Above-Level Testing

Above-level testing is an important tool for assessing the educational needs of academically talented students

Precise and accurate assessments of what students currently know are needed to ensure that gifted students are challenged in school and taught only what they do not already know. Everyone agrees that the purpose of education is to help individuals expand their knowledge. But for students who achieve very high scores on grade-level tests, accurately assessing what they already know is difficult. Scores on many grade-level tests do not measure how far students have mastered material beyond their grade level. Grade-level testing can be compared to measuring every child’s height with a four-foot measuring stick: it does not tell us the actual height of children taller than four feet.

As shown below, students can appear quite similar in their academic performance using a typical grade-level test—but an above grade-level test reveals huge differences in their actual academic achievement:

7th Grade Talent Search Charts

All three students are posting near-perfect scores on their grade-level tests. However, the above-level test scores on the right illustrate that the students differ significantly from each other. Knowing this allows educators and parents to build a more effective learning plan for each student.

Some well-meaning parents or educators may believe that higher test scores only matter up to a certain point and then don’t matter very much. However, research shows that no matter how high you go, higher scores are linked to higher outcomes. Even within just the top 1 percent of students, higher test scores are associated with higher adulthood accomplishments and more significant achievements.

Above-level tests let educators and parents identify relative strengths as well as more accurately assess what material students have already learned.

Take action

Parents and educators: to see if above-level testing would be appropriate for your students in grades four, five or six, please visit the Taking the PSAT 8/9 section. For students in grades seven and above, please see the Above-Level Testing section.

Download our flyer about above-level testing (PDF).