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Interpreting the WAIS IV Score Discrepancy

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I need help interpreting my 17 year old daughters WAIS-IV scores.

Verbal Comprehension - 134
Perceptual Reasoning - 119
Working Memory - 102
Processing Speed - 81

I understand that there is a large discrepancy in the VC and the PS.... 53 points! And 32 point discrepancy in WM and PS is also significant.... But what does it actually mean? Is it ADD or something else?

A: The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is a test designed to measure intelligence in adults and older adolescents between 16 years to 90 years of age. It is an individual test and takes about 75 mins to administer. Her results are very hard to interpret as the discrepancies are large and there is no breakdown on the results.

It appears that your daughter's verbal reasoning abilities as measured by the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) are in the superior range. Her nonverbal reasoning abilities as measured by the Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) are in the high average range and above.

The PRI is designed to measure fluid reasoning in the perceptual domain with tasks that assess nonverbal concept formation, visual perception and organization, visual-motor coordination, learning, and the ability to separate figure and ground in visual stimuli.

As for her Working Memory (WM), it appears that her ability to sustain attention, concentrate, and exert mental control is in the average range, which is a weakness relative to her superior verbal reasoning abilities. This ability controls processing of complex information, and use of mental energies. Her ability in processing simple or routine visual material without making errors is in the low range when compared to her peers.

Generally the profiles from the test is not typical of any clinical disorders. However, ongoing research may identify certain characteristics of cognitive functioning for specific clinical disorders. While specific profiles are not diagnostic of particular disorders, working memory and processing speed are implicated in a variety of psychoeducational (learning issues) and neuropsychological disorders.

From the results alone, it is not possible to make any such diagnostic but there certainly is a large discrepancy between her PSI and the other scores. She was probably given a General Ability Index score which would interpret her scores more fairly. The GAI provides an estimate of general intellectual ability, with reduced emphasis on working memory and processing speed relative to the FSIQ. In this case, it would probably be necessary. Theoretically, the GAI should represent an individual's overall cognitive ability, if working memory and processing speed abilities were similar to verbal and non-verbal abilities.

In your daughter's case, the GAI should be used since there is a significant and unusual discrepancy exists between VCI and WMI and a significant and unusual discrepancy between PRI and PSI. GAI is not a substitute for the FSIQ. The results have very large discrepancies - you need to ask the tester to interpret the scores and find out what the concern may be. It is not a diagnostic test for ADHD - for that you need an ADHD expert. I would suggest you check the scores again with the tester. Best of luck!


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