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Confusion Over Test Results & Interpretation

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son recently was assessed in Canada with the WISC IV and WIAT III. Both his WISC and WIAT results (as printed in the report) stated he was average, but when the psychology presented the results she said he is two to four grade levels above his current grade, and in one area (pseudoword decoding) scored higher than grade 12. She insisted he needs much more challenging academics (aka a gifted program), but the school looked at the results and argued that his results are average and he requires no special compensations. We are very confused and do not know what to do.

Here are the test results:

8 years, 20 days at testing in Grade 2


VCI - Composite Score 110 - Percentile 75 - Average
PRI - Composite Score 102 - Percentile 55 - Average
WMI - Composite Score 111 - Percentile 77 - High Average
PSI - Composite Score 88 - Percentile 21 - Low Average
FSIQ - Composite Score 104 - Percentile 61 - Average

Verbal Subtests

Similarities 12 - Vocabulary 15 - Comprehension 8 Memory Subtests Digit Span 12 - Letter Number Sequencing 12 Perceptual Subtests Block Design 11 - Picture Concepts 11 - Matrix Reasoning 9 Processing Subtests Coding 7 - Symbol Search 9


Listening Comprehension - Scaled Score 100 - Percentile 50 - Average
Oral Expression - Score 120 - Percentile 91 - Above Average
Oral Language - Score 112 - Percentile 79 - Average
Reading Comprehension - Score 108 - Percentile 70 - Average
Word Reading - Score 116 - Percentile 86 - Above Average
Pseudoword Decoding - Score 128 - Percentile 97 - Above Average
Oral Reading Fluency - Score 126 - Percentile 96 - Above Average
Total Reading - Score 126 - Percentile 96 - Above Average
Basic Reading - Score 126 - Percentile 96 - Above Average
Reading Comp & Fluency - Score 120 - Percentile 91 - Above Average
Sentence Composition - Score 108 - Percentile 70 - Average
Essay Composition N/A Spelling - Score 115 - Percentile 84 - Average
Written Expression - Score 108 - Percentile 70 - Average
Math Problem Solving - Score 99 - Percentile 47 - Average
Numerical Operations - Score 90 - Percentile 25 - Average
Mathematics - Score 94 - Percentile 34 - Average
Total Achievement - Score 114 - Percentile 84 - Average

In the verbal presentation the psychologist said his processing scores were typical for an 8 year old boy and would improve with age. She also stated that his math scores would have been higher but he has not learned multiplications in school yet. So the issue was a lack of training and skills because he hasn't been taught yet and this brought down all of his results. She said she had to stop the math portion of the assessment early because he did not know multiplications yet (it is taught in grade 3 here). To be honest I may not have tested him yet if I had known this lack of training would hurt his results. I would have waited until he knew all the basic math skills.

Plus it seems to me the test should account for skills not taught yet in school and not penalize the children with poor results.

Either way, our psychologist is telling us one thing and the school is saying the complete opposite. And we do not know what to do. Just that we have a little boy that LOVES to learn and shows many signs of giftedness, but he hates school and dreads going and feels very bored and highly anxious in the school environment.

And now we have an assessment that is being interpreted in very different ways. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

A: I can understand your confusion especially when the school says one thing and the psychologist is saying another. For the school, there is no confusion, as they would go based on the scores on both the WISC-IV and the WIAT-III. Unfortunately, the gifted admission programme typically admits children based on stringent criteria such as the cut-off point. Borderline cases are sometimes further assesses to determine eligibility. If there is a large gap between the intelligence test (WISC-IV) and the achievement test (WIAT-III) scores, the child may need to be assessed further for a possible learning problem.

In this case, the school is viewing both the scores as complementing one another, that is, in the average range. For the WIAT-III, average scores are those that range from 85 to 115. Scores that are above and below this range show academic strengths (above 115) and weaknesses (below 85). Your son has mixed scores and the final score is in the average range (114, which is close to borderline of high average). Percentile ranks indicate how well the child performed in comparison to same-age peers. In other words, if the child scored in the 85th percentile, it shows a score that exceeds 85 per cent of age-mates (scored better than 85% of his peers).

For WIAT-III, there are two ways of scoring - age-based or grade-based scoring whereby the examiner must decide which score is appropriate based on the purpose of testing. If the purpose is to determine ability-achievement discrepancy, age-based scores are recommended and if it is to compare the child’s scores with those of peers in the same grade, grade-based scores are recommended. Therefore, if a child is retained in a grade, comparing him or her to same aged peers assumes that similar instructional opportunity has been provided. Due to this, grade-based scores are preferred over age-based. For this reason, the test does account for skills that are not taught in schools. You need to find out from your psychologist.

As for the WISC-IV, it is age based and it is hard to “prepare” for such tests. The FSIQ shows average performance with PSI indicating low average. It may not warrant for a General Ability Index (GAI) as the difference between scores is not large. For admissions into a gifted education programme, typically a cut-off score of 130 is required unless it is a special case (large gaps between scores at Superior to Low average range).

A more challenging academic and enrichment in learning would surely help most children and in this case, perhaps it would help your son a lot as it appears that he is getting bored at school. All I can advise for now is for you to speak to the psychologist again and see if she would be willing to provide a letter as evidence of what she believes is the case during testing. Or even have a meeting with the school authorities with all parties involved. You may even want to see the school counsellor to find out the reason your son is very anxious at school – there may be a far bigger reason not known to adults that may have been affecting his performance. Whatever the outcome may be, especially if things remain the same, most importantly is for you to find out the reason for his boredom and anxiety at school as soon as you can. My best wishes to you and your son.

Replied from reader: Thank you so much for your explanation. I have confirmed the psychologist used age based norms for scoring. Which may have not been the best choice, but there is little we can do now.

Thanks again, this has been such a confusing process and your insights will help us greatly as we try and find a way to help our son.


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