Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) - Detailed Guide

Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) – Detailed Guide

The NNAT Test stands for the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which does indeed test the nonverbal skills of children, and is usually used to identify gifted children.

As a nonverbal test, this test doesn’t deal with math or numbers but rather shapes and symbols and spatial reasoning. Your child will be asked to recognize patterns and identify sequences as a part of their nonverbal reasoning and problem-solving skills.

There is no writing, reading, or speaking required, which is meant to allow for unbiased scoring across children of all backgrounds, and ages, and even for children who did not learn English as their first language.

This test is all about testing how a student thinks and not about what they know. If your child has the potential to enter into a gifted program, and they’re between ages 5 and 17, they will likely be tested using the NNAT.

Why Take The NNAT Test?


You can attempt the NNAT without reason. Basically, if you believe that your child is gifted, you can request that your child take this test.

This test will measure your child’s cognitive abilities, which is why it’s used a lot for children who speak English as a second language, have delayed speech and communication, have difficulty with speech or reading, or generally struggle to follow instructions.

You might know how intelligent your child is, but traditional standardized tests don’t always show that.

The NNAT is the perfect opportunity to test your child to see if they might be eligible for a gifted program, which is vital for their schooling. In addition, just taking the test might provide them with a learning environment that will work better for their abilities.

Of course, this entire test is confidential, with results that will be sent right to you since the test is done outside of your school.

What Is Included in the Test?

The NNAT test is a purely non-verbal test, meaning none of the topics covered include grammar, vocabulary, or language. In addition, unlike standardized tests, the NNAT does not take into account reading comprehension and writing. Thanks to this, the test is considered much more accurate for determining a child’s cognitive abilities.

The test focuses on spatial problem-solving skills. It uses large, clear shapes to help children with any vision impairments also be able to complete the test in a fair manner.

The questions on the test are not based on any verbal material, making it a fair, cross-cultural test that does not rely on a child’s language development. As such, the test won’t score a child differently based on cultural background, educational history, any speech or communication impediments, or what their first language is (if it isn’t English). 

There are four categories on the NNAT, but not all of them are included at each level. Most levels only include two or three categories, but levels C, D, and E do include all four. The categories are Pattern Completion, Reasoning by Analysis, Serial Reasoning, and Spatial Visualization. 

The test has 48 questions to be completed in a 30-minute time period.

Understanding the NNAT Test Levels

There are seven test levels for the NNAT that cover from Kindergarten up to grade 12. Each level features 48 different questions, usually in different categories as well.

A- Kindergarten

B- First Grade

C- Second Grade

D- 3rd Grade and 4th Grade

E- 5th Grade and 6th Grade

F- 7th Grade to 9th Grade

G- 10th Grade through 12th Grade


Level A is for kindergarteners and has two types of questions: pattern completion and reasoning by analysis. 

Level B is for 1st graders. It has three types of questions: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, and serial reasoning.

Level C is given to 2nd graders and includes all four question categories: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization.

Level D is for both 3rd and 4th graders and again includes all four question categories: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization.

Level E is for 5th and 6th graders. Just like levels C and D, level E includes all four question categories: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization.

Level F is for 7th to 9th graders and includes only three categories: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, and serial reasoning. 

Level G is for 10th to 12th graders. It has three categories of questions as well: pattern completion, reasoning by analysis, and serial reasoning.

Each test will vary depending on the student’s age and grade level. The test can be performed by students from Kindergarten through the Senior year of High School. The test levels are categorized as A through G, and each level corresponds to different grades.

For Level A, students will be tested on pattern completion and reasoning by analogy. In level B, students are tested on pattern completion, serial reasoning, and reasoning by analogy.

For levels C through E, students will be tested on pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, spatial visualization, and serial reasoning. In levels F and G, students are tested on pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, and serial reasoning.

Types of Questions

The current edition of the NNAT test is comprised of 48 questions which are to be completed within 30 minutes. It has four question types. Each question will pertain to the child’s grade level, so a 14-year-old will not have the same question as a 17-year-old.

Depending on the level of test that your child is taking, the types of questions presented will be different. There are four categories of questions that may come up, and within each category, there will be a different type of non-verbal question that your child must answer.

If you want to help your child get familiar with practice questions, try out Test Prep Online’s NNAT Practice Pack.

  • Pattern Completion

Pattern completion questions are on every level of the NNAT tests. For this question type, students will be asked to identify missing components of patterns and designs shown to them and to set them in place to continue the pattern. For example, there will be a rectangle with a pattern displayed inside. 

On one part of the pattern, there will be a square with a question mark that blocks a portion of the shape. There will be several options for your child to choose from to fill in the missing portion of the pattern.

  • Reasoning by Analogy

For this question type, students are to recognize relationships between various geometric figures within designs. Reasoning by analogy questions are also on every level of the NNAT tests. For these questions, your child will be presented with a series of shapes or symbols. They may vary in color, size, or rotation.

At the end, there will be a box with a question mark, and your child will be expected to fill in the box with the right answer presented below. In essence, these questions require attention to the details and characteristics of the design.

  • Serial Reasoning

Serial reasoning questions will contain rows and columns of shapes or symbols. For this question type, students’ ability to find the missing element in a given matrix that is composed of geometric shapes. Each matrix has nine boxes in a grid. The student must figure out which answer choice belongs in the empty box at the bottom of the matrix.

  • Spatial Realization

For this question type, students are asked to mentally manipulate two or more objects and visualize how the resulting figure will look. These questions are considered the hardest on the NNAT test, as some of the questions require complex shapes to intersect and rotate. Spatial visualization questions feature shapes and symbols in rows and columns. 

Looking at the top row, your child must complete the bottom row by selecting the answer to fill in the empty box. 

How Is It Scored?

The NNAT3 test is comprised of three different scores. Each score is calculated differently and does not involve the child’s school grade level. In addition, there is the Raw Score, Naglieri Ability Index (NAI), and the Percentile score. The scores will arrive in the mail two months after submitting the finished test.

  • Raw Score

The Raw score is the basic scoring of how the student did on the 48 questions presented to them. For example, if the child got 46 of the 48 questions correct, the score would be 46/48. It is then converted to a normalized standard score, the NAI.

  • Naglieri Ability Index

The Raw score is then compared to the scores of children within the same age group (within a 3-month range), not the test level, creating the NAI score. This means that a 3rd grader will not be compared to a 4th grader or a 10th grader to a 12th grader even though they took the same tests.

  • Percentile Rank/Score

This score is primarily used by schools to determine how a student did against their peers of the same age group across the country. For example, a Percentile score, or Rank, of 81 means the child did 81% better than other children of the same age group across the country.

These scores are used to determine a child’s giftedness or if the child is gifted compared to their peers of the same age. Each school district will have different criteria for its program’s eligibility and administration processes for gifted programs. Each school district will also have different standards for giftedness.

How to Prepare for NNAT Test

Your child will be taking the NNAT test to assess their eligibility for entrance into a gifted and talented program. To do well on this test, you should begin preparing with your child at least two to four months in advance.

Of course, you shouldn’t put too much pressure on the outcome of the test, and this isn’t about forcing your child to study for hours every day. 

There are many options for preparing your child in a fun, engaging manner too.

  • Start Early

You don’t want your child to be cramming for this test—and this probably won’t work out anyway! If you try to force too much practice in just a short amount of time, you’ll both just end up stressed. And your child may not get used to the question format right away anyway.

This is why you should always begin studying early. This will let you approach the test with patience and ease, which will encourage your child to actually enjoy the experience.

  • Fun Problems

Your child won’t be able to sit down and study for hours at their age. If you make test prep fun, though, they’ll be more likely to engage with the material.

Purchase a few jigsaw puzzles and start a family habit of completing them. This is a great way for your child to begin learning through an activity that is fun and engaging. You can make it even more fun by letting them choose the characters and colors to keep them engaged.

Buy a hole punch and some colored paper too. This is a great way for you to show your child spatial constructs by punching holes in the paper and showing them how it folds and unfolds.

You can even do simpler exercises together without buying anything at all. Just point out some of your patterns in real life—show them how to count triangles on a jungle gym or cook with them and point out how many lasagna pieces fit in a pan or even fold clothing with them to teach them organizational skills.

This isn’t about keeping your child sitting for hours to learn but about making the learning fun so they’ll actually want to study.

  • Set Goals

Now, as you begin to study, even in small ways, be sure that you keep your goals realistic. It isn’t fair to expect your child to score perfectly or for them to be better than everyone else. This will only put unnecessary pressure on both of you.

Some of your more attainable goals might be focused on studying—like you want to complete 15 hours of test prep before the test. Or maybe you would like to spend just 15 minutes every other day working through some practice scenarios.

Again, this is a great starting point, which you can always increase as time goes on and your child gets more confident.

  • Ask Questions

Part of studying well is about understanding what your child does well and what they struggle with. Ask them questions then about some of their answers. It can be as simple as asking what different shapes and objects have in common or why they think something is the answer.

The better you understand them, the better you’ll be able to set your goals so that they can meet them.

  • Practice Tests

Beyond fun sort of daily prep, you can do practice tests from Test Prep Online to prepare. This will help your child become familiar with the format, content, and style of the exam so that they remain calm while they’re undergoing the test.

Ensure that you know what kinds of questions your child might encounter based on your child’s grade level. Knowing this will also help you tailor your preparation to the skills they need to know and what they should be studying.

Your child will indeed need to sit and take this test—which you should take some time to prepare them for. Prepare them for the fact that they’ll need to focus for a period by just getting them accustomed to sitting for 30 minutes of focus at a time. What they do in this time doesn’t matter, but having them learn the skill is important. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Is the NNAT Taken?

Your child will take the NNAT in a group format, either in person or online. There won’t be many instructions, but more pictures, shapes, and patterns to explain the questions in each section. While your child tests, an instructor will guide your child through instructions and prompts.

  • What Do the Questions Look Like?

Your child will need to test in four sections: pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization.

This means that your child will need to identify missing pieces of a pattern or explore the relationships between shapes. A lot of questions will be like this, dealing with how your child understands shapes. For serial reasoning, for example, they might need to deduce how shapes are organized in boxes.

They won’t have lots of instructions for any of these questions, but they will have to choose an answer from the ones provided.

  • How Is It Scored?

Your child will receive three scores for their exam: their raw score, NAI score, and percentile rank.

That raw score is basically the number out of the total. If there are 48 questions, then it would be something like 35/48.

The NAI is calculated from the raw score. This is a standardized, comparative score that will compare your child within an age range—usually against other children within the same three months as them. For this one, the highest possible score will be 160, but the average is 100. A normal score will be 85, and a high score is around 130.

Then the percentile rank to show you how your child performed against students in that three-month range. So, if your student got a percentile of 70, that means that they scored higher than 70 percent of kids in that age range.

  • Can My Child Fail?

Realistically, no. There isn’t an official pass score—it depends entirely upon the school system. So, your child might still earn a good score, but it may fall short of the standard the administrator set for the test.

If you’re curious, you might be able to ask your school or your administration what they expect for their gifted program, but either way, the score your child receives will be sent right to you. 


Ultimately, putting in the time and effort to prepare your child will give them the best chance of success. Get familiar with the test format and questions by going through Test Prep Online’s NNAT Practice Pack, and you will give your child an edge over other candidates right away.