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WISC-IV Score Interpretation

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My six year old son was recently tested, and I'm having trouble deciding how to act on the scores. The people doing the test stress that he's quite gifted, and we should perhaps look at gifted schools, but I'm reluctant to do this because of cost and because he seems to get along so well with his friends. If he's just a bit more clever than usual, I'd like to keep him in the same spot. I also want to make sure we're not limiting his growth in any way. Any help would be much appreciated. Thx.

The Full Scale IQ (FSIQ) was 144, and classified in Very Superior range. Your son's unique set of thinking and reasoning abilities, however, make his overall intellectual functioning difficult to summarize by a single score. In fact, a discrepancy analysis showed significant differences between the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI), Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) and Working Memory Index (WMI), and the Processing Speed Index (PSI); in other words, your son has very superior abilities in the verbal and perceptual reasoning and working memory arenas with average processing speed arenas. Consequently, the FSIQ should be interpreted with measured caution. A comparative analysis of your son's cognitive abilities is therefore important in understanding his intellectual functioning. In addition, when the WISC-IV is used for the identification of gifted students, either the General Ability Index (GAI), which emphasizes reasoning ability, or the Full Scale IQ Score (FSIQ), should be acceptable for selection to gifted programs. Your son achieved a GAI utilizing extended norms of 166, at the >99.9th %ile, and classified in the Very Superior range.

A: From your description of the WISC-IV score interpretation, it is very clear that your son is in the Very Superior range. Using the GAI score, his scores are even higher. It is true that a good number of gifted children tend to score very high on all the subtests, and a little lower on processing speed, which in most cases brings down the score. Sometimes, the subtest scores are so scattered that a GAI is preferred to eliminate working memory and processing speed (VCI and PRI are said to be the best measure of general intelligence).

Processing speed generally refers to the varying speed with which individuals are able to perform cognitive activities such as the recognition of simple stimuli. Higher speed in cognitive processing usually allows more information to be acquired in a shorter time span enabling the individual to absorb and master materials of higher levels. Above average individuals usually have high processing speed, thus enabling them to reach developmental milestones ahead of their age mates. In layman's terms, the brain is working faster which is viewed as superior intelligence, hence the difference in human intelligence. (Read more on processing speed at : http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10447.aspx)

Having said that, there is more to intelligence than speed of processing, which is the reason most IQ test use a combination of factors to assess intellectual skills. According to the WISC, processing speed measures children's abilities to focus attention and quickly scan, discriminate between, and sequentially order visual information. It requires persistence and planning ability, but is sensitive to motivation, difficulty working under a time pressure, and motor coordination too. Cultural factors seem to have little impact on it. It is related to reading performance and development too. It is related to Working Memory in that increased processing speed can decrease the load placed on working memory, while decreased processing speed can impair the effectiveness of working memory.

He is definitely gifted based on the scores and not “just a little more clever than usual” and I certainly think that he would benefit from an educational match which may not be provided in regular schools. A placement in a gifted education program would be a good match. He appears to be socially fine and therefore woiuld be able to adapt easily with new friends. I would think that a program for gifted children would cater for his needs and bring him to greater heights by developing his potential fully. Do find out if there may be some help in terms of cost. As much as it appears comfortable to leave him as he is especially since there are no signs of get bored or frustrated (as yet), you would be holding him back. Speak to his school counsellor or a education professional about his scores and the best action to take, taking everything into account. Best wishes in your journey.


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