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BACKGROUND: School attainment tests and Cognitive Abilities Tests are used in the United Kingdom to set targets for educational outcome. Whilst these are good predictors, they depend not only on basic ability but also on learnt knowledge and skills, such as reading. METHOD AND AIMS: VESPARCH is an online group test of verbal and spatial reasoning, which we propose gives a measure that more closely approximates to basic ability - fluid intelligence. The verbal test contains highly familiar words, does not require the child to read them, is untimed, and provides detailed feedback on five practice questions for each part of the test. The tests - one suitable and standardized for children aged 7-9 years and one for children aged 10-12 years - have good test-retest reliability and validity and conform to the Rasch model. Comparison of VESPARCH scores with school attainment measures allows identification of those students who are underachieving academically relative to their potential. The matched nature of the verbal and spatial tests allows reasoning ability in the two domains to be compared; those with much higher spatial scores might be expected to do well in STEM subjects. CONCLUSION: VESPARCH can be used alongside current school tests to ensure targeted teaching and encouragement for every child.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Educ Psychol

Publication Date



ability, education, potential, reasoning, underachievement