LinguiSystems home
TOPS 3 Elementary Test Of Problem Solving 3 Elementary
Ages: 6-12   Grades: 1-7         

Assess critical thinking based on students' language strategies, logic, and experiences.

Test Set
Add to Cart
TOPS 3 Elementary Test Forms (20)
Add to Cart

Test Purpose
The TOPS 3 Elementary assesses a school-aged child's ability to integrate semantic and linguistic knowledge with reasoning ability by way of picture stimuli and verbal responses.


Test Description
TOPS 3 Elementary focuses on the student's linguistic ability to think and reason.  Language competence is the overall indicator of how a child's language skills affect his ability to think, reason, problem solve, infer, classify, associate, predict, determine causes, sequence, and understand directions.  The TOPS 3 Elementary test questions focus on a broad range of language-based thinking skills, including clarifying, analyzing, generating solutions, evaluating, and affective thinking.

While other tests may assess students' thinking skills by tapping mathematical, spatial, or nonverbal potential, the TOPS 3 Elementary measures discrete skills that form the foundation of language-based thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities.

The test is composed of 18 situations that examine six thinking tasks.  Carefully selected items and situations are relevant to most students and common across cultures and in most schools or home settings.

Although the skills tested on the TOPS 3 Elementary are necessary for developing social competence, it is not primarily a test of pragmatic or social language skills.  Rather, it should be part of a battery of tests/observations used to assess pragmatic competence.


The subtests consist of full-color photographs and questions that address critical thinking skills:

  • Subtest A: Making Inferences
    The student gives a logical explanation about a situation combining what he knows or can see with previous experiences and background information.  The ability to infer is critical for success in the classroom, academics, and social development.
  • Subtest B: Sequencing
    The student determines and explains logical, everyday sequences of events.  This skill is critical to academic performance and requires an understanding of the situation, determining the logical sequence of events, and expressing it clearly.
  • Subtest C: Negative Questions
    The student is asked to explain why something would not occur or why one shouldn't take a given action in a situation.  Responses reveal how well your student notices, attends to, understands, and expresses an appropriate response on this subtest.
  • Subtest D: Problem Solving
    The student must recognize the problem, think of alternative solutions, evaluate the options, and state an appropriate solution that will work well.  It also includes how to avoid specific problems.
  • Subtest E: Predicting
    This subtest requires the student to anticipate what will happen in the future.  This requires him to draw from past experiences to reflect on the future.  This skill is an academic as well as a life skill.
  • Subtest F: Determining Causes
    The student must give a logical reason for a given aspect of the situation in the paragraph.  To be successful, the student must see the relationship between the action and the outcome.

Examiner Qualifications
The test should only be administered by a trained professional familiar with language disorders (e.g., speech-language pathologist, psychologist).


Test Procedures

  • All items are presented in a conversational style with normal intonation and speaking rate.
  • The student looks at a picture in the Picture Stimuli Book and answers questions (presented verbally by the examiner) about the picture.
  • Each task is presented in its entirety to every student.  Basals and ceilings are not used in the TOPS 3 Elementary.  Prompts on the test form are allowed only if the student's response is unclear to the examiner.  It is not used to give the student a "second chance" after a clear, complete but incorrect response. 
  • Acceptable responses for each test item are indicated on the test form.

Testing Time

  • 35 minutes

Scoring/Types of Scores

  • A score of 2, 1, or 0 is assigned to each response based on the relevancy and quality of the response.  Responses meeting each value are referenced on the test form.
  • The rationale and criteria for each credit level is included in the examiner's manual for each picture situation and every item.
  • Raw scores convert to:
    • Age Equivalents
    • Percentile Ranks
    • Standard Scores

Discussion of Performance
The Discussion of Performance section in the Examiner's Manual was developed to guide the examiner to make appropriate and educationally-relevant recommendations for remediation based on a clear understanding of each subtest.

It includes a research-based rationale for the importance of teaching thinking skills, clinically sound information about each task, what is required for the student to be successful, how the task relates to academic and classroom behavior, the specific steps a student goes through to complete each thinking task, and the breakdown of what the student's responses reflect about his thinking skills


Two studies were conducted on the TOPS 3 Elementary – the item pool and standardization studies.  The item pool study consisted of 690 subjects and the standardization study consisted of 1,406 subjects.  The subjects in both studies represented the latest National Census for race, gender, age, and educational placement.  This included subjects with IEPs for special services but who attend regular education classes.

  • Reliability—established by the use of the following for all subtests and the total test at all age levels:
    • SEM
    • Inter-Rater Reliability
    • Test-Retest
    • Reliability Based on Item Homogeneity (KR20)

The test-retest coefficient is .84 for the total test, the SEM is 9.88 for the total test.  Based on these tests, the TOPS 3 Elementary has satisfactory levels of reliability for all tasks and the total test at all age levels.


  • Validity—established by the use of construct and contrasted group validity.
    • Contrast Groups (t-values): Test discriminates between subjects with normal language development and subjects with language disorders.
    • Point Biserial Correlations
    • Subtest Intercorrelations
    • Correlations Between Subtests and Total Test

The t-Values for differences between normal and language-disordered subjects were significant at the .01 level for five age levels and at the .05 level for two age levels.  The TOPS 3 Elementary clearly discriminates between these groups.  Inspection of all the biserial correlations reveals acceptable levels of item consistency with 85% of the individual items showing statistically significant pass/fail correlations with the task scores.


  • Race/Socioeconomic Group Difference Analyses—conducted at the item and subtest/task levels.  The analysis of performance differences among race/socioeconomic groups was conducted at the subtest/task levels.
    • Z-tests Chi Square analysis at the subtest level
    • Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) F-tests

Of the more than 2,000 z-tests, only a small percentage showed any racial differences.  Percentages ranged from below 1% to 6%.  These low percentages indicate that neither race or SES are strong factors on the TOPS 3 Elementary.

Copyright © 2005

Test Set includes: examiner's manual, picture stimuli book, 20 test forms
  • Reasoning skills encourage critical thinking and meta-awareness of internal thought processes.  Reasoning skills support students' logical judgments based on conscious reflection and sensitivity to multiple viewpoints (Little, 2002).
  • Reasoning and critical thinking are necessary skills for competence across the curriculum.  They require students to examine, relate, and analyze all aspects of a problem or situation.  Students engaged in critical thinking must make associations that connect problems with their prior knowledge (Pellegrini, 1995).
  • Questioning is the core of critical reflection. It prompts students to engage in a research process that fosters higher-order thinking skills and social-moral attitudes (Daniel et al., 2005).
  • Asking wh- questions is a common method of teaching.  Difficulty answering
    wh- questions affects a child academically, linguistically, and socially (Parnell, Amerman, & Hartin, 1986).

TOPS 3 Elementary incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Daniel, M.F., Lafortune, L., Pallascio, R., Splitter, L., Slade, C., & de la Garza, T. (2005). Modeling the development process of dialogical critical thinking in pupils aged 10 to 12 years. Communication Education, 54(4), 334-354.

Little, C. (2002). Reasoning as a key component of language arts curricula. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 13(2), 52-59.

Parnell, M.M., Amerman, J.D., & Hartin, R.D. (1986). Responses of language-disordered children to wh- questions. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 17, 95-106.

Pellegrini, J. (1995). Developing thinking and reasoning skills in primary learners using detective fiction. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute (Vol. 1). Retrieved July 27, 2009, from


Linda Bowers, Rosemary Huisingh, Carolyn LoGiudice


Linda Bowers, M.A., SLP, is a co-founder and co-owner of LinguiSystems.  She is a speech-language pathologist with wide experience serving language-disordered students of all ages.  Linda has keen professional interest in the thinking, listening, and language abilities of children and adults.

Rosemary Huisingh, M.A., SLP, is a co-founder and co-owner of LinguiSystems.  As a speech-language pathologist, she has successfully served the communication needs of school children for many years.  Rosemary is particularly interested in childhood language, vocabulary, and thinking skills.

Carolyn LoGiudice, M.A., CCC-SLP, wrote and edited products and tests for LinguiSystems for 25 years, incorporating her previous experience as an SLP in school and clinic settings.  She is now retired and savoring time with her family, friends, and hobbies.

Linda, Rosemary, and Carolyn are co-authors of several tests, therapy kits, and games for LinguiSystems, including TOPS 2 Adolescent