Besides the two major tests for intelligence, there are many others that are used, often for specific purposes. These are called “intelligence” tests, but really are tests of cognitive (or learning) abilities. These can be helpful in certain situations, but should not be confused with formal IQ tests.
Group intelligence tests are often used by schools. These serve as benchmarks for educators but have little or no relationship with formal IQ tests. These test results should be used very cautiously. There are many questions surrounding them about what they actually measure and about their accuracy. In fact, I do not use this type of data at all.
There are some other cognitive tests that are given individually. The Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities or the Cog-Med tests would be examples of this type of test. These serve specific purposes in schools. Often they may be used to help understand a learning disability or they may be used to determine who should be included in gifted programming. These tend to be tied more to educational theory than they are to psychological ideas about intelligence.
Do not assume that these are IQ tests, even though sometimes they give out results using the term IQ. These are good tests for their own purpose, but they are not substitutes for a formal IQ.
Here’s where they can be helpful:
- If your child has had difficulty in school and is currently getting help. These tests can help monitor whether the plan you have in place is working.
- If your child is experiencing problems in one academic area, in math for example, but is doing well in all other areas. Before beginning an extensive program of testing, some schools may administer one of these tests as a starting point.
- These tests will give you a snapshot of how your child is doing at the present time. These will not predict how your child will do in the future.
- Some schools use them as a way to determine eligibility for gifted programs.
Note to Parents
Make sure you pay attention to the tests that uses and interpret these carefully.
In 1916, two French psychologists, named Binet and Simon, were asked by the government to figure out a way to determine which children were below average in intelligence. These men developed a test based on age and what would be expected at each age. So, if your child is five and can do all the items in the five year old scale, he/she would be considered “normal.” If your five year old wasn’t able to do any of the items on the five year old scale, he/she would be considered delayed. In this way, they could determine who should be placed in institutions for retarded children and who should not. Obviously, a lot has changed since then! (information from Stanford Binet IV manual)
Since then, the testing they developed has evolved and has been updated many times. In the more recent editions, they don’t focus as much on age criteria. They have developed a theory about a general foundation of intelligence that they call “g.” They really can’t describe it well and they have theorized about what it might include. For example, they have called one factor “Fluid Intelligence.” They then have tested this in a wide number of children and have figured out what would be considered average, above average or below average. This is all done using complicated statistics.
Here’s a little about the test:
- There is only one Stanford Binet test and it is used for ages 2-late adolescence/early adulthood
- The names on the subscales are different from on other tests and can’t be directly compared
Why chose the Stanford Binet?
Age is also a factor when choosing a test. The Stanford Binet was the only test that was able to be used with 2 year old children for a long time. People working in Early Intervention programs would use the Stanford Binet for this reason. They understood that an IQ for a 2 year old was not particularly accurate, but that they were able to compare one child’s development with another in order to provide help, if needed..
Sometimes, psychologists may choose specific tests because of the nature of the tasks themselves. Some materials are more appealing to certain ages of children. Some subtests are difficult to administer.
My personal preference is not to use the Stanford Binet except for young children. I prefer a test that has some specific connection with tasks that a child will have to actually accomplish. For example, I like to use a test that has some pencil and paper tasks, since those are definitely a part of a child’s school experience. I also like to use a test that has a test of complex language where a child has to explain things. This gives me some idea of how he/she will do in the language rich environment at school. Whenever possible, I like to have a test that will give more than a number, one that will help me develop a treatment strategy for the child I have tested.
Many parents come to me with their young children who have shown a pattern of precocious development. These young people have reached milestones at a younger age than expected. Many have huge vocabularies and seem to understand concepts that are far above their age level.
Parents want to know if they should schedule some testing for their children, to determine if they are truly superior in intelligence. There are some things that you may want to consider before moving ahead with testing.
We do have intelligence tests that start at about 2 ½ years of age. We usually use the Stanford Binet Intelligence Battery (SBIB) or the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI). For school age children, we use the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). (In a separate blog, I will discuss more details about each of these). The result of this kind of testing will be a number that is labeled “IQ.” These numbers are often misused. Some parents look at the results and think that this number represents a firm intelligence level, one that will persist as the child gets older. That is not true. Some of the early tests tend to overestimate IQ and there can be a great change in these scores over time. A child who scores in the superior range at 4 years of age is likely to score in the average range at 9. The opposite can also be true. Be careful in interpreting IQ scores in young children.
Children show great variability in their developmental patterns. Some children show a pattern of growing very quickly at first, and then leveling off. Other children show the opposite pattern, starting slowly but then showing spurts of development as they grow up. So, if you test your child at one point, can you count on that information to make predictions about the future? No, you can’t. You don’t have any information about your child’s future development pattern.
The other consideration relates to brain development. There are many skills that we cannot measure until the brain itself matures. For example, if you want to get an estimate of your son or daughter’s reasoning, you will need to wait until adolescence to have that type of skill tested.
So, are there times that testing can be helpful? Yes. Here are some general rules of thumb about when to get testing.
- One time that testing is warranted is when you are trying to design a behavior program for your child. The test results will tell you what is happening NOW, and that is what you need to know so you can tailor the program to your child.
- I like to test the younger children if they come to me for treatment of anxiety. Children who seem to be bright often can perceive things intellectually that they can’t deal with emotionally. The test results can help determine if this is what is happening and this helps me in my treatment of their anxiety.
- Sometimes, testing is required to access particular academic-type programs.
What should parents do? I would suggest not pursuing testing unless it has some current application, especially if your child is young. Many parents are hopeful that their child will be found to be gifted. It is far more important that parents focus on providing for their children’s emotional, social and also intellectual needs as they are now. In that way, you can be sure you are meeting all your child’s needs.