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Accuracy of IQ Test

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: Hi, I am from Singapore and was very happy to run into your website. My child took WISC4 normed against US children when he was 7. Reason was he had withdrawal problems when he entered P1 and after months of consideration I decided to have him assessed. He is now turning 9. He took it in one single sitting for 2.5 hours and this is the breakdown: VC 126, PR 137, WM 129, PS 109. FSIQ 133.

The school arranged for him to sit informally at a level higher. So last year he 'did' P3 but he did not seem to cope well with the stress particularly with much writing required of and difficulty in Mother Tongue. And because it was not official he had to join his age peers for each exam i.e. we are 'straddling' two levels and always looking back, preparing for exams four times a year. It was stressful and again because of the informal arrangement there is a feeling of not really belonging to any class. After much thought I decided to stop this and let him return to his age peers so he is 'redoing' his P3 level now.

Because he is really repeating every single piece of work (spelling, picture compos, workbooks, worksheets) he is unhappy and bored. We are very certain now from him and his teachers that he switches off during lessons. His school work today reflects a very negative attitude, a lot more careless than last year, and handwriting is now a regular complaint from teachers. It seems now to be 'seeping' into his whole being, its a whole attitude problem.

I no longer expect anything to be done in terms of differentiation within the classroom in our system here. The teacher has 44 students also in reality he does not do as well in his tests (ours is a test-oriented system, as you know) as people would expect. There is no real basis to be 'advocating' for him when it doesn't show in terms of scores that he is 'that great'.

I try to enrich him at home but his attitudes towards most things are one of disinterest. In fact we are beginning to think perhaps he is really average after all. He does not think deeply as a supposedly gifted child should be, or have sustained interest in anything. He is increasingly impulsive in his responses so he will always give a very quick answer without much thought (This applies to his music, his chess, his work, anything, and more so than ever). He also gives up very easily, no persistence, again this is worsening.

Can I ask if his test could possibly be inaccurate? (Educational Psychologist said he was very deliberate and slow in his test, very conscious of getting something wrong, was under self imposed stress to do well, and gave up easily if he thinks the question is too tough).

I also read that WM and PS, particularly PS, is not an accurate indication. Educational Psychologist who also said that his FSIQ could have been lowered due to his PS as he was not doing so well in the timed tests. From your experience looking at his subtest scores is his FSIQ accurate?

What do you suggest we do about him? We were advised to wait for GEP screening tests but looking at him now, the way he is, we have our doubts. Neither do we want him to feel pressured.

A: It is such a shame that you have to go through all these in our system - this really sounds like a burn-out case here. In fact, your son is in the range of scores for gifted and I guess the system here just did not suit his needs, especially the testing. It is very hard to determine if scores are accurate, but in this case, it appears that he could have had better scores (based on what the Educational Psychologist said). In fact, a single sitting may not be very suitable for him even adults wear off after two hours of exams! However, scores of standardized tests are believed to be rather accurate, unless due to certain reasons such as extreme anxiety, child's state of mind and willingness to take test, stress to perform, etc.

Perhaps, the school tried their best to help your son by giving him the opportunity to be at both levels. However, they may not have assessed him well enough and jumped on such a decision, which I think has been detrimental. I am actually amazed that he was doing two levels at a time, which can be extremely taxing and stressful for a 9 year old! It was good that you pulled him out as he would have been totally withdrawn over time due to stress. The school should have had him psychologically assessed in terms of his needs, personality and readiness before allowing learning at two levels. In fact, this appears to me to be a rather drastic change in a child's learning. What could have been better is gradual acceleration, or even pull-out arrangements for certain subjects that he showed a niche in. Perhaps, enrichment would have suited him better than acceleration.

Do not give up on advocating for him as at this point, as parents, you may be the only ones to "save" him. I believe he is above average, however, does not find learning meaningful anymore. This is the case of a bright mind in a dull classroom. What I think you can do here is firstly, to find out his areas of strength. He may be above average in certain areas and these would be areas he would find more meaningful, so look for enrichment here. The goal here is to get him back to find learning meaningful again. Excite him with different learning activities. If he is not in the gifted program, you may want to consider employing a tutor trained to teach gifted children, if you can afford it. As parents, you need to work very hard as well. You need to understand what his needs are and look for ways to cater for those needs. What about his peers? Does he have a good friend at school? Get him to socialize more a avoid him being withdrawn and encourage interest in school.

Gifted children come in many types. This child may have been the victim of a system that did not understand and cater toward his needs and placed too much emphasis on testing. It would be good to be in the gifted program but even otherwise, I think his needs can be met though a lot of effort and patience may be needed as there is perhaps already some level of damage done. This may take some time, but you really need to help him get interested in learning again. In Singapore schools (as in most Asian schools), from my personal experience, testing is emphasized a great deal, especially for gifted placement. I hope there will be a move to looking at a combination of skills and a greater emphasis on talent, which will come in time. I know many children who have burnt out in such a system and also quite a few "non-gifted" ones who have done extremely well as there was less stress to perform and more time to explore.

You may also want to see a child psychologist to address some of the behavioral issues especially if you feel inadequate to handle them. However, I believe with some time and patience, you will be able to see some results here. Your son is not average and you know that better, so please do not give up. You have tried helping him; perhaps a different approach as suggested may make a difference. I wish you the best of luck.


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