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The RAIS and the Woodcock Johnson Tests

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Is the RAIS an appropriate test to use when assessing for giftedness? If so, what cut-off score would constitute giftedness, or superior IQ, for a child with DOB, 12-31-98? I was informed that this score is 128. Also, if not, what test(s) are known to be most sensitive in assessing giftedness?

Further, how is it possible that a child, grade 5, could obtain achievement scores in reading and math subtests post 12th - 15th grade on the Woodcock Johnson, but only score in the above average range, 117, on the RAIS? By comparing the performance on both tests, it appears that this child is achieving beyond his ability/potential which impossible. How may this discrepancy be explained? Thank you for your insight.

A: I would firstly give a brief background of the two tests.

The Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RAIS), considered as a newcomer in the world of intelligence testing, appears to be the shortest full-intelligence test compared to other intelligence assessment. It takes only about 35 minutes to administer. In contrast to most existing measures of intelligence, the RAIS eliminates dependence on motor coordination, visual-motor speed, and reading skills. The RAIS is divided into four sections: verbal intelligence index (VIX), a nonverbal intelligence index (NIX), a composite intelligence index (CIX) and a composite memory index (CMX). It can be administered to children as young as three up to 94 years. In this test, the subsets work together to create an overall score. Verbal intelligence is assessed with tasks involving. Non-verbal intelligence is assessed by visual and spatial ability tasks. In short, the verbal and nonverbal sections test the individual's knowledge of vocabulary as well as understanding of language for problem solving. Concurrently, the CIX and CMX test one's ability to create scenarios and also to remember facts, concepts and pieces of information that are subsequently used to solve problems.

The Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ III) consists of two distinct, co-normed batteries, that is the WJ III Tests of Achievement (WJ III ACH) and the WJ III Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III COG). Both batteries are appropriate for ages 2 to 90 plus and together they provide a comprehensive system for measuring general intellectual ability (g), specific cognitive abilities, scholastic aptitude, oral language, and achievement.

Studies have indicated that the RAIS composite intelligence index (CIX) and verbal intelligence index (VIX) scores have moderate-to-high correlation with comparable scores on other instruments. RAIS describes the VIX scale as a measure of crystallized ability (related more closely to verbal domains as a practical matter and is defined as the application of knowledge to problem solving) and the nonverbal index (NIX) as a measure of fluid ability (related more closely to nonverbal domains as a practical matter and is defined more strictly as reasoning and problem solving in the absence of any requirement for prior knowledge).

Many research findings have indicated moderate-to-high correlations between the CIX and VIX scores and corresponding scores on the WJ-III. Some studies noted a substantially lower correlation between the NIX and WJ-III fluid ability scores. The RAIS is a standardized test and have gained popularity over the years, probably due to the shorter time requirement compared to other tests. The reliability of this test is rather when compared to tests such as the WISC. However, research have also indicated that the RAIS scores tend to be a little higher than the scores from a WISC test.

Hence, a score of above 125-130 for most intelligence tests would allow for admission in the gifted program. The average score for intelligence tests is 100, so above that would place an individual at the above average range; however for gifted programs the range is higher. It is not possible to compare two tests per se so test scores among the various IQ tests are not always interchangeable. Different tests may test different sets of cognitive ability and the focus may vary as well. However, the difference is usually not a vast one based on the test alone. Furthermore, it is not indicated which battery of the WJ test was used – achievement or cognitive. I assumed you used the achievement scale since you indicated achievement scores. There are three oral tests here, a diagnostic spelling test and a measure of phonological awareness have been added to evaluate fluency in reading and in math.

The other WJ III battery, (the cognitive test) is designed to measure general and specific cognitive functions. When these two batteries are administered together, they allow the tester to investigate over or underachievement. They also examine patterns of intra-individual discrepancies among cognitive or achievement areas. If you had used both the tests, there may be answers for the discrepancies. This calls for detailing in the scores. If similar weak/strength areas are found on both tests, then the tests do determine the child's range of strengths/weaknesses. You may want to speak to the tester regarding this for further interpretation especially since he is born on the last day of the year (tests are scored based on chronological age).

If you are still quite unsatisfied, perhaps the WISC could be helpful in illustrating his strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge on his strengths and weaknesses can be very helpful in understanding they type of learner that he may be (e.g., whether he is a visual-spatial or auditory-sequential learner) and how he learns best.

For now, focus on his strengths and work on his weak areas rather than focusing too much on the test scores. All the best to you!


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