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TOPS 2 Adolescent Test Of Problem Solving 2 Adolescent
Ages: 12-17   Grades: 7-12

Teens with language impairments related to the process of thinking can find that making good decisions and solving problems appropriately are difficult tasks.  Determine how to help them with this test.

Test Set
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TOPS 2 Adol Test Forms (20)
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Test Purpose
While other tests may assess thinking skills by tapping mathematical, spatial, or nonverbal potential, the TOPS 2 Adolescent assesses critical thinking abilities based on the student's language strategies using logic and experience.


Test Description
The TOPS 2 Adolescent uses a natural context of problem-solving situations related to adolescent experiences and assesses five different decision-making skill areas critical to academic, problem solving, and social success.

Based on the research of Richard Paul, the TOPS 2 Adolescent emphasizes the integrative disposition of critical thinking by focusing on these cognitive processes:

understanding/comprehension          analysis interpretation
self-regulation evaluation explanation
inference insight decision-making
intent/purpose problem solving          acknowledgment


The test is comprised of five subtests (18 written passages) that assess a student's performance of these skills.  The subtests require the student to pay careful attention to, process, and think about what they hear and read; think about problems with a purpose in mind; resist the urge to be impulsive; and express answers verbally.



  • Subtest A: Making Inferences
    The student is asked to give a logical explanation about a situation, combining what he knows or can see with previous experience/background information.  Students who do well on this subtest make plausible inferences, predictions, or interpretations.
  • Subtest B: Determining Solutions
    The student is asked to provide a logical solution for some aspect of a situation presented in a passage.
  • Subtest C: Problem Solving
    This subtest requires a student to recognize the problem, think of alternative solutions, evaluate the options, and state an appropriate solution for a given situation.  It also includes stating how to avoid specific problems.
  • Subtest D: Interpreting Perspectives
    A student who does well on this subtest will evaluate other points of view in order to make a conclusion.
  • Subtest E: Transferring Insights
    The student is asked to compare analogous situations by using information stated in the passage.

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


Test Procedures

  • Turn to the first passage in the Reading Passages Book and show it to the student.  In order to minimize possible auditory memory/reading deficiencies, the passages/items are read aloud in a normal tone and rate.  Provide the student with blank paper to cover items on each page that have not been administered.
  • Each task is presented in its entirety to every student.  There are no basals or ceilings.
  • The only allowable prompt is used if the student gives a response that is unclear to the test examiner rather than improving the quality of a response.
  • Acceptable responses for each test item are listed on the test form.  Acceptable and unacceptable responses are listed in the Scoring Standards found in the Examiner's Manual.

Testing Time

  • 40 minutes

Scoring/Types of Scores

  • A score of 1 or 0 is assigned to each response based on the relevancy of the response to the question and on the quality of the response.
  • Some test items consist of two parts.  The student's response to the second part of the item determines whether the item is scored as correct or incorrect.
  • Acceptable responses are indicated on the test form and acceptable and unacceptable response examples are listed in the Examiner's Manual.
  • Raw scores are converted to:
    • Age Equivalents
    • Percentile Ranks
    • Standard Scores

Discussion of Performance
The Discussion of Performance section found 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 the student needs to do to be successful with each task, how the tasks relate to academic performance, 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 2 Adolescent – the item pool and standardization studies.  The item pool study consisted of 526 subjects and the standardization study consisted of 1,051 subjects.  An additional 138 subjects with language disorders were included in the validity studies.  The subjects in both studies represented the latest National Census for race, gender, age, and educational placement and subjects with IEPs for special services but who attend regular education classes were included.

  • 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 .91 for the total test, the SEM is 3.56 for the total test.  Based on these tests, the TOPS 2 Adolescent 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 all age levels that is, The TOPS 2 Adolescent clearly discriminates between these groups.  Inspection of all the biserial correlations reveals highly satisfactory levels of item consistency with 94% of the individual items showing statistically significant pass/fail correlations with subtest 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 item and subtest levels
    • Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) F-tests

Of the 1332 z-tests, 89 were significant/showed race differences.  This low number/percentage suggests that race is not a strong factor.  The relationships found at the subset level did not appear to be strong.  The contingency coefficients ranged from .07 to .52.  In 92% of the analysis done on race and SES, there were no race or SES effects.

Copyright © 2007

Test Set includes: examiner's manual, reading passages book, 20 test forms
  • Jean Piaget talks about "developmental stages" when children are acquiring new ways of mentally representing information.  In the final stage of cognitive development, called the formal operational stage (ages 12 years to adulthood), children begin to develop a more theoretical view of the world.  Thoughts become more abstract, incorporating the principles of formal logic.  This stage is achieved by most children, although failure to do so has been associated with lower intelligence (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).
  • Some of the top ten applied skills needed for the workplace include problem solving, critical thinking, and oral language (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006).
  • Abstract thinking and problem-solving skills show steady improvement throughout adolescence.  This improvement is related to the maturation of cerebral structures (Davies & Rose, 1999).
  • There is a large amount of risk-taking and decreased insight into long-term effects of decisions in everyday life during early and middle adolescence because of a mismatch between cognitive, emotional, and behavioral systems (Steinberg, 2005).
  • Areas of critical thinking addressed in this test were developed using research from Paul, Binker, Jensen, and Kreklau (1990).  The five critical skills addressed include making inferences, determining solutions, problem solving, interpreting perspectives, and transferring insights.
  • Explicitly teaching and reinforcing inference-making leads to better outcomes in overall text comprehension, text engagement, and metacognitive thinking (Borné, Cox, Hartgering, & Pratt, 2005).

TOPS 2 Adolescent incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Borné, L., Cox, J., Hartgering, M., & Pratt, E. (2005). Making inferences from text [Overview]. Dorchester, MA: Project for School Innovation.

Casner-Lotto, J., & Barrington, L. (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers' perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century U.S. workforce. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from

Davies, P.L., & Rose, J.D. (1999). Assessment of cognitive development in adolescents by means of neuropsychological tasks. Developmental Neuropsychology, 15(2), 227-248.

Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from

Paul, R., Binker, A., Jensen, K., & Kreklau, H. (1990). Critical thinking handbook: A guide for remodeling lesson plans in language arts, social studies and sciences. Rohnert Park, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Steinberg, L. (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 9(2), 69-74.


Linda Bowers, Rosemary Huisingh, and 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 have co-authored several tests and products, including: 
Social Language Development Test Elementary
Social Language Development Test Adolescent 
The Listening Comprehension Test 2 
The Listening Comprehension Test Adolescent 
Test Of Problem Solving 3 Elementary (TOPS 3 Elementary) 
The WORD Test 2 Elementary 
The WORD Test 2 Adolescent 
Test Of Semantic Skills Primary (TOSS P) 
Test Of Semantic Skills Intermediate (TOSS I) 
The Expressive Language Test 2 
Tasks Of Problem Solving Elementary 
Tasks Of Problem Solving Adolescent 
No-Glamour Language and Reasoning 
No-Glamour Language and Reasoning Cards 
No-Glamour Language and Reasoning Interactive Software