NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing

Tips and Tricks to Raising Your Child’s IQ

By age 5, most children in America will have been given some kind of intelligence test

Whether it is for private school admissions, NYC gifted and talented qualification, or public school placement in slow, average or accelerated learning groups most kids will be given some sort of intelligence test. IQ tests cover the 7-abilities children need to thrive in the classroom: language, information, memory, math, spatial, thinking and fine-motor skills.  Here are some of my tips for building these abilities from Karen Quinn, the Testing Mom.

Tips and Tricks on helping raise your child’s IQ!


1.  Talk to your child about anything and everything all the time.  This will strengthen her language skills. Children raised in high-language households have IQ scores that are 38-points higher than kids brought up in low language homes.


2.  Read concept books such as Richard Scarry’s Best First Book Ever or DK Publishing’s My First Word Book to your child.  Children tested for kindergarten are expected to know colors, shapes, seasons, fruit, farm animals – all the basicinformation kids are exposed to through picture books, preschool, and life itself.  If your child knows everything covered in these books, she’ll be ready.


3.  Challenge your child’s memory.  After you read your child a book, ask him to tell you the story back in his own words. Make patterns using Fruit Loops or colored beads, cover them up, and see if he can recreate them. These activities will build your child’s verbal and visual memory.


4.  Inject math concepts into your conversations.  “Dinner will be ready in five minutes.”  “Do you want a whole cookie or a half a cookie?”  “Look how cute your toes are.  Let’s count them.” “You have three M&Ms. I’ll give you two more.  Now you’ll have five.” You can even bring up math when reading picture books.  “Look at that funny octopus.  How many legs does he have?”


5.  Give your child blocks, puzzles, Lincoln Logs, Legos or Duplos to play with.  These will bolster his spatial skills.  You can also look for spatial challenges in Highlights Magazine, which always features hidden pictures inside other pictures, or read a Where’s Waldo book and let your child find Waldo.


6.  Let your child solve problems. When the ball rolls behind the console, ask him to come up with ways to retrieve it.  When he can’t get dressed in time for school, let him think of ideas to get ready faster. Give him a voice in making simple choices so he’ll become a decision-maker.  Children who are allowed to think for themselves at home develop solid cognitive skills.


7.  Keep craft supplies handy and let your child create on rainy days. Colored paper, crayons, scissors, glue, glitter, paint, markets, brushes, Q-tips, Play-Doh – working with these materials strengthens fine-motor skills, which are simply your child’s ability to control her hands and fingers.

OLSAT test scores
August 21, 2017, 2:06 pm
Filed under: tests | Tags: , ,

Why does a child take a test like the OLSAT and score poorly?

When a child doesn’t score well on the OLSAT test a mom or dad often thinks, “Well, I guess he just didn’t know the material or prep enough,” or “I suppose she lacks in the skills they were testing!”

They couldn’t be more wrong. 

On tests like these, only half of your child’s score depends on her knowing the material or having the skills that are being tested.  The other half of the score depends on your child having good test-taking skills. 

Let me show you what I mean using a practice OLSAT Aural Reasoning question at about the kindergarten grade level.  [Read the question just once and see if you can answer it before you continue reading about it.]

Ask your child: Look at the shapes below. Circle means “strawberry.” Square means “chocolate.” Triangle means “butterscotch.” Choose the box that says “chocolate, chocolate, butterscotch.” *

To answer this OLSAT practice question, you first need to:

  1. Understand what you’re being asked to do.

    First your child has to understand what’s she’s even being asked here.  You’re being asked a question.  Each box represents a possible answer choice – 3 are wrong and only 1 is right.  You’re looking for the one that is right (not the one with the shapes she likes best).  When practicing with your child, teach her to understand the concept of a test question.

  2. Listen to the question.

    1. With OLSAT Verbal questions, your child has to listen to what is being asked.  The question can only be read once.  If he zones out and misses even one or two words in the question, he will have to guess at an answer.
  3. Consider all answer choices. 

    Your child has to take the time and have the focusing skills to analyze the answer choices.  Which one was chocolate? Was that the square or the circle? Your child might remember chocolate was the square and jump at the first square she sees – in the first box (wrong!).  When preparing your child, make sure they look at and consider every answer choice.

  4. How to make a smart guess.

    When a child can’t figure out a question, they often skip it (getting 0 points – bad idea!).  Or they’ll guess between all 4 choices (and likely guess wrong!).  In this case, two shapes have to be the same (“chocolate, chocolate”) and one has to be different (“butterscotch”).  We can immediately eliminate the 3rd and 4th choices because neither has two shapes the same and one different.  So if your child has to choose, choose between the 1st and 2nd   He’ll have a better chance of guessing right.  Teach him how to do this.

*By the way, the answer to the OLSAT sample question above is 2 – chocolate (square), chocolate (square), butterscotch (triangle).

If you think preparing your child is too hard to do it yourself then I always recommend finding a good tutor to help you out. I like the folks over at FasTracKids. They have locations in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. They can do a G&T assessment to let you know your child’s strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to both the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests. Tell them I sent you!

Importance of preparing for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests
July 20, 2017, 4:27 pm
Filed under: tests | Tags: ,

Importance of entrance exams for the NYC Gifted and Talented program

I don’t have to tell you how important the exam for entrance in the NYC Gifted and Talented program is and how more important it is to prepare for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests. These exams are no joke!  At this very moment, 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 researching, registering for, preparing for, and then finally taking the Gifted and Talented test is one of the most stressful experiences a parent will ever have.  Especially when the child is a mere 4 years old! But, of course, the opportunities that come along with admission into a highly-competitive Gifted program make all the sleepless nights and gnashing of teeth well worth it.

Here’s another OLSAT practice test question: Do you see the children in the first box? Each child needs 2 pencils for school. Point to the box that shows how many pencils the children need altogether.

For many NYC moms and dads, the process of preparing for the G&T test is so intense, and so all-consuming, that when the exam is finally over, they’re left with a strange sense of emptiness. I’ve had more than one parent ask me, half-joking but still sounding concerned, “How will I spend all my time now?” Mind you, these were parents of young children, many of whom had full-time jobs or other commitments outside of their home.

Well, I know firsthand that as unpleasant as the process of preparing for the test can seem, it’s a bit of a letdown once the process is finally over. I went through it with my own daughter several years ago and that was the catalyst to start this blog to help parents (like you!) ease the stress of going through this treacherous process.

That’s why I want to give you some suggestions for what to do after the OLSAT test is over. If you’re in the thick of preparing for the exam now, it’s important to maintain your focus and put all your energy into ensuring that your child receives a top score. (I trust that you’re already doing that and have been for some time!). But rest assured that, once the test is over, plenty of work remains to be done. Here are just a few things you’d be wise to focus on when your child walks out of the testing room:

  • Improve your child’s math skills

    • Even for children who are naturally good at math, it’s crucial that you work with materials outside your child’s normal homework assignments to give them an edge over their classmates.
  • Encourage your child to read more

    • What parent doesn’t melt at the sight of their son or daughter sitting quietly with a book (or, these days, a Kindle)? But many kids don’t like to read – or have learning delays that make the process frustrating and demoralizing. Make sure you use programs help your child develop the basic reading skills they need, and make reading so fun your child will never want to stop!
  • Explore the world

  • Get ready for the Common Core State Standards:

    • Yes, the OLSAT test may be over but that means the NY State Test (aka the Common Core tests) are around the corner starting in third grade. Now is not the time to rest upon your laurels.
  • Teach your child about the value of a dollar

    • Given how few schools teach children how to budget and handle money, is it any wonder that so many people are so bad at money management? Get your child started down the right path early counting money. TD Bank used to have a fun change machine called Penny Arcade but unfortunately, they removed these machines last year. Check with your local bank to see what fun activities they have to engage your child with financial literacy.

Make sure your child will maintain an edge once the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests is over – and that once they make it into that coveted NYC gifted and talented program, they start out ahead of their peers.

Guidance for parents preparing kids for the OLSAT test

How preparing for the OLSAT scored this child a seat at citywide G&T program!

A story from one NYC mom

I just have to get this off of my chest:  if my sister-in-law shares one more story about every “lady” (and I use that term loosely) and their weekly escapades on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” I might go bonkers.  Doesn’t she have more important things do to with her valuable time than to watch these chicks cat fight and pull out each other’s weaves?  Seriously, I’ve seen enough Jerry Springer to last me a lifetime (and I’ve made my penance for that)…please, forgive me, for I have sinned!

I mean, can’t we talk about something more intellectually stimulating than who wore the faux leopard-print dress? I simply could care less. On the other hand, if you want to tell me about the new philanthropic idea you’ve come up with to help the children in India, I’m all ears – start talking! That’s why today I’m here to talk about things that make a difference (and I promise you, there will be no talk about Kenya’s new eyelash extensions – spare me the agony!)

My goal of this blog has always been to offer guidance to New York City parents who find themselves alone and confused on the heretofore unfamiliar road known as OLSAT and NNAT-2 test prep – and to prepare and expose children to the concepts necessary for their entry into the NYC gifted and talented program. All of the other extras that come along with your membership are just my gift to children everywhere to make sure they have the knowledge and power that they all rightfully deserve.

Try this OLSAT practice question: Point to the picture that shows this: Cindy has dived off the board but she has not yet hit the water.

But, don’t take it from me, here’s what this Park Slope – Brooklyn mom recently emailed me:

“We began preparing our daughter for the OLSAT test 8 months ago. The task to prepare for the test seemed overwhelming and confusing. We were even more discouraged when the schools we wanted to apply to told us there is no preparation possible for the test. Then we came across and it offered us a clear and focused path to building the underlying skills our child needed for the test. The resources and various material on, were instrumental in our daughter scoring in the 99th percentile and getting a citywide seat at BSI – Brooklyn School of Inquiry.”

When I read such inspiring emails from dedicated parents I get thrilled to know there are so many engaged parents in NYC who want the best education for their kids!

Think about it: would you put your four-year-old on a 10-speed bicycle without first teaching them how to pedal a small bike with training wheels? Would you throw your five-year-old into the pool and tell them to swim without first teaching them the basics of water safety? I certainly hope not!  So why on earth would any halfway-conscientious parent send their child into a life-changing test like the OLSAT and NNAT-2 with no exposure to the topics involved or the questions asked – it’s like putting your child on a mountain bike without a helmet, or in the pool without a lifeguard: they’re going to get banged up during the process, and quite possibly mentally scarred as well. No parent should want their young child to embark on such a brutal – and ultimately doomed – endeavor.

Classification is a big component of the OLSAT test.

Here’s a good video on how to teach your child about classificationl

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!

Gifted testing flash cards for OLSAT test prep available
June 28, 2017, 12:20 pm
Filed under: tests | Tags: ,

Testing Mom launched their new Gifted Testing Flashcards to prepare for OLSAT test

Are you looking for something fun, fast and flashy to prepare for the NYC gifted and talented test? Look no further! The folks over at Testing Mom have launched their new Gifted Testing Flashcards available on Amazon (free delivery with Prime!).  These cards help your child learn the concepts and word that he or she must know to do well on the OLSAT test for the NYC gifted and talented program. Think of these are pre-prep to the actual prep of the practice questions. You need to make sure your child knows these concepts and words prior to doing any type of practice tests with him or her.

Here’s the breakdown of what you get with these flashcards:

  • 72 cards in the box
  • Over 175 concepts taught to your child
  • Your child will learn concepts like top-middle-bottom, up-down, next-beside-near and tons more!
  • These are geared for pre-K, kindergarten, first 2nd grade students.

These featured the Testing Mom Space Babies that allow your child to have fun and learn at the same time! They will want to play and engage while learning these concepts. It’s also a great way to bond with your child while preparing for the OLSAT test. Learning these sections of the test:

  • Ability to follow directions
  • Aural reasoning
  • Listening skills
  • Verbal skills
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Language and vocabulary

Here are a few of the many benefits of using the flashcards:

  • Reduces screen time.
  • Engages both you and your child.
  • They are re-usable and you can mix it up.
  • Great family time before bed or first thing in the morning!
  • Awesome for long trips in the car or on the plane.
  • Get grandma and grandpa involved with prepping. Have them play the cards with your child (fun for all!)
  • Not only helps with testing, it helps with school success! Helps your child make more A’s!

Gifted Testing Flashcards to practice for OLSAT and other popular verbal tests for gifted and talented programs.

These cards will help parents prepare their kids for the New York City Gifted and Talented test verbal section. It’s for these grades:

  • OLSAT verbal test level A
    • for Pre-K and Kindergarten entry
  • OLSAT verbal test level B
    • For first grade students entering second grade


Preparing for the OLSAT test
June 20, 2017, 2:09 pm
Filed under: tests | Tags: ,

A story of properly preparing for the OLSAT test

I first met Sally a few years ago, when she was getting ready to apply her child to their local Gifted and Talented program. Sally wanted her son Brett to make it into the program, not only because he’s naturally bright and curious, but because her default school isn’t anything to write home about. Don’t get me wrong: Brett’s school was better than most, but Sally could tell that he wasn’t engaged by the material, and many days he came home with a bored, apathetic look on his face.

Sally knew the gifted program was competitive, so she began preparing about six months out since she heard that the OLSAT test was being given. Based upon her research she knew this wasn’t about ABC’s and 123’s. I know what you’re thinking: six months isn’t a whole lot of time. That’s true, and many parents do start preparing their child for the OLSAT much sooner. That said, six months is plenty of time to get your child ready for the OLSAT test if you develop a schedule and take the right actions.

That’s where Sally fell short.

It isn’t that Sally failed to develop a plan to practice and prep on a daily basis. On that front, she had it down: she decided early on that she would practice every weekday with Brett, and that she would work not only on his test-taking skills but also his attention span. This was especially important given that Brett was a mere six years old and the OLSAT test would require him to sit still for at least half an hour. Sally decided to start by practicing for five minutes a day, then move up to 10, and eventually get Brett to focus on test prep materials for a full 45 minutes.

It isn’t that Sally was opposed to the idea of preparing for the test. That’s an objection I get from parents a lot, whether it’s because they’re afraid their child will be “caught” preparing for the test, or because they think the whole concept of getting your child ready for one of the most important tests of their life is “cheating.” Of course, your personal views on the merit of test prep or even of testing in general are essentially irrelevant: standardized testing isn’t going away – if anything, it’s becoming more common. Your choice is either to work within the system to make sure your child gains every possible advantage, or risk having them left behind in favor of kids whose parents were more proactive. It’s up to you.

No, Sally’s problem is that she spent the entire time she worked with Brett using a single workbook consisting of about 100 questions. Don’t get me wrong: this was a top-flight workbook with a good variety of questions, and would make a great addition to any parent’s preparation package. The problem is that, within a week of getting started, Brett had practically memorized not only the questions but the order in which they appeared. That meant that, as the weeks went by and Brett got “better” at answering the questions, he was actually just robotically spouting the answers in exactly the order he’d seen them before.

As a result, Brett never really developed the skills he needed to ace the test. When test day rolled around, Brett was presented with questions he’d never seen before – and he didn’t know how to work through them to reach the right answer.

Because Brett had at least been exposed to the concepts tested on the exam, he did better than most kids, earning a score in the 96th percentile. But this wasn’t enough to get him a spot in the gifted program, and he was sent back to general education for another year. Sally was devastated, and didn’t know what to do. In her mind, she had done everything possible to prepare Brett for the test, and it still hadn’t been enough. She quickly became convinced that Brett was doomed to spend the rest of his life in his average school, receiving a middling education and losing the opportunities that a top-notch program would have afforded him.

Fortunately, Sally ended up emailing me, and I pointed out the central mistake of her OLSAT test-prep strategy – and how to fix it. You see, Sally was fortunate in that she had the opportunity to have Brett tested again the following year (some schools and school districts only offer your child one real shot to get into an advanced program, so you have to get it right the first time). I told Sally to imagine the difference that she could make if she exposed Brett not to 100 questions, presented in the same order every time, but thousands of different questions in a number of different formats: worksheets, online games, and a mobile app. Being exposed to so many different materials would give Brett the ability to develop the skills he needed to get a top score, and would have the added benefit of helping his grades in school!

Sally vowed that she would never again confine Brett to a strategy consisting solely of workbooks. She took my advice and signed-up for Testing Mom. She worked with Brett again, this time using Testing Mom practice questions, online games, and partner programs to get him ready for test day.

I’m happy to report that Sally and Brett’s story has a happy ending: on his second try, Brett scored in the 99th percentile on the test, and is now thriving in the NEST+M city wide gifted and talented program since Sally helped him prepare with OLSAT sample questions and practice tests. The best part of all? You don’t have to make the same mistake Sally did. Get your child off on the right foot the first time around. It’s quite possibly the best decision you’ll ever make as a parent.