Testing for the Gifted Programme
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My son is 8 and in 2nd grade. He recently took the Terra Nova and scored
in the 99% for both reading and math. The InView section - he scored in
the 99% for total nonverbal, total verbal and the total score with a CSI
These scores qualified him to take the WISC-IV for admittance in the
gifted program. The school gives 2 subtests and he needed to score a 99%
in one of the areas to qualify. He scored a 82% in verbal comprehension
and a 79% in perceptual reasoning. A total score was not given since the
whole WISC test was not administered. As a result, he does not qualify
for the gifted program.
Is the large
discrepancy between the Terra Nova and WISC common? Is the
WISC reliable when it wasn't fully administered? His strengths are
memory and math.
Every teacher he has had since Kindergarten has told us that he is
highly gifted and would be able to skip a grade no problem, which is not
something we want for him, we would like him challenged in the grade he
is in. However now he can not even get into the gifted program.
Thank you for your advice.
Different schools have different criteria for testing to screen students
for their gifted programmes. In almost all reasonable selection, more
than one method may be used. This usually includes an achievement and an
ability test. Now, the main difference between the tests mentioned is
that the Terra Nova is an achievement test (nationally-standardised
group assessment) whereas the WISC-IV (and others such as the Stanford-Binet,
Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, etc) is ability/aptitude
tests. This does not warrant a one-to-one comparison.
In principle, achievement tests are more directly concerned with what is
taught is schools, which is not the case with 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 may not be 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.
However, the InView section is specifically formulated to measure skills
and abilities directly related to academic success such as verbal
reasoning, sequences, analogies, and quantitative reasoning. Tgis helps
in the planning of programmes for students, diagnose possible learning
disabilities, and screen students for placement into special programs.
The CSI (Cognitive Skills Index) is derived from this portion. I would
not do a direct comparison between the CSI and the FSIQ.
The WISC, if partly administered is not reliable if a full scale IQ is
reported. However, in this case, only the subtest scores were analysed.
Therefore, the scores itself are reliable for the individual subtest
alone. A fully administered test would give a full scale IQ score and
enable interpretations of the 10 core subtest used. In your son’s case,
I believe that the school decided on the two main indexes as both the
VCI (verbal comprehension index) and the PRI (perceptual reasoning
index) are known to be better predictors of giftedness. It has been
researched that the VCI alone accounts for 62% of variance in general
intelligence, which is why the school probably used them rather than the
complete them. Having said that, I feel that it is somewhat
unjustifiable to interpreted incomplete protocols unless under
Therefore, based on the results alone, the school has decided that he
did not meet the cut-off criteria for a gifted programme. However, if
you are convinced that the scores do not justify his non-entry, you
should discuss this with the school and present evidence. There should
be exception to the case, especially since he did very well for the
Terra Nova. I believe you have a case here so do bring this matter for
I wish you all the best in making the best of this situation.