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Low Matrix Reasoning Score in WISC-IV

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hello, my daughter was administered the WISC-IV 3 years ago during an evaluation for ADHD and LD (she was diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive Type). She is also creatively gifted in drawing.

My question is about her PRI subtest scores. A source informed me that her PRI needed to be further vetted for a potential LD due to the scatter between her subtests. Her evaluator disagreed and no further testing was done. Here are her scores:

Subtest Scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Edition (WISC-IV) Standard Score or Scaled Score:

  • WISC-IV Full Scale IQ - 113

  • Verbal Comprehension Index - 108

  • Similarities - 14

  • Vocabulary - 10

  • Comprehension - 11

  • Perceptual Reasoning Index - 110

  • Block Design - 13

  • Picture Concepts - 15 (95th percentile)

  • Matrix Reasoning - 7 (16th percentile)

  • Working Memory Index - 107

  • Digit Span - 14

  • Letter-Number Sequencing - 9

  • Processing Speed Index - 112

  • Coding - 11

  • Symbol Search - 13

I am questioning this now because she is almost 18 and very dependent on people. She does not like to do anything alone and never has. She's never walked/biked to a friend's house or to or from school or anywhere alone; only if someone goes with her. She now works up to doing adult things--like driving and getting a job--but won't actually get behind the wheel or go through with a job interview. She does not want to go to college unless someone goes with her. She recently told me that when she is in a new situation, she doesn't know what to do or how to figure out what to do and panics. She had a panic attack just talking about it. She said that if someone shows her how/what to do, then she feels more comfortable and can maybe do it alone the next time. When she told me this, the 1st thing that came to mind was her low score on her PRI Matrix Reasoning subtest of her IQ test.

I know Matrix Reasoning tests fluid reasoning and fluid reasoning is the ability to problem solve in novel situations. I am wondering if her struggles in everyday life are somehow connected to her "below average" Matrix Reasoning score and should be further vetted so she can get some help or if I am just on the wrong path completely.

Thank-you for any insight and help.

A: In Matrix Reasoning on the WISC-IV, the child is presented with a partially filled grid and asked to select the item that properly completes the matrix. This part measures fluid reasoning, which describes a child's skill at grasping nonverbal concepts (i.e., shapes, designs, visuospatial patterns) such that she or he can identify missing or incorrect aspects of those concepts and complete or correct them. This skill is used in many activities where one must identify objects, locations, landmarks, and the likes by shape. Fluid intelligence also is used in tasks where one must design a thing (e.g., parts of a device) to be able to fulfil certain requirements.

An average to low score on Matrix Reasoning may demonstrate mild problems processing visual stimuli and some difficulties with nonverbal reasoning skills. To increase PRI, general teaching methods that consist of making visual-motor tasks easier for the student should be used. For e.g., use of large print, large copy work, minimizing distracting influences, guides for visual-motor work, gross-motor exercises, and others can be used. For finer coordination, activities can be gradually introduced when the student progresses (e.g., physical education or gymnastics).

In your daughter's case, her overall scores are not scattered and rather evenly distributed in the average to high average range. You need to know whether the difference between this subtest score and the others is actually statistically significant. On her PRI score alone, it does show a scatter, which is clearly statistically significant. The examiner should have explained this (including what it means for the child) by looking at the statistics alongside breakdown of scores.

I do agree that further testing on her reasoning should have been done as the scatter is not normal. It is likely that there may be problems with her reasoning (in terms of fluid intelligence rather than visual spatial intelligence). Her struggles could be due to her fluid reasoning ability and perhaps due to non-intervention after test 3 years ago, the situation could have likely worsen and made it harder to conduct simple day to day activity. At this point, regardless of further testing, she need to see a psychologist who could help her perhaps re-learn or improve on her reasoning abilities. Provide the test scores and other results (if further test on fluid reasoning is taken). Do seek help as soon as you can, as intervention is very necessary to help her cope with her daily anxieties. She appears to be a very bright child with creative gifts - help that be a motivation for he to overcome her challenges.

Wishing you both all the best and hope she will be able to overcome her struggles with some expert help.


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