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IQ Testing

September 13, 2009

With the exception of the comments regarding testing options in the metroplex, the rest of this information is based on a webinar presented on May 27, 2009 through UC Irvine by David Palmer, PhD, Educational Psychologist and Director of the Palmer Learning Center in Orange County, CA.  www.Palmerlearning.com

Parent’s Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education

Is your gifted child struggling in school? Consider having your child IQ tested.  An IQ test does not indicate true intelligence.  There are, after all, several different areas of intelligence including: social intelligence, emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, and the multiple intelligence classifications identified by Howard Garner.  An IQ test says little about a person’s true potential as so many other factors play a role.   However, an IQ test can measure a person’s verbal and perceptual reasoning skills and give objective evidence of a child’s academic needs.

So, what does an IQ test evaluate? Modern IQ tests, like the WISC-IV, measure higher level reasoning: Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning, as well as lower level processing: Working Memory and Processing Speed.  These four areas are examined and reported separately.

  • Verbal Comprehension: includes word meanings, ability to understand and explain abstract/higher level concepts.
  • Perceptual Reasoning: requires visual perception, organization and reasoning with visually presented, nonverbal material to solve the kinds of problems that are not typically taught at school.
  • Memory: includes short term memory and working memory.  The concept of working memory is a new component of the IQ test.  An example of a short term memory test may be to repeat a list of fruits and vegetables in order without writing them down.  Working memory, on the other hand, requires not just that the person remember the information, but also that he/she is able to process the information.  For example, working memory might include hearing a random list containing both fruits and vegetables and having to mentally categorize them and recite them grouped as fruits and vegetables.
  • Processing Speed: is intended to measure thinking speed and the ability to react quickly.  However, Dr. Palmer indicated that the way the IQ test measures processing speed is by having the subject write down the information.  As a result, a lower processing speed score when other measures are high does not necessarily indicate a deficiency in thinking speed; instead, it might be a reflection of an inability to write down the information as quickly as it is being processed.  Dr. Palmer recommended that accommodations be considered for these students like being able to complete assignments on computer instead of written by hand. He noted that this result usually correlates with a high IQ and is much more common in boys than in girls.  Many parents reflect that these kids with a lower score in this category compared to the other 3 tend to prefer to do things in their head than on paper.  A significantly lower score in Processing Speed could indicate that the student is twice exceptional and has additional learning difficulties that should be addressed.

What are the levels of giftedness within the GT population? IQ test results over 130 indicate that the person is gifted and testing in the top 2.2% of the population.  Within this 2.2%, test results distinguish the following levels:

IQ Score Descriptive Level of Giftedness
130-137 Gifted
138-144 Highly Gifted
145-151 Exceptionally Gifted
152 and above Profoundly Gifted

Want an example? The following profile, provided during the webinar, is a typical gifted student:

Scale IQ Score Percentile Rank Confidence Interval Description
Verbal Comprehension (VCI) 138 >99 129-142 Very Superior
Perceptual Reasoning (PRI) 121 92 112-127 Superior
Working Memory (WMI) 123 94 114-129 Superior
Processing Speed (PSI) 118 88 107-125 High Average
Full Scale (FSIQ) 132 98 126-136 Very Superior
General Ability Index (GAI) 135 >99 129-138 Very Superior

Percentile Rank looks at a comparison to the population.  Confidence Interval indicates a range taking into account the standard margin of error. Full Scale results evaluate the IQ score based on a combination of all of the 4 testing areas.  General Ability Index, as recommended by the National Association of Gifted Children, reflects the IQ score based only on the higher level reasoning areas: Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning.  The reason that NAGC recommends reporting the GAI is because the FSIQ may be overly impacted by attention issues or fine motor issues.

So what does it all mean? The student portrayed above is testing gifted and has no identified issues that would prevent him/her from succeeding in school if an appropriate gifted program is in place.  Some specific programming suggestions recommended by Dr. Palmer include:

  • Between class/grade cluster grouping/ability grouping
  • Muli-age/combo classes
  • Frequent use of higher levels of depth and complexity within content area/whole group instruction  (see Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented)
  • More opportunity for independent study/project based instruction/cooperative groups
  • Replacement curriculum (student works individually on higher level curriculum after testing out of grade level)
  • More opportunity for self-directed learning (eg. choice within literature circles)
  • Outside enrichment in areas of need/interest
  • Distance learning to explore areas of interest and access higher level curriculum (eg. Stanford EPGY; John Hopkins CTY)
  • Summer programming
  • Formal in-school gifted program
  • Single subject acceleration
  • Grade skipping (see: accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived).

What about children with an IQ higher than 145? These students tend to have a difficult time having their needs meet in a school; however, the degree of success depends on the program and the teacher.  Additionally, many kids with high IQs can self-stimulate.  Dr. Palmer recommends the following special programs be considered for this rare student:

  • More than one year grade skip
  • Other forms of acceleration (gifted and AP classes)
  • Dual enrollment
  • Davidson Young Scholars
  • Special Schools (Public Magnet or Private)
  • Home Schooling with participation in outside gifted ed programming (eg. Stanford EPGY; John Hopkins CTY; Davidson YS)
  • Online Charter School enrollment with participation in outside gifted ed programming (see above)
  • Early entrance

IQ testing can give you some answers to how your child reasons and processes information — remember that it is only one aspect that contributes to a child’s success in school and beyond.


Want to pursue testing? There are several places in north Texas that offer IQ testing.  One place to consider is University of North Texas, Office of Gifted Education, which conducts both the WISC-IV IQ test as well as individualized achievement testing.

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