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Social Processes: Methodology · Types of test

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), published by Harcourt Harcourt Assessment, Inc. — a subsidiary of Pearson plc — is a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability of children pre-K to 18. The Otis-Lennon is a group-administered (except preschool), multiple choice, taken with pencil and paper, measures verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning ability. The test yields verbal and nonverbal scores, from which a total score is derived, called a School Ability Index (SAI). The SAI is a normalized standard score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. With the exception of pre-K, the test is administered in groups. OLSAT is not an IQ test.

The test has twenty-one subtests, organized into five areas, and an equal number of verbal and non-verbal items is included at each area. The five areas are:

  1. Verbal comprehension
  2. Verbal reasoning
  3. Pictorial reasoning
  4. Figural reasoning
  5. Quantitative reasoning


The name Otis-Lennon reflects co-authors, Arthur Sinton Otis, PhD, and Roger Thomas Lennon, PhD.

Arthur Sinton Otis, PhD (28 July 1886-1 January 1964); is best known for the multiple choice intelligence tests he developed for the US Army. As a doctoral student under Lewis Terman in 1917 he developed the group-administered tests titled the Army Alpha (for literates) and the Army Beta (for illiterates). Dr. Otis developed it to improve cost and time efficiency as compared to one developed by Alfred Binet (1857–1911), which was individually administered. Given in multiple-choice format and administered in groups, 1.7 million World War I recruits took the Army Alpha test. The results were published in 1921 and included the relative performance of recruits of different national origins.
Many historians credit Fredrick James Kelly, PhD (1880–1959), of the University of Kansas, for inventing the multiple choice format (aka Multiple Choice Questions or MCQ) in 1914. However, Dr. Otis was the first to use it on a large scale in the Army Alpha test.
Dr. Otis was also a major contributor as a test editor for the World Book Company, which later became part of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. World Book Company is not related to World Book, Inc., the Chicago-based publisher of encyclopedias. The OLSAT was first published by Harcourt in 1979.
Roger Thomas Lennon, PhD (1916–1985) — was a longtime executive of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and chairman of one of its subsidiaries, The Psychological Corporation.


The fact that the OLSAT is easier and less expensive to administer than an IQ test, such as the Stanford Binet V, makes it more accessible, but, its accuracy at higher levels is less reliable than the Stanford Binet.

Preschoolers taking the OLSAT for gifted and talented (G&T) kindergarten programs are more likely to be aware that they are taking a test. For that particular age, the test is given one-on-one. The test is presented in a multiple choice format; and, either the child fills in the bubble or the tester does it for them.

By contrast, testers administering the Stanford Binet (or the ERB) discreetly take notes while conducting introspective thinking activities. Under these conditions, the child is often unaware that they are being evaluated.


1st ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published August 13, 1979)
2nd ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published September 10, 1982)
6th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published November 15, 1988)
7th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (published October 23, 1995)
8th ed. — Otis-Lennon School Ability Test

OLSAT NewsEdit

After years of using the Stanford Binet, New York City Department of Education, in 2007, adopted the use of the OLSAT, giving it a two-thirds weighting in an overall score for admission to G&T programs, pre-K through 2nd grade, for the school year beginning 2007. For the remaining one-third the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS) was utilized. Beginning with the 2008-9 school year, the OLSAT will count for three-quarters of the overall score while the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA) will account for the remaining one-quarter.

In September 2006, the NYC DOE, through a competitive bidding process, awarded a five-year $5.3 million contract to Harcourt Assessment to (i) provide testing materials for its Pre-K through 2 Gifted and Talented admissions, (ii) provide professional development for teachers and administrators and (iii) provide parent informational materials.

The copyrights for the OLSAT and the GRS are owned by Harcourt. Under the contract, Harcourt will develop and implement the scoring methodology and closely track scoring trends to ensure proper test administration. As of the fall of 2006, the DOE counted 180 spoken foreign languages among its 1.1 million students.


External linksEdit

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