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Discrepancies on WAIS IV and Anxiety

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I am an adult that recently took an IQ test on the WAIS IV with a training psychologist (and I'm well aware that this is a website for children but was hoping that I can get some help here...)

My results were as follows:
VCI: 147
PRI: 121 (scaled scores block design: 15, matrix reasoning: 16, visual puzzles: 11)
PSI: 122
WMI: 145

I don't have the FSIQ or GAI as the psychologist told me it's best practice to not provide it with the score discrepancies, but I am wondering if help can be provided here to calculate the GAI?

I have also taken the Raven's advanced progressive matrices and received a 172 in s.d. 24. I was diagnosed with anxiety and was referred to an occupational psychologist for a possible sensory processing disorder.

I'm hoping to understand what the discrepancy in all my scores can mean, and if anxiety qualifies me as twice exceptional? My understanding is that anxiety is a learned behaviour and doesn't really qualify someone as neurodiverse. Thank you.

A: The GAI is an optional index score for WAIS-IV, which is derived from the core Verbal Comprehension, and Perceptual Reasoning subtests. It provides an estimate of general intellectual ability, with reduced emphasis on working memory and processing speed relative to the FSIQ. GAI taps working memory and processing speed, but to a lesser degree than FSIQ.

For GAI you would need VCI and PRI scores. On WAIS IV, VCI includes Similarities, Vocabulary, and Information; while PRI includes Block Design, Matrix Reasoning, and Visual Puzzles. From your scores, it is not possible to include the FSIQ as the discrepancies between all the scores are large. In fact, it is indeed strange that you scored rather high on PRI for Block Design and Matrix Reasoning but much lower on Visual Puzzles.

Your tester may be able to explain based on the breakdown and statistical significance. In fact, for VCI and WMI you have very superior scores. The GAI scores are probably not interpretable as well since the gap between VCI and PRI is again large. This would give an IQ estimation that is biased so it is best to not have either the FSIQ or the GAI. Both will not reflect true IQ in your case. GAI can be derived from the Technical Manual of the WAIS-IV.

However, you could find out if there is a CPI (Cognitive Proficiency Index) score. The CPI is an optional index score for the WAIS-IV. It is the counterpart to the GAI. This score is derived from the core Working Memory and Processing Speed subtests. Theoretically, the CPI represents an individual’s proficiency at cognitive processing. Efficient cognitive processing frees-up cognitive resources for more complex or higher-level tasks.

I see all your scores as being superior and had there not been such discrepancies in the scores, you could well be in the 98th percentile and above group. I am not able to shed much light into the reason for your score differences; just that if you are diagnosed with anxiety disorder, it could surely affect your scores. If you are clinically anxious or depressed (you mentioned being diagnosed), your perceptual reasoning and processing speed could be lower. This will affect your test score. A trained administrator should be able to pick on this and score accordingly. In fact, only after your anxiety is better controlled, should you be allowed to take the test to accurately reflect your potential. A straightforward truth is that when people are anxious, they may not think very clearly, therefore it does have an effect on tasks performed.

In fact, a recent study has indicated indicated that only the WAIS-IV Perceptual Reasoning Index significantly correlated with self-reported test anxiety. This implies that subjects who reported higher test anxiety performed worse than those who reported lower test anxiety on perceptual reasoning tasks, which is quite clear in your case (no significant correlations for processing speed, verbal comprehension, and working memory). This means test administrators would need to interpret the WAIS-IV scores in a way to eliminate the confound effects of anxiety and stress on performance.

I am not able to tell if you are twice exceptional because of anxiety alone but you may have other underlying issues, which may have gone unnoticed all these years due to your above average intelligence. Usually twice exceptional is referred to children who have above average intelligence (in the gifted range), at the same time formally diagnosed with one or more disabilities such as dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or any other disability interfering with the student's ability to learn effectively in mainstream schools. The child could also have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or diagnoses of anxiety or depression – which all effects performance in school. If it has been diagnosed, there is usually special provisions for these children to help them overcome their weaknesses; at the same time enhance their strengths.

Hope the above helps to clarify some doubts you may have on anxiety and intelligence. I do believe that you could do with some professional help that would help you lead a better and fulfilling life. This may be in the form of therapies (e.g., CBT) to learn ways to cope with anxiety. Here’s wishing you all the best.


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