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ABC Peel Bulletin

Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (CCAT)

Why is it used?

The two Peel Region school boards normally administer the group Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (CCAT) to all students in the winter term of their Grade 4 year to screen for giftedness and learning difficulties. Parents can make a written request to the school principal for individual CCAT testing for a child at any grade level, from Senior Kindergarten onwards.
The CCAT is an inexpensive individual test for a school to administer; it can be conducted and scored by a registered teacher, but would usually be administered by the teacher who is the in-school special education services professional (ISSP).

What is it?

The CCAT is designed to determine a child's aptitude for learning: the result may be seen as predicting, in the short term, the student's general achievement in school. The CCAT tests the student's ability to learn and indicates his or her IQ; it should not be seen as a test of achieved learning or "schooling knowledge."

The CCAT is a written "fill in the bubble" test, with multiple choice questions related to three areas or sets of abilities:

  • Verbal: verbal classification, sentence completion, verbal analogies
  • Quantitative: quantitative relations, number series, equation building
  • Non-Verbal: figure classification, figure analogies, and figure analysis

Note that, as in all such psycho-educational tests, parents should not coach or prepare the student. Anxiety may lead to the student failing to perform to his or her ability, or confusion about the test procedure may also give an unreliable result.

How are results reported?

The CCAT is "norm-referenced," so it ranks students, comparing the performance of each child to other same age/grade children (from a norm group) who took the same test under similar conditions.

The CCAT is a reasonably reliable test that can occasionally give a false positive result for gifted (i.e., provide a score that is above 98 percentile, though the student is not at that level), however false negatives results are more common. Therefore, CCAT results should be reviewed for consistency with the other evidence of the student's potential and capabilities. (Click here to see Understanding CCAT Test Results, which reviews the factors that might be considered when evaluating a student's CCAT test results.)

The CCAT publisher, Thompson Nelson, and the school boards do not provide guidance on how to handle scores near, but not at, the 98 percentile criteria. ABC Peel suggests that scores above the 90 percentile (but below 98) might be seen an indication that further testing is required, possibly with a full psycho-educational assessment such as the WISC IV or the Stanford Binet 5.

Where there is a wide discrepancy between scores (say 95 percentile for one set of abilities and the other two sets below the 75 percentile) then the parent should consider asking for a further assessment, with a possibility of a learning disability being considered.

When are results reported?

When the group CCAT is administered, scoring is at central location and the results should be back with each school by late-April or early-May of the Grade 4 year. Notification practices vary widely from school to school. Some provide a notification letter to each parent by mid-May, though some schools only phone to tell parents if the results are seen to be significant by school staff. Other schools delay processing the results, and so parents do not hear until the November parent-teacher meeting of the Grade 5 year but parents can (and perhaps should) ask for the results before the end of Grade 4.

Where the CCAT is administered individually, the results can be provided within a few days of the test being taken. The scoring is straight forward and is carried out by the administering teacher at the school, so a timely result is expected.

Good practice in reporting

ABC Peel would like to see all schools provide a written report of CCAT results to all parents, irrespective of the results, no later than by end-May of the Grade 4 year for group tests. The report should include an outline justification for the test, the methods of scoring and the relative importance of the results, together with the student's scores, and an explanation of the next steps to be followed, if any. In addition, where those results are difficult to interpret or thought to be significant, then the classroom teacher should call and arrange a meeting to discuss their implications for the student's learning.

What happens if the score is at or above 98 percentile?

If at or above the 98 percentile for one or more of the three areas, in addition to the notification letter, the classroom teacher should arrange a meeting with the school principal, after which an Identification, Placement and Review Committee meeting (IPRC) should be arranged for the formal process of considering identifying the student as gifted. (Click here to see full information on that IPRC process.) The availability of IPRCs is not conditional on the availability of gifted placements: the regulations require that the school first identify, then decide the placement, and lastly find the place (in that school or another).

Need to know more?

Everyone is familiar with the EQAO Grade 3 and 6 tests and the fact that schools provide reports to parents for those. ABC Peel would like all parents to be aware of the importance of Grade 4 CCAT results. For children who may be gifted, the CCAT tests are very important. For further information and advice, parents may contact ABC Peel. (Click here for our Contact information)

Note: "Percentile" type of scores indicates the percentage of children in a grade or an age group who obtained scores below a particular score. For example, a pupil with a percentile rank of 70 has a score that was as good as or better than 70 percent of the normative sample for his/her grade or age group. Note that a child's percentile on an assessment should not be confused with the term "percentage," which indicates the proportion of assessment items correctly answered.

Other specialist testing and assessment terminology is available at

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Understanding CCAT Test Results

(Information from Thompson Nelson website,, January 2004)


Physical and Mental Factors:

  • Does the student have any physical disabilities (hearing loss, visual impairment, etc.)?
  • What is the student's general health condition?
  • What is the student's school attendance record?
  • What are the student's school learning ability levels?

Home Factors:

  • Do the parents take an interest in their child's education?
  • Is the student a native speaker of another language or is he/she bilingual?
  • Is there stimulation for learning within the home (i.e., books, television, internet, etc.)?
  • Is the student able to receive help on school work at home?
  • Does the student have a happy home life?

School Factors:

  • Does the student appear interested in school work?
  • Is the student markedly over- or under-age for the grade?
  • Is instruction generally at an appropriate level for the student?
  • Is there sufficient time allotted to the subjects that present the greatest difficulty for the student?
  • Is the student emotionally adjusted (i.e., not fearful, compulsive, frustrated, insecure, rejected, etc.)?
  • Is the school program challenging to the student?
  • What are the student's study and work habits?
  • Are realistic expectations being set for the student?
  • Is there a personality clash between teacher and student?


For an Individual Student:

  • On which test did the student score highest? Lowest?
  • On which tests were the score differences greatest?
  • On which tests, if any, did the student's performance differ greatly from that of the class as a whole?
  • On which tests, if any, did the student score significantly higher (or lower) than would be expected in light of school learning ability or previous test scores?

For a Group:

  • On which tests did the class as a whole score highest? Lowest?
  • On which tests was the spread of scores greatest? On which the smallest?
  • How many students achieved at low, average, and high stanine levels on each of the tests?
  • How much change is apparent since the previous testing in each of the content areas?

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