Scoring High in the Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM) Test: A 2024 Guide

CPM stands for Colored Progressive Matrices and is one form of Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which is also known as an Abstract Reasoning Test. The Progressive Matrices are widely used non-verbal intelligence tests within which test takers are asked to find missing patterns in a series.

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CPM Test

If you, or your child, has to take a CPM test but you are confused about what it will entail, you are in the right place. We cover everything you need to know about the CPM Test and how to prepare for it.

What Is a CPM Test?


The Colored Progressive Matrices Test, or abstract reasoning test, assesses non-verbal aptitude.

As candidates progress through the test, the set of items becomes progressively more difficult. This means that a greater cognitive capacity is needed to encode and analyze the data. Many intelligence experts consider the progressive matrices test one of the best assessments of general intelligence available.

There are three different forms of the progressive matrices for different ability levels and for age ranges from 5 years to adult. The three forms are:

  • The Colored Progressive Matrices for younger children and special groups
  • The Standard Progressive Matrices for 6 to 80-year-olds
  • The Advanced Progressive Matrices for adolescents above cognitive average and adults

It is stated by the matrices test publisher that the tests measure two complementary components of general intelligence, which are:

  • The ability to think clearly and make sense of complex data – eductive ability
  • The ability to store and reproduce information – reproductive ability

One of the main reasons for the widespread use of Raven’s Progressive Matrices is the adequate standardization and the fact that it appears to accurately measure the type of reasoning ability that is useful in the area of mathematics and can therefore quantify the mathematical mind of a person.

The simplicity of the tests means that they are considered independent of reading and writing ability.

There is some criticism about the cost associated with the Raven test, but this is balanced against the differentiated information it can provide in regard to the hidden abilities of a student. Particularly those that may be of use for future academic success.

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What Does the Raven Colored Progressive Matrices Test Entail?

Students enjoying class with the teacher

The Raven CPM is an online test that takes around 15 – 20 minutes to complete, although there is no official set time constraint.

The test itself is predominantly used by clinical and research psychologists and teachers and is designed primarily to assess the problem-solving skills of children aged 5 – 11 years. It can also be used with the elderly and individuals with mental impairment.

The Raven Colored Progressive Matrices, along with the Crichton Vocabulary Scales test (CVS), provide brief and non-verbal screening of general ability.

The CPM test itself is made of a series of diagrammatic puzzles. It can also be suitable for use with people from different cultural backgrounds and those who speak other languages or have language difficulties. It is considered to be a completely unbiased assessment.

The CVS is designed for use in conjunction with the CPM if appropriate. In contrast to the diagrammatic assessment of the CPM, the CVS assesses the knowledge of words and is made to closely match the same age range of intellectual development. The tests have been standardized for both the US and UK populations.

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By their nature, CPM is a non-verbal test and CVS is a verbal test. They both measure the general ability of adolescents and children. The benefits of CPM are:

  • A non-verbal tool that can provide a fairer measure of ability for children from diverse populations with different languages and cultural backgrounds
  • A non-verbal measure for those children with hearing difficulties
  • A more fair assessment for children experiencing disorders of language abilities
  • A screening measure – along with CVS – to aid the assessment of children with learning difficulties
  • CPM and CVS can be used in conjunction to measure the difference between verbal and non-verbal aspects of ability

If a child has to take the test, they will need to choose the missing pattern piece from several given choices. If they are taking the CVS test, they will be asked to suggest the meaning of certain words.

Whoever is assessing the child will decide whether they need to take just the CPM or the CPM and CVS combined. This will depend solely on the intended purpose of the assessment.

Both the CPM and CVS will take around 15 minutes to take and will be carried out individually with the child. The CPM will be in a pencil and paper format.

The test comprises 36 items, divided into three sets: A, Ab, and B. Each set contains 12 items and, as its name suggests, presents its items primarily in color to provide a visual stimulus for test takers.

Series A and Series B questions are taken directly from the Standard Progressive Matrices. Series Ab is an additional set of matrices that are unique to the CPM.

The final few questions of the test that are in section B, are presented in black and white. These questions are designed to accommodate those test takers who have demonstrated an exceptionally high ability. Those candidates who do well and complete section B will then automatically progress to subsequent sections C, D, and E.

For each test question, the child should select the missing item that logically completes a geometric pattern of shapes. Most patterns are in the form of a 4×4, a 3×3, or a 2×2 matrix. Typically there is a choice of 6-8 given answers.

The answer choices will be numbered. In some cases, the child will be allowed to answer a question simply by pointing to the piece of the pattern that they believe fits the question. Otherwise, the child will need to write the number for the correct pattern piece on an answer sheet.

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How Is the Test Scored?

Test Score

There is a possible score of 36 points. The test is marked by totaling the number of matrices that have been correctly completed. This raw score is then converted to a percentile rank using age-appropriate norms.

This means the child will receive a percentile rank based on the average score of children in the same age bracket, measured in six monthly increments. The percentile rank will be a number from 1 to 99. A child that achieves a score in the 90th percentile is considered equal to or better than 90% of children of their age.

In many schools, the CPM is used to identify gifted and able pupils who have achieved a score in the 95th percentile or above. However, this will vary from school to school.

What Results Will the Test Provide?

The Colored Progressive Matrices Test results will provide information about the child or young person’s performance in relation to other children in the population. The test’s initial purpose will dictate how any results may be used moving forward.

The test may help to define the presence of any special educational needs and may also provide a detailed baseline assessment. This baseline can then be used to compare and track performance throughout a school year and also assess the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen child.

The person administering the test will be able to discuss any results collected with the parent or carer of the child should the need arise.

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What Are the Top Tips for Success in Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices Test?

It can be challenging to prepare for a test such as the Colored Progressive Matrices Test because no verbal skill is required yet plenty of problem-solving skills are needed.

However, a few tricks can be employed to give the test taker the best chance of success.


As with every exam, and in most areas of life, practice makes perfect! Working your way through sample questions will give you a clear understanding of the format and types of questions that you are likely to face. Suppose the test taker is a young person.

In that case, they may need supervision and support to work through sample questions along with the opportunity to talk through any difficulties or address any misconceptions.

Find Patterns

The absence of formal criteria or learning outcomes are added reasons why these tests can be difficult to prepare for. The main test focus is based on abstract reasoning, and this in itself can be daunting. A good strategy is to begin to train the brain to look for and identify patterns.

For example, while driving, you might encourage your test taker to look for as many patterns outside the window as they can find. It doesn’t matter what the context of the activity is. Just keep the theme of patterns at the forefront.

Get Creative

Art and craft activities are an excellent way to create patterns. You could try creating a pattern from shapes that have been cut into pieces and then ask your test taker to carry on the pattern that you have started, completing the sequence correctly.

Make a Study Timetable

Make a preparation timetable and stick to a routine. Young test takers especially can become tired if they do not take regular breaks. Keeping your study time to short bursts – perhaps one hour per day – at an appropriate and regular time of day will help with preparation.

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Get Some Rest

As above, it is vital that the test taker gets enough rest. Tired brains do not absorb or retain information as efficiently as well-rested ones. A good night’s sleep will work wonders for concentration and progress.

Don’t forget, this test is asking the candidate to think in a new way and to evaluate in a way that they may not have done before. A change in mindset requires time both to learn and recharge.

Eat Well

A good diet can really improve mental performance. Memory-boosting foods, including fish rich in omega 3, fruits, and nuts, will enhance mental energy. Sugary snacks may provide energy bursts but are short-lived and can lead to a crash in energy. This will not benefit study in the long run.

Animate Young Children

Young children may need lots of encouragement during preparation, especially if they become frustrated. Young people will feed off your positive energy. Cheering them on and encouraging them to keep going will prove impactful and will also help them to let go of any anxiety and feel confident and at ease.

Try Online Materials

Kindergarten boy looking at laptop computer during first day of virtual learning online school.

Whilst there are currently no Raven Colored Progressive Matrices Test Practice Packs available from Test-Prep Online, there are comparable practice tests available such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test Packs. These packs contain sections called pattern completion and reasoning by analogy, both of which are highly similar to Raven’s CPM.

Using these packs can help the child or young person to begin to feel at ease with the likely content of their forthcoming assessment. It will also help to familiarize them with the proposed format. Both the Raven’s CPM and Naglieri Nonverbal tests are developed by the Pearsons Assessments Company, which is another reason for their close similarity.

The packs contain hundreds of questions to work through and become familiar with, along with three full-length practice tests to ensure full confidence on the day.

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In Summary

Whilst it is not really possible to ‘revise’ for the CPM test in the same way as for a knowledge-based test, it is entirely possible to become familiar with the format and questioning style of the test, and this in turn, will help to raise confidence, reduce anxiety and ensure that the test taker is able to perform to the very best of their ability on the day.

Written by Karen Stanley

​​Karen is a former teacher of 20 years and ten times published author. She writes content for educational organizations and businesses, nationally and internationally. She coaches new and budding writers through to publication and is passionate about creativity; she runs creative writing workshops in schools and fostering agencies.