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Intelligence Test at K-2 level

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I test students for giftedness using the Frasier Talents Assessment Profile, a method that uses IQ as only one of many measures to determine "giftedness". My district only let's us test grades 3-5. For K-2 we use IQ as the dominant criteria. Many diagnosticians claim K-2 is too early to test IQ. I have seen research that contradicts this opinion, but cannot seem to find it. Could you list some articles, scholarly or popular, that have definitive, research based conclusions on the efficacy of IQ testing for K-2? Thank you.

A: I am assuming that a child at K-2 would be of 5 years of age. For any formal evaluation on IQ, it is generally recommended that IQ testing for gifted children be done between age 5 and 12. Beyond 12, even the moderately gifted child is likely to encounter test ceiling effects. For the highly or profoundly gifted child, ceiling effects are in place on many measures which may begin as young as 8 (including the supplemental Stanford-Binet L-M). Research shows that for the average child, IQ test scores are reliable around age 8.

These days there are intelligence test specific to different age groups which tests age appropriate abilities, hence there is no question of suitability to the test for K-2 children provided a standardised test is use. One such test is The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) which is an intelligence test designed for children ages 2 years 6 months to 7 years 3 months. The Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale (both the Fourth Edition and Form L-M) can be used with children as young as 2 years, 0 months. This in itself is evidence of testing young children as it has been highly researched.

You may also want to read the article especially on intelligence testing of infants using The Bayley Scales of Infant Development (Bayley, 1969, 1993) and the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence (1992).

I personally believe that very young children need not be subjected to such tests especially if it is only to have a mere score especially those below five. Checklists are more suited for this purpose. Having said that, if a child shows extremely high cognitive abilities or confusing development, perhaps a test may be necessary to find out the area that needs attention.

As a rule, testing very young children under age four is not usually recommended unless there is a compelling reason. This is because it can be rather challenging to test very young children (they may get hungry, tired, have wet diapers, and sometimes react negatively to tested who are viewed as strangers). Perhaps a parent may need to be present at all times during the test. In addition, for ceiling effect in any test, more and more questions may need to be asked which lengthens the test time – something not very easy for young children as they may tire easily. However, a very skilled tester may be able to engage the attention of very young children skilfully but it is always better to test a preschool gifted child just before kindergarten entrance, when the test results are usually more reliable and the child is old enough to cooperate fully in the testing situation.

For some readings, you may want to have a look at these:

  • Morelock, M. J., & Feldman, D. H. (1992). The assessment of giftedness in preschool children.

  • In E. B. Nuttall, I. Romero, & J. Kalesnik (Eds.), Assessing and screening preschoolers: Psychological and educational dimensions (pp. 301-309).

  • Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Osborn, J. (1998) Assessing gifted children. (This is a slightly expanded version of an article that first appeared in Understanding Our Gifted, Winter, 1998, p. 9 -12).

Good luck!


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