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PSAT 8/9 Above-Grade-Level Testing

Assessment for Acceleration and Long-Term Planning

Grades 3 - 6

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Registration Open

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In Person: The test site for PSAT 8/9 is in Evanston, Illinois on Northwestern's campus and at select locations in the US in collaboration with schools and districts. If your school would like to host a PSAT 8/9 administration, contact

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Test dates occur throughout the year. See the Registration Process, Dates, and Fees section below.


PSAT 8/9 with CTD Assessment Resources: $100

Why Take The PSATTM 8/9 Above-Grade-Level

CTD's above-grade-level assessment program, part of an approach known as academic Talent Search, helps parents, educators, and students better understand academic strengths and educational needs using assessments designed for older students. These assessments, including the PSATTM 8/9, provide young students access to challenging content and use college and career readiness as learning benchmarks. Fifty years of research and experience demonstrate that when these tests are given to younger students, they provide valuable insight into academic ability and potential.

What are the benefits?

  • Identify exceptional academic ability and areas of strength
  • Monitor growth over time and benchmark with high-achieving students in the same grade
  • Understand academic readiness for enrichment and acceleration
  • Understand programming and placement needs, particularly as students prepare for high school
  • Connect students to programs and opportunities designed to meet their needs
  • Set a course for a lifelong journey of achievement and fulfillment

Notes about testing and the ongoing pandemic

Please note that the pandemic continues to impact in-person testing opportunities, which means test date and site availability is not guaranteed. When CTD is the test location host, we will follow Northwestern University and CDC guidance to make decisions about health and safety protocols or cancellations.

CTD will communicate updates or cancellations about testing location and protocols for health and safety. Last minute changes and cancellations are possible, so be sure you are familiar with test registration change and refund policies.

Reasons to Take the PSAT 8/9 Through CTD

Almost 50 years of research and practice demonstrate that participation in an above-grade-level assessment program such as CTD's benefits advanced, or gifted, students in a number of ways. Students who have participated are more likely to continue their high achievement into high school, college, and beyond. They take more accelerated and advanced courses, earn more awards and honors, and have higher educational aspirations than other students.

CTD's proprietary interpretive materials give participants, their families, and educators a clearer understanding of academic strengths, including how students are performing compared to other gifted learners taking the same assessment, information about what content students are ready to learn, and recommendations regarding accelerated and enrichment programs.

In addition, practice and early exposure to above-grade-level testing builds confidence when testing for high school and college readiness or college admission. Students become more willing to take on challenges and they start to think more about what they can achieve not only in school but also in life.

Resources and Tools Provided by CTD

MyCTD Toolbox is a secure, password-protected website where families and educators can access the wealth of resources CTD provides as a result of above-grade-level assessment:

    • Test preparation materials
    • Test score report with an explanation of sub-test and composite scores and what they indicate about learning readiness
    • Recommendations for academic programming in math, science, social science and the humanities based on students' scores
    • Annual Statistical Summary of PSAT 8/9, SAT and ACT score distributions and percentile ranks by grade based on all scores received by CTD above-grade-level test participants in the previous two years; this allows educators and parents to determine how their students' scores compare to those of other high-achieving students at their grade level
    • Instructional and professional development resources for educators
    • Articles on parenting gifted students for families

Educational Program Guide, an online, searchable listing of schools, programs and scholarships for academically talented students throughout the United States

Mailings of interest to gifted students and their parents from other programs and special schools located in the Midwest and beyond

About the PSAT 8/9

The PSAT 8/9 helps students and educators determine students' progress in developing the skills needed for high school and college. Though designed for students in grades 8 and 9, talent search organizations like CTD administer the PSAT 8/9 to advanced students in grades 3 through 6 to get a more accurate picture of their abilities and readiness for accelerative programs. The PSAT 8/9 assesses reading, writing, language, and math knowledge and skills. The test takes approximately 3-3.5 hours to complete.


Criteria for Participation

Students who are most likely to benefit from above-grade-level testing on the PSAT 8/9 are those in grades 3 through 6 who meet at least one of the criteria listed below.

Past Participant:

Students who qualified for and participated in a talent search (above-grade-level testing) in a previous year qualify to participate this year and are encouraged to take the same test to measure academic growth and/or experience a different test for practice (see suggestions by grade level below).

Participation in a school gifted program or advanced academic services:

Students in grades 3 through 6 who receive gifted or advanced academic services (advanced or accelerated courses) at school are encouraged to register.

Recommendation by a parent or teacher:

To be recommended, students should

  • demonstrate advanced aptitude in verbal or mathematical reasoning,
  • consistently demonstrate a high level of performance on academically demanding course work,
  • often request more challenging learning experiences,
  • be comfortable with the idea of taking a test designed for older students (willingness to take on the challenge).

Meet grade-level assessment criteria in either verbal/reading or math on a nationally normed or state achievement test:

Nationally Normed Tests

The percentiles of verbal, math or composite scores or subscores from a nationally normed, standardized grade-level achievement, aptitude, or abilities test can qualify a student. Scores from tests taken in previous years may be used to qualify. Examples of nationally normed tests that may be used to determine eligibility for above-grade-level testing include but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)
  • ERB Tests: Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP), Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE)
  • NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), MAP for Primary Grades
  • STAR 360
  • I-Ready
  • Stanford Achievement Test
  • Terra Nova
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)

Depending on the test, the naming of scores or subscores may vary:

  • Verbal scores may be called Total Reading, Verbal, Reading Composite or Verbal Ability.
  • The Verbal subscore may be called Vocabulary, Comprehension, Reading Comprehension or Reading.
  • Math scores may be called Total Math, Quantitative, Math Composite, Quantitative Ability or Math Composite.
  • The Math subscore may be called Math Concepts & Applications, Problem Solving/Reasoning or Problem Solving.
  • The Composite score may be called Total Battery, Composite, Total Aptitude, Core Total, Complete Battery or Total Score. 
State Achievement Tests

Students may also qualify for testing if they score in the top category or highest level (exceeds, beyond, mastered) in at least one category or subcategory of verbal/reading, math or composite on a state achievement test. For specific criteria and descriptions of your state exam, please visit your State Department of Education Website or consult with your school system. Scores from tests taken in previous years may be used to qualify.

Test Score Recommendations
Grade 3
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥95th percentile
May take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 5, CogAT Level 4
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite


Grade 4
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 6, CogAT Level 5
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: Take the same test again for growth or try a new assessment for additional insight
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 6, CogAT Level 5
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite


Grade 5
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 7, CogAT Level 6
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: Take the same test again for growth or try a new assessment for additional insight
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 7, CogAT Level 6
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite


Grade 6
First-Time Testers
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥90th percentile
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 8, CogAT Level 7
If grade-level test
results* were:
≥95th percentile
May take: SAT or ACT or continue with PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment or CogAT
Subsequent Testers
Considerations: PSAT 8/9 scores in grade 5 were below 540 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) AND below 490 in Math AND below 970 in Total
Should take: PSAT 8/9, Iowa Assessment Level 8, CogAT Level 7
Considerations: PSAT 8/9 scores in grade 5 were 540 or above in EBRW OR 490 or above in Math OR 970 or above in Total
Should take: SAT or ACT, Iowa Assessment Level 11/12, or CogAT Level 7
*verbal/reading, mathematics or composite


If you think your student may be an exception to the guidelines provided above, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at or call us at 847/491-3782 ext. 2.

Recommendations for Retesting

Above-grade-level testing can be used to track students' academic growth over time. If a student plans to retest, please follow these best practices and guidelines:

  • Test once per year and preferably during the same period of time each year (spring to spring, fall to fall, etc.).
  • It is possible to test in the early fall and again in the late spring or early summer (or two times per year), but test administrations should be far enough apart for instruction and exposure to programming to have had an impact.
  • Retest using the same test or an aligned test.  
  • Prepare for taking the assessment, but CTD does not encourage or endorse taking test prep courses for above-grade-level testing, which may result in recommendations that are not representative of students' instructional readiness levels. 
Registration Process, Dates, and Fees

Registration Process

To register for the PSAT and for CTD assessment resources, you will need to create a new account in MyCTD, which is CTD's online application system, or login to your existing account. After you create a student profile or select a currently existing student profile, click "Register for Testing".

Test Dates 

Test dates, registration deadlines, and fees for the in-person PSAT administration are listed on the CTD Events page. (Filter by Test Dates.) Check regularly for new sites and dates.

Withdrawals and Refunds

Questions and requests about the test registration must be directed to If you need to change a test registration, you will need to call 847/467-1575 or e-mail to change your registration. Cancelling or rescheduling an appointment may incur a $25 processing fee. No shows or cancellations within 72 hours will not be eligible for a refund.

If CTD needs to change or cancel a test date or time (weather, site emergency, etc.), you will be contacted as soon as possible via phone or e-mail. A CTD staff member will work with you to reschedule the test. If a test cannot be rescheduled, a refund will be provided.

Refunds may take up to four weeks to process.


CTD Assessment Resources and PSAT 8/9 Test: $100

Financial Aid

Financial aid is not available for for the PSAT 8/9. If you would like to inquire about a payment plan, please contact the CTD admissions team at


Accommodations may be made for students with a disability that requires special testing tools or an exception to standard testing procedures.

If your student needs testing accommodations outlined on a 504 Plan or IEP, please email for instructions to provide us with documentation of accommodations requested. 

What to Expect from Start to Finish

Start of Testing Year (August/September)

Registration begins and continues through June.

After Registration is Complete

Families are able to access the many valuable CTD Assessment resources available in the online MyCTD Toolbox.

In The Weeks Preceding Test Day

Log in to the online MyCTD Toolbox, click on the Testing Info tab and scroll down through the various sections to find out what you need to know about the testing process. Be sure to

  • Review the CTD Assessment Student Guide.
  • Review practice questions.
  • Print out and complete the Student ID Form.

Students should not take a commercial test preparation course.  But, they should understand the format of the test, be familiar with the types of questions and be aware of the time limits for each portion of the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions About Test Day

Will my child be overwhelmed?

Your child probably finds grade-level achievement tests relatively easy or at least not too stress inducing. An above-grade-level assessment may be the most difficult test your child has ever taken. They won't know all the answers. That's okay. The tests are designed to assess knowledge and skills generally learned at higher grade levels. They're supposed to be harder, and your child is not expected to know everything on them. Discuss this with your child in advance, so he or she can take the test with realistic expectations and simply do his or her best, and may have to guess on some of the questions.

At Least One Week Before Test Day

Students should receive a confirmation email with details from CTD, which contains information on when and where to go and what to bring on test day. If the student has not received the email a week prior to test date, contact CTD to ask for the student's registration number and the test center assignment. 

Test day

Students should arrive early at the test center with their admission information and other items. The confirmation email will state what time to arrive and what to bring. It is important to note that late students will not be allowed to enter the test center. There are no exceptions, so please plan accordingly based on the weather and traffic in your area.

Several Weeks After Testing

Students receive an e-mail from CTD notifying them that their test scores, percentiles and interpretive information are available to them in their password-protected, online MyCTD Toolbox account. If a district/school name or CTD Assessment ID number was provided in the registration process, scores, percentiles and interpretive information are also available to that district/school.

What happens to my student's scores?

Once the testing agency provides CTD with the scores and they are uploaded into our system, you will be able to access your child's scores, along with interpretive materials, in the online MyCTD Toolbox. We will send you an e-mail when the scores are ready for viewing. Your child's district/school will also have access to scores if you identify the district/school when registering. Together, you and your child's teacher can discuss the scores, what they mean, and which resources and programs would be best suited to help your child reach full potential.

What Happened to NUMATS?

What was called Northwestern University's Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS) is now part of our expanded CTD Assessment services! Our commitment to families and schools is to provide the best programs and services possible to help our students understanding their abilities and to guide their talent development decisions. Based on our research and years of experience, and with a nudge from the pandemic, we created a robust suite of assessments and talent development resources for students age 4 through grade 9, their parents, and educators. Because NUMATS no longer describes all we offer, the decision was to retire the NUMATS name while ensuring all of the benefits, resources, and best-practices that families are familiar with and have grown to rely on stay in place. 

Additional Programs and Services for Families and Educators

Bring above-grade-level assessment to your school. Consult with a CTD expert. Assess younger students. 

CTD works closely with schools and families to provide the information and resources they need to meet the needs of their advanced learners. From school-based assessment to tailored consulting for families and educators to early assessment for young learners, CTD's expert staff are ready to help.

"Your program opened doors for tremendous advancement in my schooling, and I’m so thankful for you."

- Former CTD Assessment Participant

2023 © Northwestern University Center for Talent Development