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Interpretation of the WISC-IV Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My 8-year-old is being considered for a gifted program. His WISC-IV results show a wide variation. Can you help me interpret them? Would you suspect a twice exceptional combination with the difference in the scores or what might contribute to matrix reasoning being so low? Thank you!

VCI = 130 (Sim 16, Vocab 16, Compr 10)
PRI = 106 (Block 16, Picture 16, Matrix 6)
WMI = 120 (Digit 14, Letter-Number 17)
PSI = 115 (Coding 12, Symbol Search 9)
FSIQ= 123

A: From the score breakdown, it appears that your child has scores that indicate “very superior” on the VCI (130 is cut-off start for very superior); “average” on the PRI, “superior” on the WMI (120 is cut-off start for superior); and “high average” on the PSI. His FSIQ indicates “superior” scores. He obviously has very good verbal comprehension skill, which assesses ability to listen to a question, draw upon learned information from both formal and informal education, reason through an answer, and express thoughts aloud. It can tap preferences for verbal information, a difficulty with novel and unexpected situations, or a desire for more time to process information rather than deciding “on the spot”.

However, he appears to have average scores for PRI, which is not low but in comparison to VCI, may need some attention. This is due to the large difference between the VCI and the PRI. The PRI measures perceptual and fluid reasoning, spatial processing, and visual-motor integration. The sub tests include:

Block Design: visual spatial reasoning and visual-constructional ability.
Matrix Reasoning: non-verbal reasoning and concept formation.
Picture Concepts: abstract, categorical reasoning.

For matrix reasoning, he needs to identify the missing portion of an incomplete visual matrix from one of five response options, which he was unable to perform well at all (in the 9th percentile); however, his performance on block design and picture completion is superior (in the 98th percentile). This indicates that a single score cannot adequately describe Fluid Reasoning, which is the PRI total score.

The first thing to do is to get back to the tester or the school and ask for an interpretation of the low matrix score. It is hard to say based on the information whether NVLD is a possibility especially due to huge gap in the PRI scores itself. More testing may be required in the visual perceptual realm. Typically people with NVLD have difficultly with visual motor tasks. In your son's case, this is the opposite.

Of course for low scores, it has been suggested that using jigsaw puzzles and other activities that involve recognizing visual patterns can be helpful. Encourage visual perceptual development by having child attend to and name visual details in pictures to listen to. If it is due to impulsive responding, try the “stop and think” protocols or practice more problem-solving analogues.

I personally feel the need to relook the scores by the tester for further interpretation (especially on behavior during test). And to have further tests if the results are found to be solid (I don't think this is the case somehow) or you need to rule out certain possible learning issues (this may be the case).

Best wishes and hope this gets sorted out soon.

Replied from reader: Thank you! His subscores were incorrect due to a reporting error, but there's still a bit too much scatter, so will get him checked out further. Your response helps me better understand those subtests and possibilities; thank you!


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