There seems to be a great deal of confusion among parents regarding gifted programs in the public school system, selection criteria, and the various routes of testing children for these programs.
Unfortunately, the school boards are not very communicative regarding these issues. This page is intended to provide answers for common questions about gifted programs; however, please keep in mind that each school board can have their own process / criteria and can change their procedures andregulations without notice.
(1) How are students selected for gifted programs? Typically, school boards select students for gifted
programs in grade 3, with the placement starting in Grade 4 (note: it is different in the Peel Region and
in YCDSB). The formation of gifted classes starts around March. The majority of school boards have a
multi-stage procedure: First, they administer a paper-and-pencil or computerized aptitude test to all
students (CCAT, etc.); then, students with a score above a certain cut-off point undergo an individual
assessment with the school psychologist (IQ test, typically WISC 4 or 5). Based on the results of the
individual assessment, those who scored in the top 2 percentiles are offered a place in a gifted class. The
York Region Public school board now has a different procedure where they administer a computerized
aptitude test to all students and select only on the basis of these results. Due to financial cut-backs,
some school boards base their decision solely on the CCAT results. Also, some schools can opt out from
gifted testing entirely at their discretion. In this case, the only option for parents is private testing.
(2) Can I prepare my child for the test? It is possible to prepare a child for the CCAT (e.g., you can use the
training for CogAT, it is very similar), but DO NOT try preparing your child specifically for the gifted test,
as it will only spoil the results. Familiarity with test questions and instructions will be noticeable, and
the examiner will have to mention it in the report, which invalidates the results. The IQ test taps into the
innate thinking potential of the child and, therefore, does not benefit from training.
(3) School screening test vs. IQ test. Aptitude tests used for screening are different from IQ tests,
therefore, some gifted students who do not pass the aptitude test will not be selected for the program.
Many children do not do as well when they have to work on a test independently (rather than
interactively), or when they are asked to write a test in a large group (30+ students), or they might
simply not care enough to try hard on this test. Also, it is known from the parents’ reports that some
school boards have a quota on the number of children selected for gifted testing from one school. This is
because the school psychologists are very busy and can test only a limited number of students. In this
unfortunate situation, some students who did well on the aptitude test will not have a chance to try an
(4) What if my child didn’t pass school screening? If your child did not pass the school screening you can
start by completing a free online gifted screening questionnaire (see www.psy-ed.com/online-gifted-
test). If the results of this questionnaire are high enough, it makes sense to have your child take a gifted
test through a private psychologist. If the child passed the gifted test privately through a licensed child
psychologist, the school board IS REQUIRED to place the child in the gifted program or the equivalent
program that is used by that school board and the results of the CCAT are disregarded. The IQ test
always supersedes the CCAT screening.
(5) What if my child didn’t pass the test with the school psychologist? If the child passed the screening, but
did not pass the gifted test at school, you must wait a year before attempting to do the test privately. If
the one year interval is not observed, the results of the subsequent test may be disregarded by the
school board. A child who passed gifted test can be placed in a gifted program in any grade.
(6) When can I test my child for giftedness? You can test for giftedness at any age (typically 5 years and
older), but the following strategy can be recommended depending on parents’ goals and situation: 1. In
Grade 2, have your child complete a Cognitive Profile Assessment (CPA) with a private child psychologist,
the results will be helpful whether the child is gifted or not. These results will give you a good indication
of whether your child is likely to be gifted. 2. Then wait a year and have the child complete the screening
at school. If the child did not pass the screening but did well on the CPA testing previously, go to a
private psychologist, and complete the gifted test.
(7) Do private schools screen students for giftedness? No, private schools don’t do gifted screening, the
only option for parents is private gifted testing.
(8) Is the gifted program a good choice for any gifted student? Gifted classes are highly specialized and
very competitive, so they might not be great for all students, especially if the child has some cognitive or
emotional weaknesses. Consider your child’s personality, cognitive abilities, and social-emotional
functioning prior to making this decision. Consult with a specialist if in doubt.
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