Reliability of IQ Test Score
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
I am writing with regard to the testing of Gifted Children.
My son was assessed by the school last year, after a bit of
a battle to have it done. Unfortunately they brought in a
Psychologist with no background testing this type of child.
All four composite scores were used to determine IQ.
In my extensive research of these composite scores (WISC-IV)
the processing speed was below average, and the working
memory was at average. It is my understanding that when
there is a discrepancy between verbal, perceptual of 23
points or higher, the working memory and processing speed
should NOT be used in determining IQ, or giftedness as these
children can score low in
Can you please comment?
My son has met the criteria for gifted, but he is not being accommodated based on the test. IQ included.
He was superior range in verbal, and reasoning.
The tester rushed him, she had to go to lunch. She directed
him incorrectly, and states my son was more interested in
the test process, and how it was written then answering the
questions. In one area there were 60 questions, normally a
child would complete about 30 due to time. My son completed
all 60, and did half correctly. He mis-interpreted the goal
of the exercise.
what a mess....
Thanks in advance.
A: I'm sorry to hear what your
son had to go through during a crucial test. This certainly
sounds quite unfair and it surprises me that the school
employs such testers. This should definitely be brought up
as retest will only be allowed in about two years; in this
case, due to "mistakes" made by the tester. In reality, for
such tests, the person who administers it is the key to
getting an adequate indication of your child's abilities.
From your letter I can understand your concerns and they are
truly of priority.
Your research had been fruitful in understanding your son's
scores and not just letting it be by believing that is
indeed his IQ based on the test. In reality, most gifted
children score at least averagely on processing speed and
working memory, though there are always exceptions. Best
indicators of giftedness are the Verbal Comprehension and
Perceptual Reasoning Composites indices as they access
verbal abstract reasoning and provide meaningful tests of
visual reasoning – with less importance given to speed.
On the other hand, working memory and processing speed are
less correlated with giftedness compared to verbal
comprehension and perceptual reasoning. When verbal
comprehension and perceptual reasoning scores are higher
than working memory and processing speed, as in the case of
your son, the Dumont-Willis Indices can be used in
evaluating the scores (apart from the full scale IQ). You
may want to find out more on this from the school as it
should be tied to the testing.
Intelligence is seen as primarily abstract reasoning
ability; therefore the emphasis on short term auditory
memory and processing speed on such tests may be less
helpful. According to experts (e.g., Silverman), it would be
better if children are identified as gifted based on
assessments that emphases reasoning, provide them gifted
learning experiences, and then add any accommodations based
on relative weaknesses to the gifted accommodations.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly how most schools may do
their placements. Apparently, IQ test setters (and
strangely, a number of experts) assume that gifted children
have high processing speed as a distinct gifted ability.
While this may be true for some gifted children, there are a
variety of gifted characteristics that may not hold true to
this assumption as some may have high speed; at the same
time, there are others who may be reflective (a
perfectionist attitude) which will no doubt slow their
processing speed. It was also found that as gifted children
learn better with materials that are meaningful to them;
non-meaningful task may not see such good performance. This
is strengthened by the fact that was mentioned by the
psychologist when your son appeared more interested in the
testing process rather than the test itself. Therefore, I
believe that the more important scores to determine
giftedness would be superior scores on verbal comprehension
and perceptual reasoning.
You may want to highlight this to the school. Perhaps get
them to ask the test administrator for clarification and
explanations on your concerns. Additionally, you could get a
second opinion on the test scores from an experienced
psychologist. Subtest scores may reveal a rather different
picture so overall scores should not be seen as definitive.
Interestingly, as one website puts it, "what help is an
overall score in the case of the rabbit who runs really
fast, but can't swim? Isn't it most important to learn that
the rabbit is a gifted runner, rather than an average
Here's wishing you all the best and hope your son will be
accommodated for a programme that best caters for his