CTY (Centre for Talented Youth) Summer Programs – Comprehensive Guide & Preparation Tips


Overview of CTY (Centre for Talented Youth) Programs

CTY (Centre for Talented Youth) at Johns Hopkins University is a summer program that offers a variety of challenging and thought-provoking projects and resources to students that are gifted and talented. These summer programs allow academically and intellectually talented students to learn, grow, and work alongside like-minded individuals from their peer group.

Every summer, CTY hosts 25 residential programs across the United States, and has some in Hong Kong. These residential programs offer students the opportunity to focus on an area of study that may not be typically offered in their school. Programs are split into three-week sessions and classes take place Monday-Friday. Each class is led by an expert in their field along with an assistant, which allows each of the 18 students in the class plenty of 1:1 time.

By the end of the 21-day period, each student will have covered the equivalent amount of work as a college semester. Although there is plenty of focus on the academic side of things, students are also encouraged to take part in social activities that allow them to meet new academics from across the country, and world.


Available CTY Programs for Different Grades

CTY programs are available for children in grades 2-12 and are offered in a variety of learning formats. For younger children, in grades 2-6, CTY provides day programs. Residential programs are more common for children in grades 5 upwards.


Eligibility Criteria for CTY Programs

If you wish to enroll your child onto the John Hopkins CTY programs, you first need to ensure that they are eligible. Children interested in applying for any of the day or residential programs must ensure they have taken one of the approved tests.

Young students in grades 2-4 should have higher than average SCAT (School and College Ability) scores, whereas students who are in grades 5 up should ensure they have appropriate scores on the SCAT, PSAT 8/9 (Preliminary SAT), or STB (Spatial Test Battery).

Once your child has the appropriate scores, they can then complete the online or paper application. Applications for the summer program need to be submitted by mid-January, however you should always consult the admissions desk if you are in doubt.


CTY Programs for Grades 2-6 (Young Students Program)

CTY programs are available for children in grades 2-12 and are offered in a range of learning formats. For younger children, in grades 2-6, CTY provides day programs. Residential programs are more common for children in grades 5 up.


CTY Programs for Grades 2-4

CTY has day syllabuses available in summer for young students that have finished grades 2-4. Pupils must have finished these grades in the following neighboring areas: Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, New York City, La Jolla, or Portola Valley (California). Children qualify for day programs based on the last grade that was completed. A high-test score on the CTY-administered SCAT test is also a key condition to obtain a place.


CTY Programs for Grades 5-6

For students who have finished grades 5-6 there is the choice of applying for the residential and day programs. Residential sites are on both the East and West coasts whereas day locations take place in neighboring areas. To be eligible for the program, students must submit their most recent grade performance, as well as their score on the CTY-administered SCAT or STB tests.


CTY Programs for Grades 7-12

For children that have successfully completed grades 7-12, there is more choice available for the CTY residential program.


CTY Programs for Grades 7-12 (Intensive Studies Residential Program)

Students who have above average scores than college-bound high school seniors on the required tests can automatically apply for the intensive studies program as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • 7th grade must be completed by the time the student wishes to enroll on CTY
  • Be over the age of 12 on 1st July or under the age of 16 before 1st September in the year the student wishes to attend
  • Possess high scores on CTY-administered tests (SAT, ACT, Advanced SCAT and/or STB)
  • Must meet the eligibility requirements for two subject areas. This can be mathematics, science, writing and humanities

The Intensive Studies Residential Program is a highly prestigious summer program and students are expected to work at college-level or higher. These courses are perfect for highly gifted children as it can expose them to a plethora of subjects not usually taught in their school curriculum. The Intensive Studies Program is broken into two categories:

  • Specialist courses – these cover subjects typically not taught in a school setting
  • Fast paced courses – these cover high school subjects at a much more advanced level


CTY Programs for Grades 7-12 (Academic Exploration Residential Program)

This residential program is open to a variety of students, from all walks of life with a range of test scores. It offers children the opportunity to explore courses that are not typically included in the high school curriculum. These courses promote and encourage asking questions, solving problems, and concluding findings through presentations. This program encourages students to apply the knowledge they’ve learned to the real-world. The academic exploration program is taught at a higher level than high school and can be compared to an introductory college course.


CTY Programs for Grades 9-12 (Civic Leadership Residential Program)

The Civic Leadership Residential Program is available to students that have completed grades 9-12. It is a unique opportunity for students to explore current social and political issues through a variety of real-world experience and academic studies. In this program, students learn all about the challenges that affect communities, develop critical thinking skills through debates, dive deeper into their leadership skills, and create an action plan for positive change within their own home community.


CTY Programs for Grades 10-12 (Global Issues in the 21st Century Residential Program)

The Global Issues in the 21st Century Program is available to students that have completed grades 10-12. It is offered at Princeton University and focuses on the wider issues that our planet is facing with regards to population growth, environmental impact, the spread of disease and hunger, and the control of weapons. Students are guided through the complex process of understanding how certain global issues are addressed (or unaddressed) by nations and organizations (both governmental and non-governmental) and what, if anything, they could be doing to have a positive impact.


CTY Programs for Grades 10-12

(Institute for Advanced Critical and Cultural Studies Residential Program)

The Institute for Advanced Critical and Cultural Studies Program is available to students that have completed grades 10-12 and are at least 16 years old by the date the program starts. It is offered at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania and focuses on student’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Throughout the three-week residential, students can expect to have many complex discussions about the world which we live in and attend lectures from some fantastic guest speakers.


Testing for the John Hopkins University CTY Summer Programs

Students wishing to apply for any of the summer programs at John Hopkins University will need to ensure they sit one of the approved tests. Testing for the summer programs is available year-round however we recommend preparing as early as possible to be in with the best chance of succeeding.


Details on the School and College Ability Test (SCAT)

The School and College Ability Test (SCAT) is a standardized test used by John Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth programs to identify students for their roster of gifted and talented programs. The SCAT measures a student’s mathematic and verbal reasoning skills and is considered one of the more difficult gifted and talented tests out there as it’s usually given above grade level.

The SCAT test lasts around an hour, and students have 22 minutes to complete each section with a 10-minute break in-between. All questions are multiple choice and there is no penalty for answering a question incorrectly.


Understanding the Spatial Test Battery (STB)

The Spatial Test Battery (STB) is another test used by John Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth programs to identify students for admission to their selection of gifted and talented programs. It is commonly used in conjunction with other tests to determine eligibility for younger children. This test is most commonly used for children who show a higher-than-average interest and talent in computing, graphic design and science.

The STB features four subtests; visual memory (which is split into two sections), surface development, block rotation and perspectives (this section is only included for students in the 7th grade or higher).


Visual Memory

There are two sections on the visual memory subtest – learning and recall.


Students are expected to learn and memorize 22 shapes. Some shapes are colored in with black ink.


Students are expected to recall the shapes they were presented with at the start of the exam. Even though the Visual Memory part of the test is at the start, students won’t recall the shapes until the end of the test.


Surface Development

Students are shown a series of strange, flat shapes. Next to the shapes is an image of a box, which has been made by folding the flat shapes. Students need to determine which flat shapes made the box.


Block Rotation

Students are shown a variety of shapes followed by a variety of images. It is their job to determine from the images, which shape made the rotation in the image.



Students are shown a group of light and dark balls, some will look larger, and others will appear smaller. They will then be shown two images of the same balls in order to determine which perspective the balls are being shown from.


How to Prepare for the SCAT Test?

The best way to prepare for the SCAT test is to level-up your child’s verbal and mathematic skills as these are the two key areas on the test that are measured.



The verbal section of the test measures your child’s understanding of words. Many of the questions in the SCAT verbal section will require your child to select the best words and to excel on this part of the test, your child will need a sound vocabulary, an above average grasp of verbal reasoning and have a fantastic amount of general knowledge.



The mathematics section of the SCAT measures your child’s understanding of mathematical problems. The questions on this portion of the test will require your child to look at a few sets of data and work out which one is higher. Your child will need a high level of mental arithmetic and number operations for this section.

As well as levelling up their core skills, we recommend using sample questions and practice papers to get your child more familiar with the testing format. Nothing helps children feel more prepared for a test than hands-on experience with that style of exam. The great thing about test papers is that your child can practice, and practice, and practice until they feel that they are ready to move on to the next section.


How to Prepare for the STB Test?

There are some fantastic effective and creative ways that you can help your child prepare for the STB test including practicing memory skills, origami, and understanding the relationships between objects and perspectives. The main way that we recommend preparing for the STB test is through a combination of games, sample questions, and practice papers. Sample questions and practice papers are both highly recommended as your child can familiarize themselves with the test they will be taking, but they also can see how questions they may have got wrong are answered correctly to stop them making the same mistake in future.


3 Tips to Make the CTY Preparation More Fun

  • Make reading fun – a varied vocabulary helps children perform well on the SCAT test. The more words they are aware of and know, the better! Why not try using a word of the day calendar and challenge each other to use that word in a sentence that day?
  • Play memory games with them – children love to play games and games like picture bingo, pairs, or brain-training video games are a great way to build your child’s memory span, which is one of the key requirements for the STB
  • Make studying productive – some children love nothing more than sitting in front of their desk learning, others struggle to sit still. If your child has a short attention span, start off gradually and reward them when they’ve done particularly well.
  • Ask your child open-ended questions – this encourages your child to develop their language skills, a key requirement for the SCAT.
  • Give your child sufficient time to study – if you truly want to prepare your child for the SCAT or STB tests, you should start studying as soon as you feel they are ready. Some subjects may be more difficult than others, so allow them plenty of time to understand what is being asked of them.