Prepare for General Ability Test


Prepping for the General Ability Tests (GAT)

~ Is it necessary?

It’s the beginning February and that means the GEP notification letter for children to take the Screening Test in August is given to all. Every few days I get a phone call from a concerned parent, “Do you do General Ability (or GAT) prep course? Should we start now?”

I do understand and appreciate these parent’s genuine concerns. After all, our local school system leaves much to be desired and scoring well on the GEP tests allow a bright child admission into a special class, special curriculum or even a special school, where they will be highly challenged and receive more attention, given that the class sizes are about 25 or less. However, my response to these questions is always “Since the child’s already in P3, we will need to do an assessment to check the suitability.” (read on to find out why)

It’s not that I don’t enjoy running a profitable business (I could have taken everybody in).…but as a mother who has been through the system and an educator who has taught dozens of kids, both the GEP kids & mainstream kids, I do strongly understand the unintended disaster if we force-feed a child to prep for GAT. Being aware of the fact that over prepping is usually thought to be the number one reason why children felt themselves being cooked in a pressure cooker, and then those who could do well on the tests do not.

Round 1 screening tests are basically academic Math and English papers at a slightly more accelerated level. The main purpose of the two papers is to sieve out children who demonstrate advance academic excellence. Let your child learn at a faster pace in these two subject areas as long as they are comfortable and happy.

Assuming the children clear Round 1 and are invited to sit for the Selection Test in October which includes 2 sets of General Ability Tests (GAT) as well as the high level English and Math papers. Now the English and Math papers are at a significantly advanced level for our nine-year-olds. The children are given about 2 weeks to ‘prepare’ for the Selection Test. We should assume that by now the child is ready for them.

General Ability Tests (GAT) are not simple memorization tests. Neither are they knowledge application tests. What is being tested is your children’s ability to reason, create patterns, observe evidence, draw conclusions, and think clearly. Basically the strong ability to think. There are a thousand and one possible questions that can appear on the GAT.

And here is the moment of truth, and also why I need your child to take an assessment before joining the GAT class. One fact I am certain is that neither my competitors nor I can simply take a child who would have got a 50 mark on these tests, do the prep in a short span of time, and score 99. It can’t be done. I wish it could be. However, those of us who understand the tests, know we could help a child who would have otherwise got a 90 and help him to a 99. We can also take a child who would have got a 75 or an 80 and help them to a 90 or 95. The marks do make a difference between a mainstream program and a gifted program. And so to many parents, it could make a huge difference in the environment your child will be educated in.

I would like to point out to many parents that long term studies show absolutely no difference between children who attended the GEP and those who did not. So even if your child doesn’t get into the programme, don’t despair. In the long run, your involvement in your child’s education is going to make a much greater difference than what school or special programme your child will attend.

Having said that, as a mother I would prefer my child to get into the best environment most suitable for him or her, and I understand you do too.

So now let’s take a look at preparation again. Here is my advice as an educator and a parent – play manipulative-based logic, reasoning, spatial, visual games with your child. Patterning, sequencing and a whole host of skills can and should be taught using manipulative first, so that the child can “get” it using real world examples.

What we do

Our Analytical Critical Thinking programme teaches children logic and critical thinking skills using manipulatives. At the same time, we also provide them paper and pencil work so that they can transfer these skills on to paper. Then when they start the General Ability test (GAT) prep, which usually starts in the later part of Primary 3, it is in their blood to be able to do quality thinking questions. We don’t want to stifle or suppress our children’s creativity and their innate thinking abilities by drilling them with sets after sets of repetitive work.

But your child doesn’t need to attend my class to learn these things. If you have time and availability of effort you can do many of these things at home. We will be holding Parent Workshops to empower young parents to do just that.

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