NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing


Admissions into the gifted and talented program

The only requirement is acing the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests

It’s no secret that the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests used to screen kids for admission to NYC G&T program are hard. As more and more parents decide that they want their child to receive the best education possible, more are applying their children to these advanced programs – and so the tests are getting increasingly difficult and competitive. This past January over 2,000 more pre-K students took the G&T test for kindergarten admissions with very few additional seats added. This meant over 35% of the kids who qualified for a G&T seat didn’t get a spot because there weren’t enough seats available!

Ask your little one this sample OLSAT test question: Look at the space ship in the first box. Do you see the round windows on the red part of the space ship? If the space ship carried the same number of space babies to earth as thenumber of round windows you can count, point to the box that shows how many space babies the space ship carried to earth.

As a result, it’s no longer enough just to throw your child into the testing room and hope that they pass. Even the smartest kids – if they don’t prepare – are now being outgunned by kids who might not be as inherently bright, but whose parents spend months or even years planning, meticulously, for the testing and admissions process.

A mom from Queens tells her G&T story

Well, recently I spoke to a mother (from Queens) of a very bright boy who, for a long time, thought she knew better than those of us who have been through the testing process before. I had spoken to this mom, who we’ll call Debbie, before, and explained to her how crucial it is to at least familiarize her son Jordan with the material he would face on the test. Plus, I reminded her that most children her son’s age haven’t ever been in a testing situation before, so they need to be mentally prepared for the process of sitting for half an hour or more, locked in a room with a usually stone-faced test proctor who isn’t allowed to give any feedback – positive or negative.

Debbie listened politely, but I could tell she wasn’t hearing what I was saying: she had already made up her mind, and wouldn’t be doing any prep work with her son. You know the type – right?

“Jordan is so smart,” Debbie told me more than once. “He always gets A’s on his tests in school, so why should this test be any different?”

“Besides,” Debbie told me, “I’ve always felt that these tests are meant to measure kids’ intelligence, so preparing with them is essentially ‘cheating’: either the kid is smart or he isn’t.”

Debbie kept in touch with me as OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests day drew closer, letting me know how well Jordan was doing in school and how confident she was that he would ace the test. I wished her luck and held out hope that Jordan would pass the test and make it into their local gifted program – but I knew that the odds were against him, given Debbie’s steadfast refusal to do anything to prepare him for the exam.

Sure enough, Jordan went into the test unprepared. When the OLSAT test scores came in, Jordan had done well – surprisingly well, in fact: he’d earned a score in the 95th percentile, very impressive for a child who hadn’t done any kind of preparatory work. But it wasn’t quite good enough to get Jordan into the program his mother was sure he was destined for: just to be considered for a seat at a citywide program like NEST+m or Anderson, Jordan needed to score in the 99th percentile.

Debbie was devastated. She was sure that Jordan would skate into the program, and she was convinced that “unworthy” kids had taken his spot. Disappointment turned to bitterness, and Debbie soured on the idea of ever applying Jordan to another gifted program. Her exact words: “I’m done. I’ll never let my child take another one of these OLSAT tests again.”

I knew this was a mistake as well. I told Debbie over and over: Jordan had a good shot of passing the gifted test the following year – if she took my advice and prepared him for it this time. For months, Debbie refused to budge: Jordan would never take that test again.

I refused to take no for an answer, though, since I was as convinced as Debbie that Jordan had too much potential to be stuck in a general education program. I kept on Debbie: try again next year. If you do take concrete steps to get Jordan ready, he’ll do fine.

Thankfully, after months of despair and hand-wringing, Debbie came to her senses and decided to apply Jordan to the gifted program again. Within a week, she signed up for a Testing Mom for the OLSAT practice questions  and began working with Jordan. They started out slow, getting Jordan used to the format of the questions and the process of sitting still and focusing on the material. As time went on, Debbie extended the practice time and increased the difficulty of the questions they worked with. By the time test day rolled around again, Jordan was accustomed to sitting and focusing for nearly an hour and answering questions designed for kids at least two grade levels above his own.

Before long, scores came out again and this time the news was unequivocally good: Jordan scored in the 99th percentile, qualifying him for the citywide gifted program and guess what? He made it into NEST+M one of the most sought after G&T programs in NYC!


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