Frequently Asked Questions about I.Q. Tests
SHOULD MY CHILD HAVE AN IQ TEST?
If your child is challenged by the learning environment in which he or she is currently placed, there is little reason for requesting additional testing. The teachers in the school are responding to your child’s characteristics and an IQ score will do little to enhance his or her education. On the other hand, if you suspect a problem at school or your child complains that he or she is bored or unchallenged in class, it might be beneficial have evidence of his or her learning capacity. In addition, IQ testing may be helpful in gaining admission to educational opportunities that are available only to students with a demonstrated level of aptitude.
WHAT CAN AN IQ TEST TELL ME ABOUT MY CHILD?
IQ tests assess general intellectual ability, which comprises verbal and logical thinking skills in the most traditional sense. General intellectual ability, as reflected in IQ scores, is the best overall predictor of school achievement and educational success; hence intelligence tests are often one of the assessments used to identify exceptional general intellectual ability in children.
Because it assesses specific logical, spatial, memory, and verbal skills, IQ testing can be helpful if your child is having a problem in school. The results can help determine if your child is underachieving given his or her level of potential or, possibly, suggest the need for further evaluation of a potential learning disability.
WHAT WILL IT NOT TELL ME?
Experts agree that intelligence is multi-faceted, displayed in many different ways, and multiple measures should be used when assessing for giftedness. And although helpful in understanding specific cognitive abilities, an IQ score alone does not determine a student’s educational needs, the curriculum most appropriate for him or her, or whether or not he or she will be a good fit for a particular program. For these reasons, IQ testing should only comprise one part of any process for identifying gifted children.
TYPES OF IQ TESTS
Individualized intelligence tests take considerable time to administer and interpret, but they provide the most comprehensive information about overall general aptitude. They must be administered by licensed psychologists or psychometricians. Group intelligence tests often underestimate the scores received on individual tests. If you are requesting that your child be assessed, request that a school psychologist administer an individualized test.
The most widely used individual IQ tests for school-aged youngsters, and the most valid and reliable of the measures are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (WISC-V), the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – Fourth Edition (WPPSI-IV) and the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales.
WHAT ARE THESE TESTS LIKE? WHAT WILL THE SCORES MEAN?
Individual IQ tests do not require reading or writing, and each consists of a series of subtests. Some are verbal subtests that are oral questions, usually without time limits. Other subtests are generally visual or spatial in nature, and usually are timed. The test takes about 1 to 2 hours to administer.
The psychologist will use subtest scores to identify relatively weak or strong areas of performance (e.g., verbal ability as manifested by vocabulary or mathematical reasoning ability).
The “Full Scale” or “Composite” IQ score based on all or most of the subtests, is the number most people are referring to when discussing someone’s IQ. (Unless otherwise specified, when “IQ” is mentioned in this column, it will mean Full Scale IQ.)
The developers of IQ tests use mathematical calculations to find the mean or average score. An IQ score from 90 to 110 is generally considered average, corresponding to roughly the middle 50 percent of the population. If we just look at the scores at the high end, 2-3 percent of the population will have IQ scores above 130. An IQ score of 145 should occur 0.1 percent of the time or one time in 1,000.
No IQ score should be considered an exact measure of intellectual ability. For example, good guesses may artificially increase an IQ estimate or having a bad day may decrease the estimate. There are many factors that might make an individual score vary a little from one occasion to another on any test. These include anxiety, motivation, rapport with the examiner, and guessing. Hence, psychologists will most often present a range of scores. A psychologist is likely to say, “Your child’s IQ falls in the range 123-137. This is the exceptional range.” This range takes into account the random error of testing.
A WISC IQ score will not be the same as a SB IQ because the test items are different, the children to whom your child is compared are different, and the ideas that underlie the construction of the test differ. However, the scores are highly correlated. That is, children who earn higher scores on one test tend to earn higher scores on the other. Individuals with the same IQ are still very different people, with different strengths and weaknesses, behaviors, and personalities. A child’s IQ score tells us about only one dimension of a person. IQ is not the best measure or predictor for everyone or for all success measures. IQ tests do not measure creativity, leadership, initiative, curiosity, commitment, artistic skill, musical talent, social skills, emotional well-being, or physical prowess – all components which can be included in definitions of giftedness. There is considerable evidence that students who are economically disadvantaged, from ethnic minorities, and/or speak English as a second language generally receive a lower score on IQ tests. This is a fault in the tests, not the students.
Full-scale scores on an IQ test may be lower for a gifted student who also has a learning disability; however a trained psychologist will be likely to see discrepancies in performance on the sub-scales, which may suggest a possible learning disability.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AS A RESULT OF TESTING?
The results may help you better understand your child’s specific strengths, weaknesses and potential ability. They also may help your child’s teacher recognize the level of reasoning, knowledge, and skills your child has already mastered so as to appropriately match curriculum and instruction to your child’s abilities. The results may also be used by a teacher or other school administrator as the basis for admission to a program for children with similar abilities or interests.
It is also possible that nothing changes for your child as a result of the testing; the outcome is different for every family, and every school with which they are working.
HOW CAN I HELP PREPARE MY CHILD FOR TESTING?
The best ways to help prepare your child for the testing experience include:
• Relaxing. If you are nervous, your child will be too.
• Explaining that the session will involve puzzles and games and most kids find it really fun.
• Noting that the psychologist wants to see how he/she likes to solve problems, so they should just try their best, and feel free to guess if they don’t know the answer.
• Ensuring he/she gets a good night’s sleep the night before and eats a healthy breakfast the day of the test
• After the test, praising his/her effort and allowing some down time. The testing experience can be mentally taxing for some children.
Please do not try to prepare your child by presenting him or her with questions from the IQ test.
These tests are designed to present children with unfamiliar types of problems to see how well they adapt. Therefore, exposing your child to test content would make the testing completely invalid, and he or she would not be able to take another one for at least a year due to the likelihood of remembering items. If your child has taken an IQ test within the past 12 months, please let us know as soon as possible. Also, refrain from offering your child a reward or prize for earning a certain score; instead, praise effort and engagement in the testing session.
Reference: Callahan, C. M. & Eichner, H. (2010). I.Q. Tests and your child. Washington D.C.: National
Association of Gifted Children. Retrieved October 18, 2010 from