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Gifted at Four, Average at Six on Standardised Test

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: We have a daughter who was given the WPPSI-III IQ test in two sessions either side of her 4th birthday on the advice of the head of her pre-school in Australia.

The subtests used and her scores were as follows:

Receptive Vocab 13
Block Design 17
Information 16
Object Assembly 15
Picture Naming 15

From this the Psychologist reported that she was gifted with an overall IQ of 138.

We recently had her re-tested (on the advise of a different Psychologist) at
6 years old using the WISC-IV test.

The subtests used and her scores were as follows:

Similarities 7
Vocabulary 10
Comprehension 12
Block Design 9
Picture Concepts 9
Matrix Reasoning 14
Digit Span 10
Letter-Number Sequencing 10
Coding 12
Symbol 13

The Psychologist has indicated this puts our daughter's IQ in a range between 93 and 120 and that her "skills are not within the gifted range". The significant difference in the results has been largely explained as "the early assessment having relied on rote knowledge, whereas this test calls for application". It was also noted that "assessments at a younger age do not require children to use sequential skills, whereas the older test does - and she is more conceptual than sequential"

Needless to say we have more questions than answers following the second test. Our key question is:

Does the WPPSI-III test, and the subtests administered, rely on rote knowledge to the extent that our daughter could have been incorrectly identified as Gifted?

A: This is a little strange and scores should not vary that far apart unless there is a learning problem that has gone unnoticed and became more prominent as your daughter grew older. There is also no indication of the Full Score IQ. What is her FSIQ? If there is a learning problem, there is a substitute to the FSIQ, which is the General Ability Index (GAI).

It is indeed true that early intelligence assessments often rely rather heavily on rote knowledge, whereas the WISC IV calls for more application and reasoning. It is also indeed a fact that assessments at a younger age do not require children to use sequential skills, whereas the older test does. In this case, the explanation is accepted.

The correlation between the WPPSI III and WISC IV is rather high as they do share some items. Thus, the WISC IV and WISC III, despite the differences introduced, still correlate well which means that scores should not be too far apart. So if she were identified as gifted at 4, her scores should be in the gifted range unless, as I mentioned earlier, there is a learning issue that has gone unnoticed. Rule out the entire external factor (including fatigue, emotional condition, anxiety, etc) and get another tester to interpret the full report with the FSIQ.

There is reason for concern here so I hope you get someone reliable to help you understand the scores of both tests. Good luck!


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