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.