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Discrepancy of Scores In RAIS Intelligence And WJ Achievement Tests

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter is 17 and was due for evaluation for her IEP. In the past her IQ scores have placed her in the mild/moderate MRDD category. She also has physical disabilities and suffered brain trauma at birth. This year they did the RAIS and she scored significantly higher and I am told she is of low normal IQ (89) and that she was misdiagnosed based upon the parent questionaire. To my knowledge, you have to have low IQ, plus two other areas to be labeled as MR. Obviously I did not administer the IQ test and I stand by my answers, she has some pretty severe safety issues and is very dependent due to her physical disabilities (trach, feeding tube). She also scored mostly very low on the Woodcock Johnson tests of achievement. I am having a hard time understanding why there is such a jump in her IQ test scores and how if the new one is accurate, it went undetected through this many years of school.

A: Let me first brief you with some details of each of the test in general.

Briefly, the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RAIS), considered as a newcomer in the world of intelligence testing, appears to be the shortest full-intelligence test compared to other intelligence assessment. It takes only about 35 minutes to administer. In contrast to most existing measures of intelligence, the RIAS eliminates dependence on motor coordination, visual-motor speed, and reading skills. The RAIS is divided into four sections:

  • Verbal intelligence index (VIX),

  • Nonverbal intelligence index (NIX),

  • Composite intelligence index (CIX) and

  • Composite memory index (CMX)

It can be administered to children as young as three up to 94 years. In this test, the subsets work together to create an overall score. Verbal intelligence is assessed with tasks involving. Non-verbal intelligence is assessed by visual and spatial ability tasks. In short, the verbal and nonverbal sections test the individual's knowledge of vocabulary as well as understanding of language for problem solving. Concurrently, the CIX and CMX test one’s ability to create scenarios and also to remember facts, concepts and pieces of information that are subsequently used to solve problems.

The RIAS is a standardized test and have gained popularity over the years, probably due to the shorter time requirement compared to other tests. Research has indicated that the RIAS scores tend to be a little higher than the scores from a WISC test.

As for the Woodcock-Johnson (WJ) Test, there are two types administered to children from age two up to the oldest adults (with norms utilizing individuals in their 90s). The WJ Tests of achievement is an achievement measure (test of developed skill or knowledge) used in educational diagnosis. It tells us how well a student is performing in traditional academic areas when compared to hundreds of other students.

The major difference here is that the WJ is an achievement test whereas RAIS) is an ability/aptitude tests. This does not warrant a one-to-one comparison.

In principle, achievement tests are more directly concerned with what is taught is schools, which is not the case with ability tests. Most achievement tests items resemble closely to the knowledge and skills taught at school. As for ability tests, the skills tested may not be school based with less reliance to specific knowledge (e.g., analogical thinking, although essential for success, is not something that is taught at school). This is why students who score lower on an achievement test than on an ability test may be regarded as underachieving. However, this is not true as there is no single test to measure potential in general and perhaps a combination of different tests may be better to determine the potential of a student.

Furthermore, on ability tests, there are clear-cut tests of nonverbal skills, which may not be as important or sometimes on existent on achievement tests. Therefore, students who may have scored very high on nonverbal tests but much lower on verbal and quantitative parts of an ability test may be perceptually oriented, but this may not be regarded highly in school as school-based subjects are mostly about symbols, that are numbers and letters. There is hardly any room for those who are perceptually oriented. Such a student may be seen as underachieving at school.

Do see the school psychologist to determine the gap here based on individual scores. Someone may be missing something here and if your child deserves more help from school, you need to advocate for it. My very best in your journey.


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