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Interpreting the WISC IV Score

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I would like some help interpreting my son's WISC-IV scores, which I was told make him HG with some processing issues, but no learning difficulty. He was 12 years and 11 months in 2012 when he took the test.

He has just started high school and is having problems with handwriting, timed tests, accuracy and general organisation. He also has issues with certain aspects of maths, especially those involving basic facts, space and measurement. His fine motor skills are not very good but his hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills are excellent. In many circumstances he thinks and acts very quickly, but not all, because it took him twice as long as it should have done to do some of the cognitive test. He also complains of not having good short term memory on occasion, yet most of the time his memory is impressive.

At primary school he gained very high marks in all subjects involving multiple choice, written and oral language skills. But I am worried that he will not be able to do so well under written exam conditions at high school, unless he can use a computer or have extra time, which may not be allowed because of his high achievement to date.

His scores are as follows:

I. VCI 153
Similarities 18
Vocabulary 19
Comprehension 19

II. PRI 117
Block Design 10
Picture Concepts 12
Matrix Reasoning 13

III. WMI 135
Digit Span 17
Letter-Number 15

IV. PSI 109
Coding 11
Symbol Search 12

He hit ceilings on 13 out of 18 subtests, in WISC, WIAT and other areas, some of which have not been given percentile scores.

So, I am confused about how these characteristics interrelate. I would really appreciate more information about his processing issues and how they can be addressed. With many thanks!

A: Based on the WISC IV composite score that you provided, your son has scores in the superior range for VCI and WMI, superior for PRI and average for PSI. His FSIQ is in the very superior range - based on what you have given, it should be about 135, which qualifies him for admission in most gifted programmes.

However, I do see your concern here. His processing speed is in the average range in comparison to the other scores. It is not low but compared to the other scores, it does appear to be a concern. His ability in processing simple or routine visual material without making errors is in the Average range when compared to his peers. It appears that processing visual material quickly is an ability that he performs less well than his verbal and nonverbal reasoning ability. Processing speed is an indication of the rapidity with which he can mentally process simple or routine information without making errors. Students with superior reasoning ability often tend to perform less well, although still adequately, on processing speed tasks.

In terms of intelligence, processing speed accounts for only 23% of the variance in general intelligence. Is there any indication of ADHD - the inattentive type? Apparently, lower processing speed scores could indicate such concerns. There are children with ADHD who have IQ scores in the gifted range, yet rather low processing speed. The WISC scores alone are not able to make that diagnosis. However, this may not even be the case for your son as you have not made a mention at all.

In some cases, the General Ability Index is used and the FSIQ gap is really huge. However, in your son’s case, it would be a few points higher (about 3 points). It does make more sense to identify gifted children based on assessments emphasizing reasoning and providing them with learning match. Most importantly, as in the case of your son, the school should add accommodation based on his relative weaknesses to the gifted accommodations. Therefore, an FSIQ score that “averages” overall scores due to lower processing speed score in reality fails to identify either the giftedness or the relative weaknesses.

It is has been noted time and again that gifted individuals may not be fast processors. A good number may be very quick, others are reflective (an incidence of being perfectionistic) and these traits indeed slow down their speed. They also tend to show preference for any material that is meaningful - this includes test material; hence all these short-term memory test (such as coding) may not be seen as meaningful and hard to interpret - this decreases their motivation.

There appears to be some kind of unevenness in development here, which you must intervene real soon or it may possibly be a downhill journey. For the issues he has in school, please speak to someone in authority in school The fact that he scores very well on the WISC-IV indicates that he is highly able and that with the right guide, he is an asset to all around him. Further testing may be required - I am suspecting a learning concern, which may need immediate attention. The school psychologist would be the best person to refer or guide him for further testing/counseling if the need be. If you are not satisfied with the explanation, look for someone experienced in testing gifted children and get the best possible recommendation in what can be done in your area. Good luck!

Interesting read on processing speed:



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