a student is a gifted learner when there are test results backing up that assertion. Even with this kind of empirical evidence, there may be very little that a school district can do for your child. For now, we chose to remove our children from the public school because there wasn’t adequate programming for them at their grade levels. In the future, if things change, we may want to let them return to public school, and then these test results may help them get into desired programs.

If I thought that these tests would be stressful to these kids, none of these reasons would be worth any amount of emotional hardship. So far, neither kid has ever worried about a test. So, why not test for talent?

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Talent Search

The CTY Talent Search identifies, assesses, and recognizes students with exceptional mathematical and/or verbal reasoning abilities. After online application, students in Grades 2-6 take the SCAT test while those in Grades 7-8 take the SAT to qualify for:

Prepping for the SCAT

It is unnecessary to prepare for the SCAT test, but a little familiarity with the test format might help reduce stress:

Otherwise, reading a lot and working through challenging math problems is all the prep needed. Additionally, offering a rich assortment of enrichment programs can help inspire passionate lifelong learners. For a long list of enrichment ideas –  in a variety of subjects such as art, engineering, and storybook travel – visit our Enrichment page.

| Sandra Foyt inspires lifelong-learners to travel the world. A former education advocate and enrichment coach, she lived in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California before settling in Northeast NY with two teens, an outdoorsy husband, and a well-indulged Chocolate Lab. Sandra contributes to Being Latino, and her portfolio appears at www.SandraFoyt.com. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Anil Khatri January 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

Nice info, do you know where I can see some sample SCAT test?
Thanks…

Terri Jacobsen January 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Wow, am I glad to have found this blog entry. It’s almost like I just did some kind of futuristic cerebral Google search using all the things on my mind at this very moment. In fact, I just hung up with a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins CTY Center, reluctantly setting up an evaluation and SCAT testing appointment for my homeschooled son (11yo). I raised the identical concerns in this entry, and have been mulling them over for weeks now. Why test? How will he do on his first standardized test? Will it be worth testing for a homeschooler who will never need the services of a public school? Your experience has made me realize this is the best course for my gifted learner. Thanks so much for sharing all of this, you have not just been “shouting into the digital wind” but your voice has been picked up and heard. I’m curious how your 8yo has done since testing, and if it all worked out for you (the blog entry is undated, so I don’t know where you are in the process now).

Sandra Foyt February 4, 2012 at 7:46 am

Hi Terry,

My son is now 12-years-old, and with the gift of hindsight, I can attest that this was a worthwhile experience. This year he returned to the school setting for the middle school experience, but he went in with great confidence and is doing very well in this transition. Partly, this is due to opportunities such as online classes offered by Johns Hopkins that are available as a result of the Talent Search process.

Good luck with your journey, and let me know if you have more questions.

Sandra

Victoria Johner May 8, 2012 at 11:45 am

Hi, I have 3 homeschoolers aged 11-13, who have been doing CTY summer programs since 3rd grade, and a few online courses. Let me share my reasons: at first, i thought this would help prove they were gifted, like you, assuming that “proof” would render a benefit. It is so if you plan to send kids to school at some point, and the prospective school has special programs to offer to your kid. However, they will probably use their own assesment tools for that. Then, as they got older and being still homeschooled (like when the eldest took the SAT at age 11) I thought these courses would prove benefitial for college admission in the future. Not really so. Colleges care what you do grades 9-11, not before, and if you are doing CTY Summer programs after grade 9, they are not really that challenging for a gifted child. So, why do them?
Summer courses: because they are fun, kids meet other kids like them in one room and get to share 3 weeks of intellectual and physical fun. They will learn some things other kids their age have no interest or ability in, eventhough these courses are a bit sketchy and “rushed” (cty tries to fit a one year college course in 3 weeks, or for the 2-4 graders, a lot of info at once). I must say my 3 kids have enjoyed a lot these courses over the last 5 summers.
Online courses: beware, they are not all designed by CTY, in fact the good ones, like Math, are purchased from Thinkwell, and you can get them directly from them at a fraction of the cost, albeit without the “prestigious” CTY Certificate of Completion. The Literature ones we tried were not that challenging and/or interesting, since the books to choose from were very child-like, at least for my kids.
I can tell you, however, that there is a certain prestige attached to the Summer Program (in its Intensive Studies version for 7 graders and up) that many parents seek, which in my view is somehow overrated. In addition, I heavily dislike the tendency I find, at least in my community, to use having a “gifted” kid as a status symbol in itself, and the push to qualify them for CTY for this purpose. John Hopkins, with a shrewd sense of business, has fudged the difference between the 2 programs that used to exist (one for slightly advanced learners and another for more gifted kids, called CTY) by calling them now CTY Academic Explorations and CTY Intensive Studies respectively), so that everybody can claim to have been qualified for John Hopkins CTY.

Tim October 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Victoria,

I love to see if you can write more / blog separately on your experiences. I like this kind of honesty… I like the way CTY does their programs combining fun and work together.

Yes, at some point, CTY is cashing on its prestige, and one wonders, how much does a Stanford, Harvard really care about CTY..

I have a 12-year old, so you are ahead of me .. love to hear more on your experiences. If you can, pls contact me at montegobay88 at gmail dot com

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
May 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

That’s very interesting, Victoria. For instance, I didn’t know that Johns Hopkins had merged two programs under one umbrella. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

Lynn June 15, 2012 at 3:06 am

CTY Academic Explorations admits only students who score in the top 2% of their age group, which I think most would agree are more than “slightly advanced learners”. Intensive Studies admits those who score at or above the 50th percentile achieved by graduating high school seniors. While there is always the propensity to differentiate and compete, both of these groups of students would be considered brilliant viewed relative to the general population, so it’s a real shame that some parents or participants might view one program as less “valid” than the other. In my experience, it is usually the parents who are competing for bragging rights when they should be primarily concerned with the provision of appropriate services to the child. Both serve definite needs of very gifted children.

angel July 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Hi
My daughter recently received her scores for CTY and she got honors in maths and passing score in verbal. Can anyone please suggest which online distance courses will be beneficial for a 3rd grader for future.
Thanks

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
October 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Johns Hopkin’s CTY program and Stanford’s EPGY program both offer online classes. My daughter took an online writing class through EPGY the summer after 4th grade, and learned quite a bit. But it was quite difficult working around the schedule while traveling and attending summer camp. I found that in-person writing classes, either as summer camps or during our homeschool years, often worked better for my kids.
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Tim October 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm

My daughter took SCAT last year and because it’s 7th grade, she has to take it again for CTY.

I think your statement “It is unnecessary to prepare for the SCAT test” is a big understatement ! It’s absolutely necessary — especially the analogies and vocabulary. Definitely cannot wing this- and not being a protective dad, but just helpful advice to fellow parents in the same situation.

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
October 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Hi Tim,

In 7th & 8th grade, students participating in the CTY Talent Search take the SAT, the same test that high school students take in the college admissions process. That definitely requires some preparation, if only for students to learn what it takes to sit through a 3-hour test.

But the point of the SCAT test (administered in Grades 2-6) is to identify students for whom the grade-level math and vocabulary comes easy, and who would benefit from enrichment programs and advanced classes.

My son only took the SCAT test in 2nd grade, and his only prep was the sample test. He qualified for Humanities programs, but not the Math. This year, he will take the SAT. Before he takes the test, he will do one practice test at home. Maybe next year, when he takes the SAT again, he might do more prep, if only because there is a benefit in the long run when applying to colleges.

But I don’t see any benefit in creating unnecessary stress over any of these tests.
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Tim November 19, 2012 at 3:14 am

Sandra,

We are trying both methods – advanced SCAT and SAT. The SCAT (Advanced) is approved for 7th grade CTY now.

I can only say the SAT is a higher jump to make — the student will need the vocabulary, math, english lessons that a 10th grader is expected to know. My daughter and I have been doing review sessions… we are positive minded, but I can see things require a lot more effort.

Still looking for materials on advanced SCAT… the question format of SCATs in math and verbal is different, but we figure it’s a much shorter test and she did well for her 5th grade version, so for the advanced version, we can repeat our past success.

Let me know how the SAT prep is coming along on your side.

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
November 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

Thanks, Tim. I didn’t realize that the SCAT was now available for 7th & 8th graders. Knowing that, we might consider having Alex take both tests. Truthfully, he hasn’t done any prep yet, and I haven’t even registered him for the tests. But I’ll get him registered after Thanksgiving, and we’ll set aside time during the winter holidays so that he can sit through a practice SAT. Since he’s just in 7th grade, the point of the SAT (for us) will be to have him realize how much he still needs to learn before taking this test when it counts in high school. As we’re only viewing it as an assessment tool, there’s less pressure to perform.
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Milind January 21, 2013 at 1:34 am

Hi Tim,

I am also taking the same approach for my son. How are you preparing for these two exams? I mean what books are you referring? Are there any coaching classes that you have enrolled for your daughter?

Milind

Victoria October 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Ok, Wow!!! Thank everyone for the useful information…I do have a 2nd grader scheduled to take the SCAT for JHUCTY on Dec 1, 2012. I was also searching for some type of practice format for her. So my only options are the online sample questions for her? Was seriously hoping there was a hard copy book to work with her through to prepare her for what to expect. This is all new to me and blessed to have this opportunity for her, just wanted to do my best to have her prepared, but not push her at all…Any further advice for my 8 yr. old would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for this blog.

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
October 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Victoria, I remember thinking that we should do more, but my 8-year-old’s only preparation was the sample test. If you feel like your child needs more, you could pick up workbooks in Reading and Math that are labeled for students 2 grades above. But why spend time on test prep which could be better spent reading a great book, visiting a museum, or working on a science project together?

Victoria October 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Sandra,
Thank you for your response. We feel blessed that she had even tested high enough to be considered for this program. I will run through the sample questions on the website and leave the rest to God. I am at ease now knowing that I have exhausted my options on preparing her for this testing. Just wanted to be assured I was not selling her short of any opportunity to be prepared.
Resting well tonight, and thank you again. :-))))
Blessings,
Vikki

Emma November 7, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I had just got a letter from the CTY and they are telling me that I have to pay a $38 fee to take the test!! I am in seventh grade and have a long way to go for college. I was wondering if you get a low score, does it affect you in any way?

Sandra Foyt
Twitter: SandraFoyt
November 8, 2012 at 12:05 am

Emma – That’s one of the advantages of taking the SAT in 7th and 8th grade. It’s a good practice run, which does not appear on your college transcripts.
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tayyabashujaat November 21, 2012 at 1:27 am

hi am reading all this and its really helpfull.i have just registered my daughter for CTY and i would like to know some resources for scat test!

Syed November 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Thanks, this information is reassuringly helpful, including the comments. A question I have is that how do these program like STY Summer Programs help in college admissions. Since there is only one summer each year, we’re wrestling whether to have our kids head to programs like CTY or other camps that may have extracurricular (non-sport) focus.

Also, has anyone heard of SIG? Any comparative notes on that program versus CTY?

Any guidance will be appreciated. Thanks,

E A Manning June 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm

My son will be taking SCAT next week. He likes to know everything that is going to happen in advance and is asking a bunch of questions about the test. I’ve found answers for most of them but the latest has me stumped. He wants to know if the verbal section is always first or if the math could be first. Thanks for your help.

Nancy July 11, 2013 at 7:35 am

My daughter took intermediate SCAT last month. She mentioned that the verbal reasoning came up first.. not sure if this is always the case.. has anyone ever tried top grader for SCAT prep? My friends daughter is enrolled with them.. they have a couple of sample tests on their website… not bad for some practice..

Hetal July 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I have enrolled my son at http://www.top-grader.com for SCAT prep. To be sure, I took their demo class before enrolling my son. The demo was taken by a tutor who knew the SCAT format so I signed up for an 8 hour plan. My son is benefiting from the tutoring and practice quizzes that quite resemble the SCAT test. Will post more on this topic when my son’s plan is complete.

Subra February 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Hetal,

I wanted to find out whether your son took the SCAT test and how he did. Did the tutoring helped your son at all?

Thanks.

Frida September 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

I don’t know if anyone is still reading/posting on here, but I have a question. My son took the SCAT in 5th grade a few years ago. He scored very well on both sections, qualifying for the awards ceremony and the summer programs. For those of you worrying, we did no advance practice – I think we may have gone over the few sample questions just to give him an idea how they were structured, but no studying needed at all. We have done a few of the family courses since then, but he really wants to participate in the Marine Sciences summer course next summer, when he will be finishing 8th grade.

My question is – has anyone taken the Advanced SCAT? Is there a difference between that and the SAT? My son took a practice SAT a couple weeks ago to see where he would need to study a bit and, no surprise, it was math as there are four more years of math to cover before he would “typically” take the test in high school. He still scored well enough to qualify for the programs, and even scored well enough to qualify for the programs as a 10th grader in the Critical Reading section (scored a 690). However, the way the CTY programs work is they take alumni first, then rank kids by their scores. His math score was a 580, which isn’t great at all and I worry it will put him too low on the list of kids who wants to go.

Would it be worth him taking the Advanced SCAT as well? He did very well on that last time and if it is more age-appropriate than the SAT, perhaps he would score better?

For those of you who have children who are studying for the SAT, we just decided to do this a month ago, so we’re not taking any courses. We did, however, get the official SAT study guide from the College Board and are having our son take the math portions of the test every Sunday. Then, throughout the week, he goes through the questions he had trouble with or got wrong by watching the videos on Khan Academy that go over the SAT practice tests.

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