I hear this so often from parents. They get a cognitive score or even an IQ score on their child and the number is very different from what they observe at home. Some tell me that their child is reading far above grade level. How can he/she not be scoring in the gifted range?

There is a simple answer. There are NO subtests on an IQ battery that test reading, or math or science. That is not the purpose of an IQ test; testing academic skills requires a different approach.

That is the reason we often do academic testing along with IQ testing. The academic testing is sometimes referred to as “achievement testing” and often includes reading skills (decoding and reading comprehension), math abilities (reasoning and calculation), science knowledge, spelling and writing skills. Some of these tests also include a measure of what they call “fluency.” This indicates how quickly the child can complete the task.

Why are these important?

  • Achievement tests can help in planning academic programs. Where should we provide academic support? Where should we mainstream a handicapped child, based on his/her strengths?
  • This type of test information really helps to measure how effective academic interventions are.  For example, if your child is getting extra reading help on a regular basis, has there been any change in scores?  If not, you will need to go back and modify the program.
  • Sometimes, we compare IQ data with achievement data. Some students score in the average range of IQ but then do poorly on the achievement tests. The question, then, is why is this child not acquiring academic skills at the rate we would expect.  There are many factors that interfere with learning so this situation requires some detective work.
  • Another comparison that is made is between achievement data and grades. Some students are doing poorly on their report cards, but when tested, show good ability. This is another case where we need to look for outside causes that may be impacting the student.
  • These tests give some benchmarks for students. Schools will sometimes measure progress by what goals a student has achieved but there is no way to independently measure progress. These tests give that additional data.

Specialized Achievement Tests

In addition to the batteries, there are some tests that provide a more detailed look at specific subjects. The most frequently used are the tests that assess reading. There is a wide variety available. Some look at reading comprehension. Others target oral reading ability. There are a number that evaluate a student’s ability to sound out, or decode words.

There are also several good tests that assess math abilities. These will help with progress both in math calculation skills as well as measuring math reasoning, as would be found in algebra.

Writing is another academic area that has gotten attention recently. There are tests that are sensitive to the organization of writing, the vocabulary used in written work, and the quality of the themes expressed.

Much less testing attention is focused on science or social studies. I suspect this is because people assume that reading and math are the foundational skills on which science and social students are built.

Don’t forget—achievement testing is important in planning educationally for your child!


This blog post describes the ideas and opinions of its author and does not provide professional, psychological, or therapeutic advice. Any anecdotes and examples presented in this blog post are based on the experiences of real people, but names, identifying information ,and nonessential facts have been changed throughout to protect their privacy.