How to Pass the NNAT Test
Updated July 27, 2022
The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, commonly known as the NNAT, is an assessment published by Pearson Education that is commonly used to identify gifted and talented children.
It is primarily encountered during the entrance process for schools and talent programs.
The NNAT tests the problem-solving and abstract reasoning ability of K-12 students (aged between 5 and 17). There are seven different levels of NNAT, ranging from A to G (from kindergarten to school grades 10–12).
It is a standardized test, which allows for objective talent measurement, but the test your child sits will be tailored to their age group.
Not all levels of the test cover the same content, for example, spatial visualization isn’t included until children reach Grade 2.
The most recent version of the test is the NNAT 3, which has 48 questions and a time limit of 30 minutes.
A high score on the NNAT can evidence your child’s talent and ensure they are placed within a supportive learning environment that nurtures and encourages their skill.
- 48 questions
- Pattern completion and reasoning by analogy questions.
The NNAT is a purely non-verbal test, which means it does not feature any questions relating to language, vocabulary or grammar (including tenses).
Skills of speech, reading comprehension and writing are irrelevant in the test, as it focuses solely on spatial problem-solving. Because of this, the NNAT is considered a fair and unbiased way of testing children for cognitive ability.
Scores are not impacted by a child’s first language, cultural background, educational history or any difficulties with speech, communication or reading.
To assist children with vision impairments, the shapes in the test are as clear as possible and only use the colors black, white, yellow and blue.
The NNAT is considered one of the most suitable tests for cross-cultural assessment, allowing for the identification of talent regardless of language-development skills.
The NNAT is widely used to assess children’s cognitive capacities with as little interference from culture-specific factors as possible. There are several reasons why your child may take the NNAT test.
The assessment is used to:
- Fairly test the aptitude of children who speak English as a second language.
- Measure cognitive ability in children who have a learning disability specifically related to reading or speaking, or who suffer from speech delays.
- Project the grades of children in their early days of schooling, before they have undertaken other forms of assessment.
- Determine which children should be accepted into gifted and talented programs.
- Assess whether a child reaches the criteria to be accepted into a particular school.
- Privately test a child’s problem-solving and spatial aptitude.
For the latter use, the NNAT test results may be practically used to demonstrate a child’s ability. For example, to counter a school’s grade projection or assessment, or to advocate for the child to be moved to a different teaching set.
If your child is taking the NNAT – for any of the reasons above – Test Prep’s NNAT preparation program will allow them to become familiar with the test format and increase their chances of success.
Test Prep offers a family membership plan, which can be a good option for families with more than one child, as it provides a 12-month membership to all tests.
The NNAT is administered in a group format. Depending on the circumstances, this may be in person or online.
The test contains minimal language, including few written directions. It instead relies upon examples using illustrative shapes and patterns to explain what the questions in each section are asking.
During the test, a facilitator will guide your child through the questions, making the instructions clear and giving prompts.
The questions on the NNAT are split into four sections:
- Pattern completion
- Reasoning by analogy
- Serial reasoning
- Spatial visualization
To achieve a high score on the test, your child will need to be familiar with the different question styles.
Pattern completion questions ask your child to identify the missing piece of a pattern. A pattern in a rectangle will be presented. A section of the pattern will be obscured by a white box with a question mark.
Identify which design – out of the five options given – completes the pattern.
These types of questions explore the relationships between shapes. Your child will encounter four boxes that contain shapes and/or symbols (at higher levels the matrix will feature six boxes). The last box will contain only a question mark.
The task is to determine how the shapes are changing from box to box. This may be in terms of positioning (transformation or rotation), shading or color. Shapes may change across both rows and columns.
Select the answer option that completes the matrix.
Serial reasoning questions also explore your child’s ability to identify the relationships between objects across rows and columns. A matrix with nine boxes will be presented, the last box featuring only a question mark.
Your child will need to look at the shape(s) presented in the other boxes and deduce the rule(s) that are governing them. Using these, they must choose which answer option belongs in the final box.
Which shape completes the pattern?
These questions, once again, involve shapes organized into rows and columns. Your child will be presented with six boxes, containing shapes in combination. These shapes may transform, rotate or invert across the row.
The task is to identify what is happening to the shapes in the top row, and then use this sequence of rules to determine which answer option correctly completes the row below.
Which answer option completes the second row?
Whether your child is sitting the NNAT 3 or the earlier NNAT or NNAT 2, the question types involved are the same. The only differences are the number of questions – the initial NNAT contains 38 problems – and the colors used.
You will receive three scores for your child’s NNAT – a raw score, Naglieri Ability Index (NAI) score and a percentile rank.
As the NNAT 3 test has 48 questions, your child’s raw score will be out of 48. If your child answered 33 questions correctly, their raw score would be 33/48.
The NAI index is calculated from your child’s raw score. It is a standardized, comparative score that compares your child’s result within a very narrow age band (comparisons are made nationally with students born within the same three-month window).
The highest possible NAI score is 160, with the average score being around 100. A normal score range starts at around 85, and a high score would be anything over 130.
Your child’s percentile rank score also indicates how your child performed against students born within a three-month age range. A percentile rank score of 70 indicates that your child’s score was higher than 70% of students tested in their age range.
School districts often use percentile scores to compare performance and determine admission outcomes.
There is no official pass score for the NNAT, as different school districts and organizations set their own standards for giftedness.
Whilst there is no official standard that delineates a pass or fail on the NNAT, it is possible to secure a result that falls short of the standard set by the administrator of the test.
Some schools may test students every school year, others at designated intervals that correspond to talent programs or opportunities for gifted students. There are usually no repeats on these assessments, so practicing using NNAT sample tests is prudent.
The NNAT test could have a bearing on the type of educational environment your child is taught in.
Whilst it is important not to put too much pressure on the outcome of the test, these simple tips will help you prepare your child for the test in a comprehensive yet fun, engaging way.
The NNAT exam is used across a wide age range (from kindergarten to Grade 12), so the content and difficulty of the test vary accordingly. Research which elements will be involved in the test for your child’s age group and prepare specifically for each of these aspects.
If your child knows exactly what to expect from their test, they’ll feel less daunted on the day of the assessment and perform better. It is important to boost confidence and avoid any pressure around the outcome of the test.
The best way to prepare for an upcoming NNAT test is to sit practice tests that will familiarize your child with the format, content and style of the NNAT exam. Test Prep has online guides and practice questions for all NNAT levels.
These sample tests can be accessed via an individual or family membership which provides 12 months of membership across three accounts, so your children can be ready to succeed in all of their tests.
To make practicing for the test more fun, get your child’s siblings or cousins involved and turn preparation into a game. Children have inventive ways of learning, and other children can teach concepts in accessible ways that may not occur to adults.
Instead of it always being you who works with your child to prepare for the exam, get other voices and novel approaches involved.
The pattern completion and reasoning by analogy sections appear on the NNAT test for all age groups. Both the serial reasoning (included for Grade 1 and above) and spatial visualization sections (Grade 2 and above) involve similar tasks – shapes and symbols arranged in boxes and presented in columns and rows.
Familiarize your child with patterns and sequences, getting them to explain the transitions occurring and differences they can see as the sequences progress.
Preparation doesn’t need to consist of only practice tests. Accompany this important aspect of preparation with some lighter tasks. Practice simple reasoning games, riddles and puzzles to capture your child’s attention and make problem-solving with shapes fun.
You could try folding some origami, completing jigsaw puzzles or playing some reasoning-based online games.
As the test is non-verbal and focuses solely upon abstract and spatial problem-solving, practical play can help hone the required skills.
Encourage your child to play with blocks or mechanical toys to improve spatial reasoning. Get them used to encountering and identifying different shapes, and to noticing how components fit together.
The NNAT has a duration of 30 minutes, which is a long time for a young child to sit and concentrate on a test paper.
In preparation, accustom your child to sitting still for 30 minutes at a time and focusing upon a task. It doesn’t matter whether they’re coloring, painting or playing with soft toys or building blocks; what’s important is the fixed attention.
Start with short sessions, and increase the length of time in achievable increments as and when you can.
A high average score on the NNAT test can range between 112 to 120. If you achieve anywhere within this range, you will put yourself in the 76th to 89th percentile.
If you score between 121 to 133 then you will be considered superior, and if you score 134 or more, then you will be in the top 2% of scores.
The NNAT is not the longest examination and pupils will only need thirty minutes to complete the test. It is done under timed conditions in a school environment, but because of how short it is, it can be done at home or in any quiet environment.
Although it is not an IQ test, it still examines a child’s cognitive ability.
Another interesting element of the NNAT test is that it does not require the pupil to have a primary spoken or written language.
Students are tested by questions that involve shapes and figures. These are elements that they will have learned in a school environment.
The NNAT is considered one of the fairest cognitive ability tests. It will give your child the chance to display their talent through non-verbal skills, avoiding any of the disadvantages embedded within other verbal ability tests. Children from all demographics have been found to score equally well.
Despite the unbiased nature of the test, preparation is key as encountering an unfamiliar format or experiencing excessive nervousness will have a negative impact on the test result. With some targeted (and fun!) practice, you can help your child to perform at their best.
A strong NNAT score evidences your child’s ability and may grant inclusion into a school’s program for gifted and talented children. Opportunities such as this are central to educational development.
Preparing diligently for the test will ensure that your child – whatever their age – can accurately reflect their ability so they receive the right level of support within their learning environment.
Remember, though, that no single test can give a full or accurate picture of a child’s ability. Children all have different strengths and talents which should be embraced and celebrated, and not reduced to a simple test score.