1) Which subtests of the IQ test will my child take?
When we talk about IQ Tests, we are talking about tests such as the WPPSI®-III or IV or the Stanford-Binet V, tests that are administered by psychologists working one-on-one with your child. These tests often have many subtests, but your child is not always given every possible subtest from the instrument.
The subtests that are administered depend on the reason why your child is being assessed. If your child is being assessed to qualify for a private school program, for example, the private schools usually direct the psychologist as to which subtests should be administered. In cities like Manhattan, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta, there are test administration groups that administer the test one time to a child, and that score can be used for applications to schools across the city. In those locations, every child will be given the same subtests that the association of independent schools has decided they want all children to be given.
If your child is being assessed to determine if she has a learning issue, the psychologist will use her judgment as to whether a full scale IQ test should be given, or whether a more limited assessment is called for. IQ tests generally have Core Subtests, Supplemental Subtests, and Optional Subtests. The psychologist may substitute some subtests for others if your child has limitations in language or motor skills, or if for any reason she feels a different subtest is more appropriate to helping her understand your child’s learning delays.
2) How long does the test take?
Depending on whether or not the psychologist is giving the full test, administration times may vary. On many of the subtests on IQ tests, children start with a question that is easy for them and they are allowed to keep going until they miss 4 or 5 in a row (or until they get to the end of the questions in a subtest). So children who answer more questions may take longer to be tested. Generally, the test lasts 30 – 45 minutes for younger children (i.e. ages 2:6 – 3:11) and 45 – 60 minutes for older children (i.e. ages 4:0 to 7:7).
3) If my child is 4, will he be compared to all 4-year-olds or to 4-year-olds that are born in the same month in which he was born?
On the WPPSI® tests for young children, kids are compared to other children born within 3 months of themselves. So a child born January 1 who takes the test the day after her birthday would be compared to children who are 4:0 (as she is) through 4:2 – a 3-month age band. Many parents try to schedule the test when their child is at the oldest part of the age band so she will be compared to younger children (with this child, that would be at the end of March). If this is easy for you to do, it is probably a good idea, but you don’t always have control over when your child will be tested. If you can’t control when the test will be given, you shouldn’t get too stressed about it. There are often good reasons to wait and have a child tested as late as possible, and that might preclude the child from being tested at the “best” part of the age band.
On the Stanford-Binet V, young children are compared to other children born within 2 months of their birthday.
4) If my child doesn’t give a complete answer on a verbal item, can the psychologist encourage him to say more?
Yes, when a child’s answer is incomplete or vague, the psychologist can say, “Tell me more” or “What else” or “Can you explain that to me?”
5) If my child isn’t following instructions, can they be repeated?
Yes, on tasks that are not timed, instructions can be repeated if the child isn’t following the instructions or if the child requests that the instructions be repeated. When the instructions are allowed to be repeated, they can usually be repeated as often as is requested by the child. On timed subtests, instructions may be repeated, but the time to repeat the instructions will be included in your child’s completion time.
If your child does ask for the instructions to be repeated a lot, or if she fails to follow instructions, this will probably result in a notation in the comments section of your child’s test. Private schools that are considering children for admission do pay attention to how well your child listens and pays attention to instructions. For this reason, it is important for you to work with your child on her listening, focusing and following directions skills.
6) Will the psychologist show my child how to do each type of subtest before the actual test starts?
Yes, there are always sample questions where the child is shown what to do and how to answer each type of question. After they have completed one or two sample items successfully, they will go ahead and begin working on the subtest. The psychologist is instructed not to proceed to the actual test until she is sure the child understands what to do.
7) How do I explain to my child why he is being tested?
You might say something along these lines. “Today you’ll be working with a special teacher who wants to know everything that 4 year olds know. The teacher is very nice, just like your teacher, Mrs. Smith. You’ll be working with blocks, playing with puzzles, and answering questions like the questions you answer in school. Just do the very best you can and show her how much 4-year-olds like you know! You may not know the answer to all the questions you’re asked, and that’s just fine. Just give your best guess to whatever she asks, and do your best on each puzzle or activity.”
8) If I don’t understand my child’s test scores or report, will the psychologist sit down with me and explain it?
Before your child is tested, talk to the psychologist. Ask her if a follow up consultation either in person or by phone is included in the cost of the assessment. If not, you may have to pay extra for the private consultation. But if you have any question about your child’s performance, it will be important for you to talk to the psychologist and get a more detailed understanding of what your child’s scores mean.
I couldn’t resist adding this PS to the post I wrote earlier this week.
On Wednesday, we did an event in NYC, where we went over the different tests given for G&T testing in Manhattan for Hunter College Elementary, Private Schools, and NYC District and City-Wide gifted Programs. In Manhattan, children take the Stanford-Binet® V, the WPPSI®-III or “ERB”, and the OLSAT® and NNAT® 2 for these different programs.
I talked about how important I felt it was to prepare children for these tests. For 4-year-olds, test prep is as much about making sure children have the abilities and knowledge a test will assess as it is making sure that children know how to take a test. As part of my talk, I gave parents some practice questions to try with their kids.
The next night, we held an event where we just spoke about private school admissions. A mom who had attended the night before came up to me. “You were right about children not understanding tests!” She told me. “I couldn’t believe it.” She went on to explain just how smart her daughter is (and it sounds like she really is). She told me that she tried a practice question with her daughter, certain that the question was easy and her little girl would get it right. To her surprise, the child chose the wrong answer. “Why did you pick that answer?” the mom asked. “Because it has a butterfly in it. I love butterflies,” the little girl explained.
We’ve taken so many tests in our lives that we think knowing how to take one is automatic. It isn’t! It is a learned skill. To take a test, children need to be able to sit still, listen to what the tester is saying, take it in, remember it while choosing an answer (that’s called “working memory”). The child must know that they are being asked a question that has an answer. They will need to think about what has been asked and come up with the right answer – yes, there is a RIGHT answer. It is important that the child knows to look at every answer choice before deciding what to choose because sometimes there are answers thrown in that are designed to throw the child off! That’s a lot for a 4 or 5-year-old to take on. That’s why practice answering test-like questions can make such a difference in a child’s performance.
If your child is going to take her very first test, try some “practice questions” with her. You can get 100 free practice questions to work with at TestingMom.com. Does your child know how to handle them right off the bat? Or does she get better with practice?
Don’t forget – for your 100 free practice questions, visit www.TestingMom.com.
Let me start by saying that if you have a very young child (age 4 – 6) who will be tested for school admissions or a gifted program, everything you have done with your child from the day he was born until the day he is tested has been preparing that child for testing (not to mention for school and life!).
There is a body of information and understandings that children tend to acquire by the age of 4 or 5. There are certain abilities that children gain in those years – some faster than others, of course. Everything you have done with your child – from reading to him, to talking with him, to taking him on outings, to putting him in pre-school, to giving him opportunities to play – every experience he has had contributed to what he knows and can do by the time he is tested. People who create tests know what young children generally understand, how they are able to think and what they can do and that is what the test he’ll take will cover.
In the olden days (when I was a kid), young children were tested so their teacher knew the abilities of the children in her class and could shape the curriculum accordingly. They also used the results of these tests to put children into different level reading, math and writing groups. This still happens today with kindergarten readiness testing. We do know that being placed in the lowest ability groups can have long-term negative academic consequences for children, so I would argue that you want your child to be prepared for readiness tests.
Where the stakes get really high is when children are tested for programs that might give them a better quality program than they would otherwise have access to. I’m talking about testing for gifted and talented programs or private schools. If your child does well on the test (and excels on whatever other factors are considered in making a placement decision), she will be in a class where she is surrounded by other, brighter children. She will be challenged to work harder and do better. She will have access to a deeper, richer curriculum and will learn more in the course of a year than children placed in general ed classrooms. In other words, higher test scores will entitle her to a better education.
Given the high stakes of doing well on the test for this better education, should you prep your child for the test that is to come, or should you let the chips fall as they may? Psychologists who administer tests and schools administrators will tell you not to prepare the child – just make sure they have a good night’s sleep and that they are well fed on the morning of the test. “We want them as they are,” they say, “with no preparation whatsoever so we can pick the best and the brightest from the bunch.”
That’s all well and good for the school, but not necessarily for your child.
Here’s the problem. For a 5-year-old child to do well on a test, they don’t just have to know the information the test is covering or have the abilities the test is measuring, they need to know how to take a test. Very few 5-year olds have ever taken a test before.
With young children, the test proctor will usually read a question and then show the child a series of 3 to 5 possible answers. Here’s an example: The proctor might read say, “Lana and her twin sister, Anna, were planning the activity for their birthday party. Lana wanted to have a bowling party, but Anna didn’t want to have a party where they played a sport. It took a while, but they finally agreed on what to do at their party. Point to the picture that shows what they did at their party.”
There might be 3 pictures for the child to choose from – a picture of the girls bowling, a picture of the girls ice skating, and a picture of the girls getting their nails painted.
A young child who has never taken a test before may not realize how closely they have to pay attention to what is being said in order to answer the question. A child who has a hard time sitting still can be sunk on a test for that reason alone. A young child who has never been tested before may not realize that one of those pictures is “right” and they must point to the “right” answer. A young child who has never been tested before may not realize that they have to do some reasoning in order to answer this question. They heard the word “bowling” in the question and there is a picture of the girls bowling so that must be the answer. Do you see how many ways an inexperienced test-taker might get tripped up here?
Let’s take a vocabulary test administered by a psychologist. On this type of questions, children get tend to get 1 point for a limited answer and 2 points for a more complete answer. Ask a child what an apple is and he’ll get a point for saying it’s a fruit. He’ll get 2 points for saying it’s red, a fruit and has seeds. Many shy children will answer this type of question with one or two words, limiting his ability to do well on this part of the test. Other kids, who are uncomfortable with the whole experience might say, “I don’t know” just to get it to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen in psychologist’s reports that the child said “I don’t know” quite often.
Another reason I strongly urge parents to do some practice for these high stakes tests is that practice will show you what your child doesn’t know. Many of these tests will ask a 4-year-old some basic addition or subtraction questions, for example. Can your child do those? Wouldn’t you like to know before your child is given a test that will impact the quality of the education he is offered? If you find out that your child can’t do simple adding or subtracting, this is something to work on together outside of test preparation.
If you read my book, Testing For Kindergarten, you know that my son was first given an IQ test at age 3 where he scored in the 37th percentile. He had a hearing problem that we corrected after that, but I was told that there was nothing we could do to raise his score in order to help him qualify for a better school. After “prepping” him for a year, he was retested and he scored in the 94th percentile. When he got to school, his kindergarten teacher couldn’t even tell he had ever been behind. My son was an honors student in high school and today he is at NYU.
So, if you ask me whether you should prepare your child for a test that will impact his educational future, my answer is a resounding “yes!” I believe you are letting your child down if you send her in unprepared for a test this important.
One more thing. A new book has just come out that I’m dying to read – It’s called How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. He argues that abilities like grit, character and curiosity matter more than cognitive skills in whether or not a child does well in life. I made a similar argument in my own book, Testing For Kindergarten. The abilities one needs to do well in school are not necessarily the abilities that help a child do well in life. Still, I argue for preparing children for these tests. Why? It’s simple – because a child needs high test scores to gain access to the best academic opportunities. If you want the best learning environment for your child for the many years he is in school, test scores matter. With stakes this high, we have to help our kids prepare whether or not we believe that the skills they are learning to do well on the tests are the skills that are going to make them successful in life.
For 100 free practice questions, visit www.TestingMom.com.