The California Achievement Tests (CAT) are among the most widely used
tests of basic academic skills for children from kindergarten through
grade 12. The most recent edition of the CAT (the sixth) is also called
TerraNova, Second Edition
The CAT is often administered to determine a child's readiness for
promotion to a more advanced grade level and may also be used by schools
to satisfy state or local testing requirements.
First introduced in 1950, the CAT is a paper-and-pencil test for children
from kindergarten through grade 12 that is designed to measure academic
competency in a variety of areas. The test is available in six different
forms: CAT Complete Battery, CAT Basic Battery, CAT Survey (grades two
through 12 only), and CAT Plus.
The CAT is a standardized test, meaning that norms were established during
the design phase of the test by administering the test to a large,
representative sample of the test population (in the case of the CAT, over
300,000 students). The test is given in a group, classroom setting, and
can take anywhere from one-and-a-half to over five hours to complete
depending on the test form and grade level. A teacher typically
administers the CAT. When testing is complete, the test is sent back to
the company that publishes the CAT (CTB/McGraw Hill) for scoring, and then
scoring information is returned to the school in the form of individual
The test report includes a scale score, which is the basic measurement of
how a child performs on the
, and a national percentile (NP), which reflects the percentage of
students in the national norm group who have scores below the
student's score (e.g., an NP of 80 means that 80 percent of
students scored lower than the student). The scale score may be derived
one of two ways—a straight score determined by the total number of
test items correct or through item-pattern scoring (also called item
response theory, or IRT). Item-pattern scoring examines not only the
number of correct responses, but also the difficulty level of the
questions answered right and the interrelationship of the pattern of
answers. Other scoring information may also be included in the test report
depending on the scoring report format.
For students who are unfamiliar with the mechanics of taking a
standardized test, a practice test session given by a teacher shortly
before the CAT testing session begins may be appropriate. Because the CAT
is designed to be a measurement of a child's current educational
achievement level, the test publisher recommends that no pre-test coaching
or test study programs be used.
—A fixed or ideal standard; a normative or mean score for a
particular age group.
—A random sample of people that adequately represents the
test-taking population in age, gender, race, and socioeconomic standing.
—The process of determining established norms and procedures for
a test to act as a standard reference point for future test results.
Terranova, 2nd ed. (California Achievement Tests, 6th ed.)
Available online at
What Every Parent Needs to Know About Standardized Tests.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.