New ERB Test – Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners – AABL Test

Here is another good article from Amy Zimmer at DNAinfo New York. To read the piece at that website, CLICK HERE. For practice questions to build skills for the AABL, visit Once you join, go to Select Practice Questions – NYC Private School and the practice questions are right there!

MANHATTAN — Some of the city’s most elite private schools will soon require 4-year-olds to take a new, harder admissions test given on an iPad and designed to assess math and literacy skills.

The educational services company ERB’s Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners (AABL) will be given for the first time in October and is a significant departure from the previous, IQ-like test most New York City private schools required for the past 45 years.

While the new test is much cheaper for families — it’s $65, rather than $568 for the old test, because the new test is taken by iPad rather than by a trained examiner — experts believe many parents will shell out even more on classes and books to prepare their toddlers for it.

“These are subjects that were not previously tested,” said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, who advises parents on private school admissions.

“The AABL is supposed to identify a child’s ability and achievement,” Glickman said. “That achievement part — how much you learned — is totally new. You usually think of an achievement test as something you take in high school. It’s not something you think of for preschoolers.”

So far, only Horace Mann and Riverdale Country School have announced plans to use the new exam, but experts believe more may follow.

In the past, most private schools used the ERB’s IQ test for kindergarten admission. But this year the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) told schools they were no longer required to use that test and instead could use a different one, make admissions tests optional or ignore them entirely.

The coalition cited concerns that 4-year-olds were over-preparing for the old IQ exam.

Some consultants, though, were perplexed by the shift to the new, more difficult AABL test.

“The AABL is really requiring more from preschoolers. That is in line with what we’re seeing in public schools,” Glickman said, referring to changes in the Department of Education’s gifted and talented admissions test. “We all know that some of the brightest people are late bloomers, yet more and more schools are rewarding the early achievers.”

To prepare kids for the AABL, parents should work with their youngsters on basic early literacy and math skills, said Karen Quinn, best-selling author of “Testing for Kindergarten” and co-founder of online test prep service

“We’re looking at things like knowing letters, numbers and shapes, knowing letter sounds, recognizing rhymes, counting, adding, subtracting and more,” she said.

The ERB’s IQ test was more subjective, especially on the verbal section, in which the examiner could award partial credit, said Bige Doruk, founder of test prep company Bright Kids NYC.

“For example, if the question stated ‘What is a mouse?’ and the kid answered ‘animal,’ he or she would get 1 point. If the kid said ‘a gray animal that is small, has a tail and likes to eat cheese,’ the kid would get the full 2 points,” Doruk explained.

If a child just said “animal,” the tester would reply, “Tell me more,” giving the child another chance to earn the full 2 points, Doruk said.

In addition to a numerical grade, the old test also included a written narrative from the examiner describing the child’s behavior during the test, such as whether the toddler seemed to be focused or easy to work with.

It’s unlikely that the AABL will include a report on the child, because the child will take the test independently on an iPad, Doruk said.

“It favors those with more reading skills and who’ve gone to more academic preschools,” said Doruk, whose company began offering one-on-one tutoring, ranging from $140 to $200 a session, for the AABL about a month ago.

Horace Mann and Riverdale declined to comment on their choice to use the new test, but Horace Mann explained its rationale on its website.

“While the score report is only one element of a child’s application,” the school said, “it is the only piece of the application that is consistent and objective for our applicants, who come from many schools and many different backgrounds and include children who do not come to us from formalized preschool settings.”

In the past, many parents would sign their kids up to take the test in the spring and summer before applying to schools. Registration for the AABL, however, doesn’t open until Sept. 15, and testing starts Oct. 15, according to the exam’s website.

Some consultants raised concerns about the use of an iPad test, saying toddlers shouldn’t spend so much time in front of a screen. But Doruk said her company has been using iPads in tutoring sessions for the past two years.

“Kids know how to use the iPad. They like the iPad. It’s more engaging to them. It looks like a game,” Doruk said. “But they still have to answer the questions correctly.”

Gifted and Talented or Private School Testing – Test Conditions Matter

I want to share with you a question I just received from a parent (along with my answer to her).

Let this serve as a cautionary tale to you that the conditions under which your child is tested do make a difference.

“Dear Karen, How are you doing? I spoke with you a few times before I purchased your program and had a few questions for you. My son has been doing your program and really enjoys it. He is currently enrolled at an excellent pre-K program that goes thru Kindergarten. I was torn between moving him now or waiting until after Kindergarten because most of the students that leave Kindergarten there test at least on 1st grade level, if not 2nd grade level. We thought it would be better to possibly move him now as there are usually more spots for the Kindergarten incoming class than the next grade levels. He will be entering Kindergarten in the Fall and we decided to have him test at two private schools in our city and one of the public magnet gifted schools.

I took him to do all of the testing. The first two tests we took were at the private schools. I told him we were doing brain games like on the computer and did not pressure him letting him know we were testing. Well he actually enjoyed the “brain games” and actually told me he did well on them. The last test was for the magnet school. I wasn’t comfortable because the test was given at 7:00am in the morning, a time he is normally asleep and not riding in a car across town to school. I also felt that the test administrators at the private school did such a good job of making him feel welcome and comfortable while the magnet school seemed to be rushing students in and out to get things over and done. Well we just got the decisions back and for some strange reason he was accepted to both of the private schools but we received a letter from the magnet school stating he didn’t score high enough on their test. This was very puzzling to me as how could he pass the test for private schools costing 19.5k year but not pass a public school test? Can you help me understand what happened?”

Here is how I answered this mom’s question:

“It sounds to me like the private school did a much better job of administering the tests and this could have affected your son’s score. Here, they took the time to welcome your son and make him feel comfortable. He was probably tested by a psychologist there who is experienced administering these types of tests and making children feel comfortable. It doesn’t sound like they were under any time constraint, or trying to finish the test before the school day started. I think it is absolutely crazy that the public school scheduled your son’s test for 7 a.m. If you live across town, it might have taken half an hour to drive to the school so he probably had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to take the test. This cut into his sleep schedule and there is research that tells us that cutting into even an hour of a child’s sleep schedule before a test can reduce a child’s test scores by one grade level. It sounds like the public school was trying to get the test done before the school day started and (perhaps) the tester had another place she needed to be by 8:00 a.m.

You could certainly ask for a retest, although the principal might resist and say that all the other children were tested at that (ungodly) hour so they were all at a similar disadvantage. But you could try. If you decide to wait and reapply to the magnet school next year, I would suggest that you insist that he not be tested at such an early hour next time. If you continue to work with your son between now and then on school skills and the types of skills that will be covered on the test, he should be in great shape for any test they might give him then (at a more reasonable hour!).”

Scheduling Your Child’s Test

When you are tasked with scheduling an important test for your child, you may or may not have the ability to choose the optimal time for the test to take place. But I encourage you to do your very best to make sure that you schedule the test at a time when your child is generally at his or her best. If a school (or testing center) wants to schedule a test super early in the morning, and you will have to change your child’s sleep schedule to accommodate that, tell the school that this won’t work for your child and find another time. If a school (or testing center) wants to schedule a test at a time when your child is usually napping, do not take that time.

If you have to keep your child out of preschool or school on the day of a test to make the test-time, do that. You don’t want your child to go into a test after spending the morning at school – she’ll be tired. And you don’t want to pull your child out of school, where she may be in the middle of doing something really fun, to take her for a test. She won’t want to be at that test and may not do her best.

If your child will be tested at an unfamiliar school or testing center, it is a good idea to take your child by that location a few days ahead of time. Let him know that you’ll be going there in a few days, where he will meet with a teacher, who is very nice like his teacher at school, Mrs. So-and-So. Tell him that this special teacher will be asking him questions to see how much a 4-year-old like him knows. If there is a playground at the school where he will be tested and he can play on it, let him. You want him to be as comfortable as possible with the venue where he’ll be going for testing. It is also important to arrive early so your child isn’t rushed out of your arms the moment you arrive. Bring a book to read to him if you have to wait. The transition from mom to tester should be gentle and easy and calm! Arriving early ensures that this can happen. When it comes to testing a very young child, test conditions can affect the score. You want to do as much as you possibly can to make these conditions as supportive for your child’s success as possible.

More on WPPSI®-IV vs. WPPSI®-III (or Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence®)

When you learn that your child will be given the WPPSI®-III or WPPSI®-IV, it is important to understand that they are taking an IQ or intelligence test. An alternative to the WPPSI® test that is often given is the Stanford-Binet V. These tests are administered one-on-one with a psychologist and can take from 45 minutes to over an hour. The test was updated in October, 2012, and most psychologists will be using it by fall 2013.

I am really excited about the updates to the new WPPSI-IV test. Pearson has added some new subtests that make the test more fun and playful for young children. They have added sections that assess Working Memory, which was not specifically covered on the WPPSI®-III, and they have limited the amount of expressive language a child needs in order to show what they know and understand.

Here are some of the ways WPPSI®-IV differs from WPPSI®-III:

1) Age was expanded. WPPSI-IV is now for Ages 2:6 – 7:7. The test now covers a wider age range. Of course, there are fewer subtests given to younger children (ages 2:6 – 3:11), and the number of subtests a psychologist administers depends on how complete an assessment she chooses to do. Older children (ages 4:0 – 7:7) are given more subtests. A psychologist might choose to give a child subtests to determine a full-scale IQ (FSIQ) score for the child, or she might decide to get a primary index score, which represents intellectual functioning in specific cognitive areas (such as verbal comprehension, visual-spatial, fluid reasoning, working memory, and/or processing speed).

2) Wider Overlap with the WISC®-IV – There is now a wider overlap where a child can either take the WPPSI-IV or the WISC-IV. The WISC®-IV is the “continuation” of the WPPSI®-IV – the subtests are similar and both tests are published by Pearson. Between the ages of 6:0 – 7:7, either test may be administered. For children suspected of having lower cognitive skills, it is probably best that they be given the WPPSI®-IV. The psychologist can start with a lower level of question difficulty for children in this category. If you have a child this age who appears to have a higher level of intelligence, administering the WISC®-IV allows the child to push forward to more difficult questions and show how high he can go. A good psychologist can talk with you about which test is more appropriate after getting a thorough understanding of why you have having your child tested.

3) Less Writing is Required – The WPPSI®-III required children to make symbols using their pencils in the old “Coding” section of the test. Not all children had the fine-motor skills to manage this task. This task was designed to measure a child’s “processing speed” – that is, how quickly they are able to work at a new task. If they were having trouble manipulating their pencil, it wasn’t the best measure of how quickly a child could work. With the WPPSI-IV, ink daubers replace pencils. Processing speed is now measured in the Bug Search and Cancellation subtests with children “stamping” their answer, which requires less development in the way of fine motor skills and is a lot more fun for the child. These two subtests replace the old Cancellation and Symbol Search subtests, and are considered more developmentally appropriate for younger children.

4) Less Expressive Language is Needed – With the WPPSI®-III, children were asked more open-ended questions where they were required to explain their answers. For example, a WPPSI®-III “Comprehension” question might require a child to explain “Why is it important to share your toys.” Young children with limited expressive language skills might have a hard time explaining why sharing toys is important, although they might understand that it is the polite thing to do so that everyone gets a turn to play. With the WPPSI®-IV, the Comprehension questions are now picture-based. A child will hear a question and must understand what he is being asked (receptive language), and then he is expected to point to the answer. So a child may be shown 4 pictures where children are playing together – some not so nicely, some playing separately – and be asked, “Point to the child who is sharing his toys.” There are still expressive language requirements for this test, with the Vocabulary and Picture Naming subtests, but these two subtests are not always administered.

5) Working Memory has been added – Working memory is a critical cognitive skill for school children. When we talk about this ability, we are talking about a child’s ability to hear or see something, to immediately remember it, and then do something with the information. An auditory working memory test activity that you’ll see on IQ tests would involve reading a string of numbers and letters to a child, and asking them to repeat the numbers and letters back with the numbers first going from lowest to highest and the letters second, given back in alphabetical order. This would not be an appropriate task for a young child, of course. Research shows that younger children have stronger visual memories than auditory, so the WPPSI®-IV Working Memory subtests are all visual in nature. A child sees a picture and then must point to in later when it is mixed in with other pictures. Or a child sees an animal card placed in a location on a zoo map. After the animal card is taken away, the child must put the picture back where it was before. To accomplish these Working Memory tasks, children must access skills around attention, concentration, mental control and reasoning – all critical skills for thinking.

I believe the new WPPSI®-IV is a wonderful intelligence test for young children. It’s subtests are based on the latest thinking and research in the field of child development. Parents often ask me, if given a choice, should their child take the Stanford-Binet or the WPPSI? If your school will accept either test as a qualification for acceptance, I would recommend that you ask for the new WPPSI®-IV.

For Practice questions for WPPSI®-IV, visit or take a look at IQ Fun Park, the test prep kit disguised as a game.

Sources of Information about WPPSI®-IV:

Test Publisher’s website:
Test Publisher’s brochure:

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence™ – Third Edition (WPPSI™ – III) and Fourth Edition (WPPSI™ – IV) are registered trademarks of Pearson Education, Inc or its affiliate(s), or their licensors. and are not affiliated with nor related to Pearson Education, Inc or its affiliates (“Pearson”). Pearson does not sponsor or endorse any product, nor have products or services been reviewed, certified, or approved by Pearson. Trademarks referring to specific test providers are used by and for nominative purposes only and such trademarks are solely the property of their respective owners.

10% More Pupils Qualified for Gifted Programs in NYC – Test Prep Played a Role

The statistics are in.  The New York Times reported today  that the 12,454 students who took the gifted and talented test for admission to New York City’s gifted and talented kindergartens, 3,542 scored in the top 90% or above.  That’s a 10% gain over last year.  What is even more striking is the 33% jump in students scoring above the 97th percentile – 1,788 versus 1,345 last year.  These bright children will now vie for the 300 seats in Manhattan’s most elite programs such as Hunter College Elementary, The Anderson Program and the Lab Program,  making competition for seats fiercer than ever.

What happened?  How did so many children get so much smarter in the course of a year?  The Times article suggested that increased test preparation may have played a role.  Bright Kids NYC, which tutors children for the NYC admissions tests at $145 a session reported that 80% of the 120 students for whom it had results had scored 90%  or above and 60 children had scored in the 99th percentile.  Their results support the fact that you can prepare for IQ tests and when you prepare, it works.

Unfortunately, preparation comes at a price that shuts many bright kids out.  Let’s say a child takes 10 tutoring sessions at Bright Kids NYC to get ready for gifted and talented testing – that’s $1,450. Even if they give some sort of discounted package deal, that’s still a lot to swallow.  On the other hand, it’s a small price to pay to get your child into one of best public school programs available.  Tell that to a single mother who has been out of work for a year.

These days, kindergarten test prep guides are available at prices ranging from $60 to $500.  Aristotle Circle makes a comprehensive $500 workbook parents can use to prep kid for the WPPSI-III (ERB) and they are working on one for the OLSAT (these are the tests Manhattan kids take for private school admission and gifted and talented qualification).  According to the company, we “developed this workbook to help level the playing field…”.  I’ll be the first to say that they did an excellent job with their WPPSI guide and I can see it was expensive to produce, but for $500, there is no playing field being leveled here (except maybe between the rich and the very rich).

Given the upswing in scores, it’s clear that kids who aren’t prepped for testing will be at a disadvantage in years to come.  How fortunate for regular parents everywhere that a $15 book is coming out in July that explains these tests in detail, takes parents through them section-by-section, and shows them how to get their kids ready for testing without hiring tutors or buying high-priced workbooks. [full disclosure:  I wrote the book – it’s called Testing For Kindergarten, so what I just said was completely self-serving.  Please forgive me.]

I’m not going to address here whether I believe that 4-year-olds who score in the top 90th or 97th percentiles are truly gifted and deserve the privilege of admission to the best school programs the city offers (though I don’t and I don’t – that’s another blog post).  This is a philosophical discussion that must take place, but not when you have a child starting kindergarten next year.  Parents have to be practical.  Who among us doesn’t want the best school options we can provide for our little ones?  The school board tells us the hoops our children have to jump through in order to qualify and we do what we can to help them meet the criteria.  In New York and around the country, IQ tests are the flawed but pivotal hoops.

New York City officials acknowledged that test preparation may have played a role in the score explosion.  Still, they said they were confident that most children who passed belonged in accelerated classes.  In the Times article, Anna Commitante, who heads Manhattan’s gifted and talented program said, “The city may very well think about something different” after next year, when its contract with the testing companies expires.

So that’s their evil plan to foil prepping parents!  Change the tests the city relies on to admit kids and no one’ll be ready!  Trust me, if, next year, the moment a new test is announced – any new test – fancy pre-schools and tutors everywhere will start teaching to that test faster than H&M rips off the latest designer fashions.

Here’s the thing.  The reason IQ tests have been relied on for so long as a key factor in making admissions decisions is because these tests assess whether or not a child has the abilities that educators believe children need to be successful in school.  There are 7 of these abilities; they are language, knowledge/comprehension, memory, mathematics, visual-spatial, cognitive and fine-motor skills.  No matter what testing instrument a school district decides to rely on in the future for gifted and talented admissions, every child will need these same 7 abilities to ace the test and (later) succeed in kindergarten and elementary school.

I’m all for getting kids ready for testing and school.  The sooner you start, the better.  In my opinion, the key is to understand the 7 abilities kids need for testing and school success.  Internalize these as deeply as you already have the 5 food groups.  If you know the 7 abilities that well, you can easily and naturally instill them in your child in the course of everyday living – no tutors or workbooks required.  Do this and your child will test well and (most likely) go on to become an excellent student.  If you start doing this when your child is just a toddler and later, your school board decides to change its admissions criteria, it won’t matter. Your child will be ready.