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High Scores on the Terra Nova

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My son is 7 years old and took the terra nova this past year (1st grade) i got his test results in the mail and realized he scored perfect in the Math and Science categories. His scores were 99 across the board. He scored above average in the other two categories but his science and math scores really just stood out to me. I have always know he was slightly above average due to him teaching himself to add and subtract at 3 years old. Should I get him tested, I want to make sure he is getting the proper education. Or do you think he is too young? Also what kind of testing is recommended? I really have no idea where to begin but there is something very different about him than other children I meet.

A: I will start with explaining the distinction between achievement tests and intelligence tests. The Terra Nova is an achievement test that measures how well a child has learnt what has been taught. In principle, achievement tests are more directly concerned with what is taught is schools, which is not the case with intelligence or 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 non-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. The Terra Nova tests compare students with others in their grades around the nation. Therefore, the scores are listed in percentiles. It also includes a component that acts like an IQ test. This component measures the students’ ability to use information and apply it to new and different situations. It also gauges how a student analyses and employs higher-level thinking skills. But, do bear in mind that this is a very rough measure of intelligence.

It would be a good idea to do an intelligence test to gauge the strengths (or weakness, if any) of your son. Any standardised intelligence test would do. He is at the right age and if he meets the cut-off for admission to a gifted and talented programme, it would help him develop his potential. It is also a good idea to speak to his school to find out the provisions made for highly able children. They may recommend a suitable plan to best engage him in his learning. Wishing you all the best!


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