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Low IQ scores Vs High Average Achievement Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: What are your thoughts regarding low IQ scores (as determined by the WISC-IV) and solid average achievement scores (as determined by the WJ-III)?

A: It is very hard to determine what may cause high discrepancies in scores without looking at the subset of scores. Most tests vary in their content, appropriateness with different populations, and usefulness as a basis for educational requests. Therefore, it is important that tests (especially individualized) are conducted by a trained and experienced tester who would be able to document the strengths, relative weaknesses and advise on the suitability of a program to cater for the educational needs of the child. High IQ scores are predominantly used as a main criterion for screening gifted individuals for specific programs. However, if only one test is allowed for such screening, there is a possibility of missing out gifted children who may not fulfill the criteria for cut-out scores as some abilities emphasized on a particular test may or may not correspond with the child's strengths.

Low IQ scores as determined by the WISC-IV simply indicated that the child is probably not able to master the components tested in the test. The tester would be able to advise if the scores are even, especially if the full score is low but there are subsets of the test in which the child scores very highly or vice-versa. Many other external factors may cause lower scores on IQ test (test anxiety, physical state, extreme pressure to perform, etc.).

Higher scores on achievement test indicate the ability for the child to better grasp the concepts and items tested on the test. It is important to see the subset scores from the WJ-III (Woodcock Johnson). . It should be noted that when a child's WISC score is significantly below their true ability, it may be an indication of certain learning disabilities. This may be due to the way information is presented in school and the way innate intelligence is tested on the WISC.

The assessment of children's abilities should always lead to a better understanding of the child. This is to enable appropriate recommendations and interventions to be made, regardless of whether that assessment is an individual or group assessment of ability or achievement, or on specific performance.


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