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Average IQ and Above Average Achievement Score

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My son is 12 and was evaluated with the WISC IV, and Kaufman achievement tests. His WISC IV scores were average to high average, and his achievement scores were 97-99 percentile (upper extreme) in reading and 97 percentile (above average) in math. How can this discrepancy be explained? He seems to be very intelligent but behavioral issues have gotten in the way of him getting good grades. He is currently failing school. It has been suggested that he is "twice exceptional" (gifted, but also learning disabled or having ADHD or emotional problems that mask one's giftedness), but his school claims that his IQ testing shows that he is not gifted. Is it possible to have an average IQ and score so high on the achievement tests even though he doesn't do much school work and doesn't study?

WISC IV standard scores
Verbal comprehension: 110 (75%)
Perceptual reasoning: 117 (87%)
Working memory: 102 (55%)
Processing speed: 97 (42%)
[WISC IV Range: Coding scaled score: 8 (25%) - Picture concepts scaled score: 14 (90%)]

Kaufman standard scores
Letter and word recognition: 133 (99%)
Reading comprehension: 131 (98%)
Reading: 137 (99%)
Math concepts and applications: 128 (97%)
Written expression: 104 (61%)

A: It is very possible to get different range of scores between intelligence and achievement as the two are not the same thing. It also gives an indication of some kind of learning difficulty. As it is, 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 individual rather than group) 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 programs. However, if only one test is allowed for such screening, there is a possibility of missing out gifted children who may not fulfill the criteria for cut-out scores as some abilities emphasized on a particular test may or may not correspond with the child's strengths.

Average IQ scores as determined by the WISC-IV simply indicated 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 scores on IQ test (test anxiety, physical state, extreme pressure to perform, etc.).

Above average 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 may be an indication of certain learning disabilities. 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. In this case, you son has been diagnosed twice exceptional; you need to find out what his learning problems are that are lowering his IQ scores.

It would be best to get him checked and tested by an educational psychologist to diagnose the problem and start intervention. Good luck!.


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