CAT Test Online vs. CAT Paper Version

The California Achievement Test (CAT Test), specifically the CAT E/Survey, for grades K-12, is a nationally normed standardized test that measures achievement in the areas of Reading, Language Arts and Math. It meets most states’ requirements for an annual assessment for homeschool.   There are two ways you can choose to administer this test: the CAT Test Online and the CAT Paper Version.

CAT Test Online vs. CAT Paper Version from Starts At Eight

Throughout our 8 years of homeschooling my children have taken multiple end of year achievement tests including the PASS, and the CAT (California Achievement Test).  In previous years, my older two have tested using the paper version of the CAT test which I purchased through Seton Testing Services.

I started testing early on with my children because I am of the school of thought that if they do it every year they will be familiar with it and not have a fear of it.  The requirements vary by state (you can check your state requirements here), but here in NY we have to test every other year in 4th-8th grade and every year from 9th-12th grade.

Two years ago I decided to take the plunge and try the CAT version offered online through Christian Liberty Press. Since I know I was curious about the differences and the actual carrying out of the test, I thought I would share my thoughts and opinions here to help give you all a sense of what the differences are, or maybe more accurately the similarities.

The CAT test itself does not really vary between the online and the paper.  When my children transitioned from one year to the next I did not see any major change in how they received the questions on the two different tests, or in their scores.

About the CAT Test:

The content of both the CAT Test Online and Paper Version are the same.

The CAT Test covers:

  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
  • Language Mechanics
  • Language Expression
  • Math Computation
  • Math Concept and Applications

Number of Sections:

  • Level 1 has 10 sections
  • Levels 2 and 3 have 11 sections
  • Levels 4 and 5 have 9 sections

CAT Scores:

The CAT scores are reported in 4 different variations:

  1. Raw Scores – The actual number of correct answers within a given test section, and are used to calculate the other score variations.
  2. Grade Equivalents – (online version) These represent the grade level (year and month separated by a decimal point) of a student’s ability compated to the median score of students at the same academic level.
  3. Stanines – Stanines are based on the mean of the norm group (who are given the score of 5) and a standard deviation of 2.0. Scores are determined by the amount of standard deviation from the norm group, in approximately one-half standard deviation increments. 1,2, and 3 reflect below average performance. 4,5, and 6 are considered average. 7,8, and 9 are above average.
  4. Percentiles – Percentile scores are equivalent to the percentage of students from the norm group who received lower scores than the student. For example, a student with a percentile score of 81 means that the student did better than approximately 81% of the students in the norm group.

A note about the premium scoring or composite scoring that some of the testing sites are offering at an additional cost, even if you are homeschooling in NYS where we need the testing, you do not need these premium score breakdown features. What you get with basic scoring supplies you with the basic information you need to fulfill the regulations.

Differences in the CAT Test Online & Paper Version:

1. The Version of the CAT Test Used

One major difference between the paper and online CAT is that Christian Liberty Press uses the 1970’s version for the CAT Test Online.  You can find their reasoning on their FAQ Page.

2. The Time Elapsed From Order to Finish

If you are doing the CAT Test Online you can order, take, and get the results all in one day.  Once your order is complete you receive the links within minutes to log on and begin testing.  Once each section is complete you can view the scores immediately while logged in and when the whole test is complete you receive and e-mail with the results within minutes.

With the Paper Version you have to account for shipping time in both directions and up to two weeks for them to grade your test.

3. The Cost of the Test

The cost of the CAT Test Online is $25.  The cost of the Paper Version is also $25 but there is also the cost of shipping involved as testing supplies have to be sent to you and you have to send testing supplies back upon completion.

4. Timer Visible

If your student can get stressed by seeing the timer then the online test might not be for them as the timer is right on the screen in which they are working.  If you choose the paper version you can keep the time yourself and choose how to notify your student of the time remaining.

Bottom Line:

Both versions are still the same test, the CAT Test.  I do not see one version of the CAT Test as being better than the other, their largest variations in terms of parent consideration are in cost, method of administration and turn around time for the grading.

When deciding which one is right for your child the main thing to consider would be in whether the computer is the right environment or if the paper and pencil route is more comfortable to them.

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