Acquiring Literacy in English:
Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors

Cognate Awareness Test

Authors and Date

Diane August, Dorry Kenyon, Valerie Malabonga, Mohammed Louguit and Silvia Caglarcan, Center for Applied Linguistics; María Carlo, University of Miami. 2001.


The Cognate Awareness Test (CAT) assesses whether native Spanish-speaking children have access to the meaning of words in English that have cognates across Spanish and English. The test was developed for the research study Transfer of Reading Skills in Bilingual Children, subproject 2 of Acquiring Literacy in English: Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors.

Age or Grade of Examinees

The pilot version was tested on third, fourth, and fifth graders. The revised version was used with fourth and fifth graders.


The CAT measures students’ awareness of Spanish cognates as a source of information for inferring the meanings of unknown English words. It consists of a set of multiple-choice items that ask students to select one of four definitions provided for each cognate.  For example, a student sees the bolded word labor and then the four choices talk, measure, clean and work. The students are supposed to mark the word that is closest to labor in meaning (work). Half of the target words in the assessment are Spanish cognates with low frequency in English but high frequency in Spanish (e.g., edifice, edificio); the other half of the target words are noncognates (e.g., hoist). The target words that are noncognates are matched in frequency to the target words that are cognates. 


1. honor

o   explore
o   prepare
o   respect
o   start


2. furious

o     mad
o     happy
o     tired
o     lonely


3. labor

o     talk
o     measure
o     clean
o     work



The test is group administered and usually takes about 30 minutes.

Scoring and Interpretation

The test is scored dichotomously: the correct answer is scored as “1,” while the remaining (incorrect) choices are scored as “0.”

Reliability and Validity

A reliability of .75 was obtained for the pilot version through a Rasch analysis. A reliability of .70 was obtained for the revised version through a Rasch analysis. (The lower statistic could be explained by the fact that there was a wider range of participants for the pilot version [third, fourth, and fifth graders] compared to the revised version [which only had fourth and fifth graders].)

Validation data are pending.


The development of the CAT was informed by the work of Hancin-Bhatt and Nagy.

Hancin-Bhatt, B. & Nagy, W. (1994). Lexical transfer and second language morphological development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 15(3), 289-310.


The Cognate Awareness Test is available from the Center for Applied Linguistics. To request a copy, complete and submit the Application Form for Use of ALE Researcher-developed Assessment Instruments, available in Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF format.


Researchers using the Cognate Awareness Test should cite it as follows:

August, D., Kenyon, D., Malabonga, V., Louguit, M., Caglarcan, S., & Carlo, M. (2001). Cognate Awareness Test. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Return to the list of researcher-developed assessments.