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Interpreting KBIT-2 Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I took my daughter to be re-evaluated for her ADHD. In doing so her new doctor administered the KBIT-2 test. Her scores were as follows: Composite 117, Verbal 104 & Non verbal 124. What are they "actually testing?" What is a composite, or what is a non-verbal test? and what do her scores mean? I want to do what is best for her whether that be getting her extra help or looking for a gifted program. I would any help you can give me in explaining this to me & guiding me in the right direction. Thank You.

A: I will explain the term in a bit but first would like you to understand the test. The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition (K-BIT 2) is used to measure verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability. It is used to obtain a quick estimate of intelligence, estimate an individual's verbal versus nonverbal intelligence and/or to screen to identify students who may benefit from enrichment or gifted programs. Additionally, this test is also able to identify high-risk children through large-scale screening who may require a more comprehensive evaluation. In short, it serves the purpose to provide a relatively quick and accurate estimate of abilities; and to identify students who may benefit from gifted or enrichment programs.

This test is developed by leading cognitive ability experts Alan and Nadeen Kaufman, therefore, it is assumed that this test provides highly valid, reliable results and is useful for a broad range of purposes. With the test package, a scoring and administrative manual is provided, so it is quite easy to use the materials. Hence, scores given by the school is accurate based on the correct use of the scoring manual. Having said that, the teacher in charge of the test should at least have good knowledge on the principles of measurement and in the administration and interpretation of tests. [Note: This test is researched to have a rather high correlation with the Wechsler tests (Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence - WASI, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - WISC and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - WAIS).]

This is a brief assessment and not a full IQ test like the WISC IV. It takes 15min to half an hour. For a child with ADHD, this is suitable for sustained attention. Basically, a few questions are asked and following questions are tracked for correct answers. After a series of incorrect responses, the testing stops. Verbal component deals with vocabulary subtest and nonverbal tests Matrices subtest intelligence. The Verbal portion of the test is made up of two subtests, Verbal Knowledge and Riddles. These measure verbal, school related skills by measuring an individuals word knowledge, verbal concept formation, reasoning ability and range of general information. The Non Verbal portion is made up of the Matrices subtest and measures the ability to solve new problems by assessing ability to perceive relationships and complete visual analogies. It appears that your daughter did well in the nonverbal measure but much lower on verbal component.

The Composite IQ score (also known as Full Scale in some tests) is based on all or most of the subtests that is being tested. This is frequently the number most people refer to when discussing someone's IQ. Experts who develop intelligence tests use mathematical calculations to find the mean or average score. An IQ score from 90 to 110 is generally considered in the average range, corresponding to roughly 50 percent of the population. The higher the IQ score, the lesser the percentage. For example, high scores of say 130 would only see about 2-3 percent of the population. A higher score of 145 should occur in about 0.1 percent of the time or once in a 1,000.

Based on a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15, your daughter scored in the high range (about 115-130 should be within the average range on a bell curve) for the K-BIT-2. The cut-off for a gifted education programme is usually 125-130 (your daughter scored 117) but can be on a case by case basis since there may be a diagnosis of ADHD. You may need to see the tester to get the test interpreted in detail to be able to determine her weaker areas and get some help there.

The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT) by definition is a “brief” intelligence test, also known as a test used for "screening" children. This means, the K-BIT2 test is just a few subtests of their KTEA (full version). Therefore, if those subtests are not the child's strongest areas, then the score could be dramatically different from the same child's score on the comparable “full” assessment. Having said that, test designers do select suitable subtests to include in a brief scale. This is not done randomly, rather using good research background.

One caution for you daughter as she may have ADHD, research has indicated that the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) showed more stable measure of ADHD children's intelligence and that the KBIT-2 vocabulary scores were significantly lower than the WASI verbal score, and that there was a significant variability within the participants.

I would strongly suggest that you seek a second opinion if you wish for your daughter to be enrolled in a programme catered to her needs, as one brief test alone is insufficient to make diagnosis and decisions on her learning ability. Wishing you all the best in this journey!


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