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Making Sense of Assessment Results

Gifted Testing and Identification

This Tips for Parents article authored by Dr. Nadia Webb is from a seminar she hosted for Young Scholar families. She provides a quick Q&A about how to make sense of your child’s assessment results.

The interesting part of an IQ or achievement test is the pattern on the individual tests. Full Scale IQ is just a big average of all of the subtest scores and it obscures variation. The scatter between the subtests can tell about a child’s interests, abilities and weaknesses.

The difference between a subtest Scale score point at the middle of the IQ range is different that at the ends. For example a scale score point of 10 is the 50th percentile and then 11 is the 63rd percentile. The gradations get very tiny at the high end. The difference between a 15 and a 16 is only 2% (leaping from the 95th to the 97th percentiles.) Between a 17 and a 19 is a fraction of 1%.

Somewhere I learned that for a WISC, the tester keeps going until the child gets three in a row wrong. Is this erroneous?
The WISC cutoffs vary depending on the subtests. Most stop after 4-5 questions with zero point responses. If the response earns partial credit, we keep going.

If a child is getting the very last question in a subtest correct, how would she not get 19?
Harder questions aren’t weighted differently. One of the headaches of testing GT kids is how to keep them on track for the easy questions so that they can get to the harder questions without losing points along the way for silly or vague answers.

How useful is the GAI?
The GAI is often much more helpful because it excludes some of the subtests that are more susceptible to inattention, subtle fine motor delays, or problems with speed. Most of us of more comfortable with the GAI because it is better at identifying 2E kids. (Or kids who tune out during the testing.) The GAI is entirely reputable. Some school districts request the GAI instead of the full scale IQ because it is a more accurate identifier. No one will think you are trying to pull a fast one.

Grade equivalents on the Woodcock Johnson:
The problem is that a “grade level equivalent” on most tests simply tells you that your child did as well on *that* test as the average child in grade x would do on *that* test. For example, a GE of 8.7, say, means your child did as well as the average kid in the 7th month of 8th grade would do.

What constitutes impairment?
Intelligent people disagree about what constitutes impairment. There are three accepted benchmarks within the normal population (16th percentile and below; 5th percentile and below; and 3% and below.) Given that, I would expect people to be even more at odds about whether it is a problem to be at the 37th pecentile if your other scores are at the 99th.

I would bet, practically, that it often is. For a child, this is a drop from his/her normal level. It is often a source of frustration and affects a particular mode of learning or of producing work.

As a pragmatic issue, if you are an Olympic Athlete does it matter if your cardiovascular endurance is at the 37th percentile? Even if everything else is outstanding? These kids are often working at a faster pace, taking in and producing more complex work. Given that, it makes a difference. Some of the difference will depend on the setting. If you are a slow, awkward writer, that will affect your essay writing more than your role on the debate team.

Also, GT kids tend to be perfectionists. They often latch on the area of weakness.

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