Preparing Your Child for the IQ Test
Parents want their child’s IQ tested for a variety of reasons. Some are seeking admission to elite schools, where a score in the gifted range is a prerequisite. Others want to know if their child has a learning disability (fact: most people with learning disabilities have average or higher IQ). Still other parents are curious about their child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, many parents understand the value of incorporating an IQ test into a battery of psychological tests for diagnostic purposes.
Widely-used IQ tests in Illinois include the Wechsler series. David Wechsler was an American psychologist who created IQ tests for adults, children, and very young children. Although he designed the tests several decades ago, they’ve gone through revisions and updates.
Children as young as 2.5 through 6 years old are eligible to take the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI). Children ages 6 through 16 years old are eligible to take the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). When a high IQ is suspected in a 6 year old, the WISC is usually administered.
To optimize performance, most kids should take the IQ test in morning hours. (The exception is the rare “night owl” whose thinking is sharpest in afternoon or evening hours). Avoid scheduling an IQ test to occur after school; mental fatigue is likely to detract from your child’s performance.
Depending on your child’s age and test-taking style, IQ tests usually last between 1.5 to 3 hours. Typically, younger children require less time to test. Many children (especially younger ones) need to take breaks between subtests. Snacks, games, a walk outside, or other non-thinking activities are part of testing youngsters. Breaks help them test better.
The IQ test is actually a set of subtests. Children have described the subtests to me as, “kind of like school but funner,” and “like a game sometimes,” “tricky a little,” and “OK.” Your child’s subtest scores are compared to the scores of others within 3 months of his/her age.
IQ is not just one number. IQ tests yeild as many as 15 subtest scores, 4 index scores, and a Full Scale score. Each of these scores is associated with raw scores, percentile ranks, and more. The most meaningful IQ report will include a sea of scores…in a very understandable way.
In order to do well on the IQ test, a child must be: (1) motivated to do his/her best, (2) engaged, (3) focused, and (4) emotionally regulated. A child can do poorly on an IQ test for a variety of reasons, but can do well only if truly able. So, IQ scores can underestimate but not overestimate your child’s intellectual functioning.
Preparing your child for the IQ test should include: ensuring a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast (whole grains, fruit, and/or proteins), and the selection of comfortable clothing.
If your child is sick the morning of the test, cancel the test. Even over-the-counter medicated children should be called in sick. Be aware that many medications for colds and allergies can decrease mental processing speed…a highly used skill in IQ tests.
You should also talk to your child about the IQ test. But, avoid using the word “test.” It can create unnecessary anxiety. Instead, say something such as: “You’ll be working for a couple hours with Dr. Ann. She has activities planned for you. Some are like what you do in school. Some are more fun, like word games, blocks, and puzzles. You should ask for breaks when you need them. Ask questions if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. The work you’ll do is very important because it helps us know how you think and learn best. Please be on your best behavior and try your hardest. There’s no way to fail in your work. Almost every kid sometimes makes mistakes. Just keep trying and do your best.”
The psychologist should help your child feel comfortable upon introductions. Since anxiety can seriously interfere with test performance, the effective psychologist will be sure to use a variety of strategies to make your child feel mentally prepared and engaged.