IQ FAQ

FAQ Parents ask about Intelligence Tests
By Erin N. King, Ed.S., Nationally Certified School Psychologist


What is the purpose of the Intelligence Test?

An intelligence test is also referred to as a cognitive assessment and is often administered to obtain more information about a student’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses and her overall cognitive potential. The test gives general information about a student’s abilities compared to others his age in several areas. The tests are intended to be a predictor of how well and in what ways a child will learn new information. However, other factors must ALWAYS be considered. A high IQ does not guarantee success, just as a low IQ does not guarantee failure.


How are the scores used?

There are a variety of ways in which an intelligence test can be used. Scores on cognitive assessments are often used, along with other data, in determining eligibility for special education . Scores should be used as part of broad picture, keeping in mind that sometimes factors other than ability can have an impact. The students attention levels, motivation, and emotional well being can all affect scores. The way a student performs overall and in the different scales gives information as to how a student processes information and his or her unique learning style. It should give information on how to best teach a student. Results of a cognitive assessment are often a good starting point in developing learning plans or interventions.


Why are there different scales and what do they mean?

Most intelligence tests consist of a Full Scale score, processing scales, and several subtests or tasks. The Full Scale score or IQ score takes into consideration all of the subtests administered and portrays a student’s overall cognitive ability. The processing scales will be made up of a few subtests that measure the way a student processes information. Each subtest is a unique task that measures a different way of learning or processing information. Each cognitive assessment is different and is made up of different tasks. However, they typically measure verbal ability (understanding and expressing verbal knowledge) and nonverbal ability (reasoning ability without the use of words and visual-motor ability). Memory, processing speed, and spatial abilities are often measured as well.


How is a Processing Deficit determined?

A processing deficit is determined when one area, such as verbal ability or visual motor ability is significantly impaired when compared to other areas of cognitive ability. For example, if a student performs in the Average range in all Scales, but Extremely Low in nonverbal ability, it may be due to a visual processing deficit. Sometimes, only the Intelligence test will be used to determine a processing deficit, but generally a supplemental assessment will be used as well.


What do Scores Mean?

IQ tests were given to thousands of children to help standardize the test and give percentile scores . When your child took the test, her performance was compared to all the other children given the assessment in the standardization and a percentile score was given. All other scores (Standard Scores, T Scores, and Scaled Scores) are formulated based on the percentile. Typically, scores are presented in Standard Scores, which is best understood in ranges. The Average range is typically 90-110. High Average range 111-120, Superior 121 and above. Scores in the 80-89 range are Low Average, 70-79 are Borderline, and below 70 are Extremely Low.


What are the most common IQ tests?

There are many, but the most used in schools are:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV)
  • Differential Ability Scales (DAS-II)
  • Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale (SB-V)
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