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What Do Wechsler Intelligence Tests Measure?

How Intelligence Testing is Used in Private Schools

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What Do Wechsler Intelligence Tests Measure?
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Intelligence tests, or IQ tests, are often used to assess children's current intellectual capabilities, in comparison with other children of their age. While there has been a great deal of debate about whether these tests tap into children's true abilities, the tests, most commonly the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV), are still often used in private school admissions. Children from age 3 to 7 years and 3 months are administered a different version of the tests, called the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), while adults are administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). These tests were first devised in the 1950s and have been revised many times since their creation. These tests were created by David Wechsler, a psychologist who believed that intelligence, formerly mainly measured with the Stanford-Binet tests, was comprised of multiple factors.

These tests do not measure a child's creativity or other forms of intelligence, and there are many factors that can affect the results of the test. Here is more information about what intelligence tests measure and how they are used in private schools.

What Intelligence Tests Measure

The WISC-IV is made up of different sub-tests that are scored to provide different scores for four different types of intelligence. The major areas are verbal comprehension, which refers to a person's ability to reason verbally; a perceptual reasoning score, which refers to a person's ability to reason spatially or non-verbally; a working memory score, which refers to a person's ability to hold information in mind and organize it; and processing speed, which measures how quickly a person works. The Full Score IQ looks at the composite of all the scores, but it often is not meaningful if test-takers have discrepant scores in different areas of the test. Each person's scores are based on comparing them to others of their same age. The average score is 100, and two-thirds of the scores are within 85 to 115.

How IQ Scores Are Used in Private Schools

While some schools, particularly those that are progressive in philosophy, do not emphasize traditional IQ scores and instead choose to focus on the idea of multiple intelligences, put forward by Howard Gardner and others, some private schools use intelligence tests in admissions. For example, the ERBs, private school admissions tests for young children in pre-school through 4th grade, are based on modified versions of the intelligence tests. However, some schools do not use or put much weight on these scores. In addition, as many students now receive tutoring or coaching for the ERBs, some private schools are starting to reconsider the value of administering tests that are coachable and that may or may not measure young children's intellectual ability as much as their access to tutoring resources.

In addition, intelligence tests are part of educational or psycho-educational evaluations, which are given by psychologists or neuropsychologists, to understand how a specific child learns. IQ tests are given to measure a child's academic potential, and achievement tests such as the Woodcock-Johnson are also commonly administered to assess whether a child's achievement is in line with his or her academic potential. A large discrepancy between IQ and achievement scores, in addition to measurements of other cognitive functions, may indicate that the child has a learning difference or that he or she has an emotional or other issue interfering with his or her learning. Psychologists can help teachers, parents, and students understand a child's full academic profile and put the results of intelligence tests into context, given the results on other measures, including achievement tests and tests of other cognitive functions.

As always, intelligence tests should be given only by qualified professionals, such as licensed psychologists, and the results should be interpreted carefully. Children who are under psychological or other duress, or who have certain types of learning issues, including issues that affect their focus or language abilities, may not get an IQ score that measures their true ability. Therefore, the IQ score alone can be meaningless unless the context of the testing situation and other factors that are affecting the child and his or her current situation are considered. In addition, as stated above, the IQ score is only one measurement, and the score does not consider a child's creativity, emotional maturity, or other forms of intelligence.

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