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Understanding Gifted Test Scores

Testing a child for inclusion in a gifted program, or to argue for such an inclusion, can be a daunting prospect. Parents may find that they are unsure which tests to use, and even school administrators may not be aware of the testing options and what they mean.

Stanford Binet is the form of testing once used as the standard for measuring IQ. Testers placed children into categories based on a full IQ score from this test. The general markers were that an IQ somewhere between 120 and 125 identified someone as “gifted,” and genius began around 145 to 150, depending on the scale used.

Today, most schools use more comprehensive tests. One of the most popular is the WISC. While the originator of this test has said he did not intend it to speak to the extremes but to differentiate within the range of normal intelligence, the WISC-IV tends to be the standard schools use to determine whether or not a child is gifted.

The WISC-IV measures intelligence in sub-tests based on four criteria: Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory, and Processing Speed. Verbal Comprehension examines a child’s ability to listen to questions and determine the answer based on a combination of education and reasoning skills.

Perceptual Reasoning can best be described as the ability to problem solve. The perceptual reasoning portion of the WISC-IV consists of giving a child a problem and then having that child use spatial and motor skills to find creative solutions to the problems the tester gave. Working Memory tests measure a child’s ability to commit large blocks of information to memory and recall it as needed.

The final measure, processing speed, is one of the lesser understood areas of giftedness but also tends to be less influenced by cultural factors than the other areas. Processing Speed measures a child’s ability to absorb new information and to work under time constraints.

When a child takes the WISC-IV, that child will receive scores in the four sub-sets and then a total score. This score, call the full IQ score, is the determining factor for general giftedness, though a child can score exceptionally well in one area and not others. Educators can use these scores to help determine the best classroom environment for a child.

In general, a full score of 130 or higher will qualify a child as gifted, though that number varies a bit by school. Still the WISC-IV test scores will help you begin to understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

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