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Discrepancy between Intelligence and Achievement Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My son scored in the 99% on the COGAT test at age 7, but only scores in the 5% on the MAP test. Why would there be such a discrepancy between his ability and achievement? I am very concerned.

A: 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 entirely 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 particular 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.

MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing is an out-of-level testing. MAP is a computer adaptive test, which means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions get harder. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions get easier. By the end of the test, most students will answer about half the questions correctly. MAP results are provided as a numerical RIT score. This score is used to measure a student's achievement level at different times of the school year and compute growth. Think of this like marking height on a growth chart. You can tell how tall your child is at various points in time and how much they have grown between one time and another.

MAP tests are interim tests. This means they may be given periodically during the year. MAP is based on the same standards as the summative tests so they measure similar content. Teachers receive immediate results with MAP that show what students know and what they are ready to learn. The results can be used to help personalize lessons at the appropriate level for the students.

Unfortunately, I am not able to comment the reason for your child's score on the MAP. It is best to make an appointment with his teachers to understand and seek clarification on the discrepancy in both the scores. There could be an underlying learning concern that needs attention. If there is, intervention is required immediately. All the best!


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