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.