Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How do I submit an application for my child to enroll in the FCPS AAP center program?
A : Your most important source of information is staff at the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and you may ask your school’s gifted specialist, counselor, or principal for guidance. You should read the Parent Information Packet at http://www.fcps.edu/is/aap. You may also telephone the Elementary & Middle School AAP Programs Office at (571) 423-4740

Q: What GROUP test(s) is my child required to take?
A : The results from at least one ability test from the FCPS list of approved tests are required in order for a student to be screened for AAP center placement. George Mason University (GMU) administers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test- Second Edition (NNAT-2) together.

Q: How much do the GROUP tests cost?
A : Administration of the CogAT and NNAT in a single day costs $150.00, payable to GMU by cash, check, or money order. Students with documented eligibility for a free or reduced price lunch from any public school system are awarded scholarships covering all testing costs. Documentation is required. Please contact our office for additional information.

Q: How often may I have my child tested?
A : The CogAT and/or NNAT-2 should be administered no more than once every six months.

Q: Will GMU submit my child’s scores to FCPS?
A : No, you as a parent are responsible for delivering test scores to FCPS as a part of the completed AAP application file.

Q: Who are the test proctors, and how are they trained?
A : GROUP testing proctors are graduate students in GMU programs in clinical, developmental, and/or school psychology. All have received formal training and supervision in GROUP testing, and most bring considerable experience and enthusiasm to the testing situation. Our proctors place your child’s welfare before all other concerns, and we have had some children describe our proctors as their “favorite teachers.” Our proctors all work under the supervision of the program coordinator, a licensed psychologist.

Q: How can I register my child for testing?
A : GMU offers two ways to register: (1) Using our printable registration form (click here to download), (2) by telephone at (703) 993-4200, and press 2. If you leave us a telephone message with your name and phone number, our staff will return your call by the next business day.

Q: If I register in advance for a test date, can I cancel and attend at a later date?
A : Yes, but you will need to provide the registration information again at the later date.

Q: I would like to register my child for the GROUP tests, but he or she does not attend FCPS. Can he or she still take the tests?
A : Yes, you can. Although the GMU testing program has been designed jointly with FCPS, we do not limit ourselves to testing only FCPS students.

Q: Does it make any difference when during the year my child takes the GROUP tests?
A : No; we offer group testing twice per year to provide parents with more flexibility in meeting various FCPS application and appeals deadline. Please consult with Fairfax County Public Schools regarding the specific deadlines that may be applicable to your particular circumstances. If our group testing dates do not meet your particular scheduling needs, you may wish to consider individual testing. Our office provides individual testing throughout the year.

Q: When will I receive the test scores?
A : For September testing dates, you will receive your score report within 30 days of your scheduled testing date. For January testing dates, you will receive test results no later than two weeks from the date of testing. In January, we make every effort to ensure that parents receive test scores prior to FCPS’ February submission deadline.

Q: Can I pick up my child's score report?
A : We offer several test dates each season. Therefore, you should schedule your tests according to your deadlines. You may make arrangements with GMU's Office staff to pick up the scores in person. In this way, you will get the scores without having to wait for them in the mail, which may save you a couple days. If you choose to do this please email (gttests@gmu.edu) or call (703-993-4200) the office to make sure that the scores are in fact ready to be picked up (i.e. "Are the ___Month, __Day tests, scored and ready to be picked up?") You should also give us your chlid's first and last name. When you come to pick up the scores you must have a photo ID. Be advised that our office is NOT located on campus, rather we are about 1.5 miles off campus in an office building: 10340 Democracy Lane, Suite 202. Fairfax, VA 22030. Please do not contact the office until 2 weeks after the original test date.

Q: What is the CogAT?
A : The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is a GROUP-administered test of reasoning and problem-solving ability. We administer CogAT, with norms based on a nationally-representative sample of over 180,000 students tested in 2000. The CogAT consists of nine subtests (second graders take only six subtests) that yield separate scores for verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal reasoning abilities, as well as an overall composite score.

Q: What is the NNAT?
A : The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test Second Edition (NNAT-2) is a GROUP-administered test of general ability that features a largely nonverbal approach to testing. NNAT-2 items were developed to assess reasoning ability without requiring the student to read, write, or speak. NNAT-2 norms are based upon a nationally representative sample of nearly 90,000 students tested in 1995 and 1996. The norms for the NNAT 2 were collected in 2007, and were based on 57,000 children. The author of the NNAT-2 is Dr. Jack A. Naglieri, a Professor of Psychology at GMU.

Q: If my child does not do well on either the CogAT or NNAT-2, can I submit just one of my child’s test scores?
A : No, we recommend that you provide both sets of test scores to provide a more complete picture of your child. You may wish to explain any areas of exceptional strength or relative weakness in your Parent/Guardian Questionnaire. For example, it is not unusual for a child with limited English proficiency to obtain a relatively lower score on the CogAT verbal tests than on other tests, because the CogAT verbal tests require English word knowledge.

Q: My child just started (or skipped) a grade. What effect will this have on test scores?
A : All students are administered levels of the tests that correspond to the grade levels in which they are currently placed, but scores are provided that are grade-referenced (i.e., based upon a comparison with children at the same grade) and age-referenced (i.e., based upon a comparison with children of the same age). If your child is unusually young for his or her grade level, there may be discrepancy between his or her grade scores (lower) and age scores (higher).

Q: My child just turned eight. Is he or she being compared to children that are 8 yrs -11 mos?
A : No. Age-referenced scores involve a comparison of your child’s performance to children from the national normative sample in three-month blocks, so your child will always be compared with a reference group that is no more than three months away from your child’s age.

Q: Are grade scores the same for all children of a given grade any time during the year?
A : No. Student performances are compared with the performance of students in the national normative sample who took the test at approximately the same phase of the school year. For example, children’s scores on the CogAT can be based upon normative data collected during fall testing (August through November), mid-year testing (December through February), or spring testing (March through June). Through the use of appropriate grade-based normative tables, student’s scores are compared with those of other students tested at the same time of the school year.

Q: How many other students will be in the room while my child is being tested?
A : Generally there are fewer than 15 students in a classroom. As the number of students approaches 20, we will try to make accomodations such as adding extra classrooms and/or putting extra proctors in classrooms.

Q: Are testing accommodations are available for children with special needs?
A : If your child has a disability that may require testing accommodations, please contact the GMU Cognitive Assessment Program office at (703) 993-4200. We can provide accommodations if written documentation supporting the presence of a disability, and the need for accommodations, is provided to our office at least two weeks prior to the testing date.

Q: What do parents do while their child is testing?
A : GMU has a classroom waiting area, where parents can wait while their child is testing. After all children are in their testing classrooms, the program coordinator provides a presentation with a question & answer sessions for parents. The presentation includes a description of the tests, an explanation of the testing schedule, and a description of the reports that will be sent to parents. The program coordinator also addresses questions from parents about the testing session. For the remaining portion of the day, most parents bring some reading materials and wait for their child to visit them during testing breaks and the lunch break.

Q: Will there be food services available on campus during the GROUP testing?
A : Yes, there is a convenience store open in the Johnson Center on Saturdays. We generally recommend that you bring food and snacks from home.

Q: What are the cutoff scores on the GROUP tests that my child needs to get to be eligible for the FCPS AAP program?
A : There are no specific cutoff scores for any of the tests that determine eligibility for FCPS AAP center placement. The tests scores are just one of several components that will be taken into consideration for the program. The FCPS central AAP selection committee makes placement decisions after taking a holistic look at the child’s educational history, reviewing progress reports, test data, and observations of the student’s classroom behaviors.

Q: How does GMU score the tests?
A : The tests are all hand-scored twice in order to maintain high levels of accuracy. Hand scoring ensures that no child is penalized by incomplete erasures or light bubbling of responses. All tests undergo a second level of review by the program coordinator to identify unlikely or improbable scoring profiles, which are checked a third time.

Q: What are standard scores?
A : Standard scores are a traditional test scoring metric that frequently ranges from about 50 to 150-160, with a normative average of 100. They usually assume a bell-shaped distribution of scores. On the CogAT, these scores are termed Standard Age Scores, whereas on the NNAT-2 they are labeled the Nonverbal Ability Index. The higher the score goes above 100, the more above average is the child’s performance. Scores at 130 on the NNAT-2 and at 132 on the CogAT are comparable and each rank at the 98th percentile, because the NNAT-2 and the CogAT have slightly different deviations.

Q: What does percentile rank mean?
A : Percentile ranks range from 1 to 99 and describe a student’s test performance position relative to other students of the same age or grade in the national normative reference group. Percentile rank relates the percent of students in the national sample who obtained identical or lower scores on the test, with ranks between the 25 th and 75 th percentile falling within the average range of normative expectations.

Q: What is a stanine?
A : A stanine is a broad interval score from 1 to 9, with scores of 4 to 6 falling within the average range. A stanine of 8 corresponds to performance within the 89th to 95th percentiles, and a stanine of 9 corresponds to performance at or above the 96 th percentile.

Q: What influence does GMU have in determining my child’s eligibility for the FCPS AAP program?
A : None. GMU conducts the testing, but we do not make any eligibility or placement decisions. The FCPS AAP central selection committee makes all decisions.

Q: What if it snows?
A: We adhere to the GMU weather policy. If campus is closed, we are closed too and there will be no testing. You can find out if the campus is closed by calling 703-993-1000.