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WISC-IV Versus WIAT-II Test Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son, 8 at the time, recently took the WISC-IV and WIAT-II tests to help us understand his lack of enthusiasm in class (he's top of his grade, but unhappy in the class).

He is a very personable boy, a good communicator with competitive spirit, and was anxious about doing the WISC-IV test (taken first). He played a card game with the psychologist before the WIAT-II and was more relaxed.

Overall intellectual ability: 87th percentile rating VCI 96% PRI 70% WMI 68% PSI 66%

His score on the Picture Concepts task was lower relative to his performance on other tasks in this index. Similarities allowed him more elaborate verbal development and when these subtests were compared, there was an 11 point difference (only likely to occur in 0.1% of children his age).

Reading 99% (word reading 16 year old level/decode pseudo words 19 year old level) Maths 97% Written language 97% Oral language 99.5% (comprehension 12year old level/expression 19 year old level)

What, in your opinion, is the best thing that I can do for him to help him enjoy his schooling more? Or better, what can I mention to his teacher? I wonder whether the contrast in his WISC-IV versus WIAT-II scores will affect the teacher offering him more stimulating development opportunities?

Any information you can offer would be gratefully accepted.

A: His WISC-IV shows extremely strength in the verbal area but the other scores are rather average. His WIAT II scores are superior indicating ease in school work. It is hard to understand the reason he may be unhappy in school. Because his IQ score is lower and his achievement score is very high, an indication of a possible learning disability may not be possible (this is usually the case with high IQ score and low achievement score).

It is very hard to determine what may cause high discrepancies in scores without looking at the subset of scores. Most tests vary in their content, appropriateness with different populations, and usefulness as a basis for educational requests. Therefore, it is important that tests (especially individualized) are conducted by a trained and experienced tester who would be able to document the strengths, relative weaknesses and advise on the suitability of a program to cater for the educational needs of the child. High IQ scores are predominantly used as a main criterion for screening gifted individuals for specific programmes. However, if only one test is allowed for such screening, there is a possibility of missing out gifted children who may not fulfil the criteria for cut-out scores as some abilities emphasized on a particular test may or may not correspond with the child's strengths.

Lower IQ scores as determined by the WISC-IV simply indicates that the child is probably not able to master the components tested in the test. The tester would be able to advise if the scores are even, especially if the full score is low but there are subsets of the test in which the child scores very highly or vice-versa. Many other external factors may cause lower than expected scores on IQ test (test anxiety, physical state, extreme pressure to perform, etc.).

Higher scores on achievement test indicate the ability for the child to better grasp the concepts and items tested on the test. It should be noted that when a child's WISC score is significantly below their true ability, it could still be an indication of certain learning concerns. This may be due to the way information is presented in school and the way innate intelligence is tested on the WISC.

The assessment of children's abilities should always lead to a better understanding of the child. This is to enable appropriate recommendations and interventions to be made, regardless of whether that assessment is an individual or group assessment of ability or achievement, or on specific performance.

It is hard to tell here based on the limited description on your son. It would be greatly advisable to seek some clarification from the school. There is a possibility that if the teacher “goes by the book” and assume that your son is has just a decent IQ score, s/he may not provide him with more stimulating work. It would be best to discuss this concern with the school and also the reason he may be unhappy. Though, if he really is unhappy, he would not be performing as well as he has in school! You may need to check is he really is unhappy or he may just be seeking some attention or even a cry for help. Best to get some help in understanding his current situation.

Wishing you all the best!


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