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Accuracy of IQ testing?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Does anyone have information about the accuracy of IQ testing in a child who is nearly 5 years old?

Our son is quirky and energetic and has been horribly bored, though quite cooperative, in preschool this year. His teacher has told us that our son "thinks in the abstract" and his classmates do not. I am not sure if this observation is accurate or not. He seems to be slightly behind socially, but somewhat ahead of his peers with regards to math, reading, and general knowledge.

Our son seems to have a natural ability to understand numbers and mathematical concepts and is beginning to write and read. He has the ability to be extremely focused when something interests him and my husband and I are amazed by his memory and retention of facts. That said, he is our eldest, so we are unsure what is "average" for a child his age. We are interested in his abilities as we make plans for kindergarten next year. I am unsure whether he might be "gifted" or just very interested in learning.

FWIW, my husband and I both qualified for "gifted" education as children. I am not sure to what degree intelligence may be genetic.

We had him tested by a friend (though someone my son had not met before) who is a school psychologist. I was not present for the test, but I'm told my son was cooperative. My son told me afterwards that he was really bored and didn't like that I left the room, so I'm unsure how engaged he might have been in the testing. I could seen him through the window of the office and he was not comfortable. He was actually chewing on his arm which is something I have not seen him do before.

His test results came out 90th percentile. We are perfectly content with those results, though they are not high enough to get him into one of the kindergarten programs we were considering for him. However, I actually expected his IQ to be somewhat higher based on his abilities, interests, and behaviors. We could have him retested by the school district as our friend deliberately used a test that is different from what out school district uses, but I don't think our little guy wants to do anymore testing.

I am wondering if the results we were given are most likely accurate or if it might be worth considering retesting at some point (maybe a couple years down the line)? We would only consider retesting if we felt the results might in some way benefit our son. His IQ score is not a matter of pride for us- we simply want for him to receive an education that meets his needs.

I know I am not likely to find many mothers in this forum who thought their child might be gifted and turned out to be more in the high average range. I have read a few threads here and my son is definitely not in the same realm as a child who teaches himself to read at the age of 2! However, I am hoping someone might be able to provide information re: the accuracy of IQ testing. If anyone has relevant experience with iq testing for a child this age, I would love to hear any information you want to share. TIA!
post #2 of 11
There is considerable debate as to whether results prior to age 6 are reliable. Given how young your son was at the time of testing, and the signs of distress you observed, it would certainly be reasonable to re-test if doing so would potentially benefit your son.
post #3 of 11
Honestly I'd retest in a few years. There are just so many factors at that age that can influence the results. For example, our dc have both been pegged as gifted by pretty much anyone they encounter. It's always been like "Oh look at your dd's pretty curly hair, and she's obviously gifted too" from various teachers and medical professionals. DS's has always been more pronounced. About a year and a half ago we had both of them tested. First off, there are different tests to choose from, and some work better with different types of personalities, different ages, etc. During the exam, ds kept changing his answer and was so concerned about getting an answer "wrong" that he often ran out of time. DD was just a typical squirrely 4 year old and lost interest fairly often. The lady who did the testing asked us if we even wanted her to bother sending the results as she could tell us right then that they had both tested much lower than was accurate. DD came back at 105, ds at 104. If that were their true and accurate scores DH and I would be absolutely fine with that, but when you even have the tester telling you they're going to be wrong, it's hard to think much of it! The lady who tested them strongly recommended we get them retested when they were around 7 or 8 and even offered to do it for free, as she felt that strongly about the inaccuracy of the scores and also felt that it was easier to get a more accurate score at that age. So, given our personal experiences with testing, and the fact that your gut may be telling you he should score a little higher (and possibly qualifiy for educational benefits to better suit his needs), I'd at least retest in a few years.
post #4 of 11
Originally Posted by mamatoElias View Post
FWIW, my husband and I both qualified for "gifted" education as children. I am not sure to what degree intelligence may be genetic.
There is a genetic component -- typically children fall within 10 points of their parents:

I've read a number of different articles/books about the ideal age for IQ testing - 7 to 8 yo seems to be most popular, but it would depend on the individual child. What also seems to be the consensus is that IQ testing is a snap shot in time and an approximation. IQ testing is not an exact science; Each time you test, you will likely get a different result. It is more likely to get a depressed score and very unlikely to get an artificially inflated score.
post #5 of 11
Honestly, IQ tests in our experience are a snapshot of one day. One of my kids is easy to figure out (at least for me ) and she tests very consistently as gifted. Every ability or achievement test she has taken since age 6 has put her at the 98th-99th+ percentile. My other daughter is very difficult to figure out and she has had wildly different results from day to day and year to year. I still can't tell you if she is gifted or what she needs academically although I am getting a better idea and I don't think that it is going to fall into a path that can easily be met by a ps system even if she isn't gifted.

We had her tested on the WISC-IV at 7.5 b/c we had an inexpensive opportunity to do so at a university. She came out in the low 140s for her IQ and 148 for her GAI (general ability index which is used in lieu of IQ when the processing speed or auditory memory indices significantly depress the total score). The GAI was in the 99.9th percentile. The following year at school (3rd grade) was a disaster for her with a teacher who thought that she wasn't that bright and that I just wanted her to be smart b/c her sister was. Her achievement scores sank like a rock and ended the year lower than they had been in 2nd grade. They gave her the CogAT (group ability test) in class along with the entire 3rd grade that year and she came out in the upper 80s percentile wise which we were told by the teacher "proved" that her IQ scores were wrong and due to "good guessing."

We had her retested at the end of that year to try & figure out what was going on. The same IQ test from a year earlier was 20 pts lower at that point -- 127, I believe (97th percentile), which is actually a huge drop. She was given another IQ test (RIAS) which was "uninterpretable" b/c the scores within subtests were wildly variable and could not be averaged. So, the psych also gave her the SB-5 (another IQ test) and the WIAT (an individual achievement test). Her WIAT scores were in the 98th & 99th percentile for everything which is much higher than would be expected if the second IQ results were accurate.

The SB was in the "bright, but not gifted" area -- around the same as the CogAT. I'm not too sure on those scores b/c the psych had never given that test before, dd was sick on the day she took it with a temperature, stuffy nose and woozy head, and her scores varied from the 16th percentile to the 98th within subtests. She totally bombed one portion where they were asking what was wrong with the picture and she was seeing things like dissimilar tree species that could not be grafted together rather than the obvious they wanted.

My point is, on one child, I have IQ scores that vary by around 30 points over the course of one year. In her instance, divergent thinking seems to come into play here b/c she doesn't tend to give the expected answer. Creative thinking is not always going to help you score well on an IQ test.

I'd go more with who you know your child to be and what you think he needs than what one test tells you.
post #6 of 11
I would also question which test was used. Many schools only use Brief test because they are cheaper and quicker than doing doing a full test.

I don't think brief tests are as accurate & I would not trust any test before 6.
post #7 of 11
The New York Times just had an article about this:

post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by RiverTam View Post
The New York Times just had an article about this:

I really think that the NY Times article was not about the inaccuracy of IQ testing as a whole, but rather about parents who pay to prep their kids for IQ tests and the ensuing uncertainty of the results. Certainly IQ testing in young children is fraught with reasons for the #s to be less than accurate in the long-term, but I got more from that article about the pressures of hothousing preschoolers.

I do wonder, though, about what these prep books and agencies will do to the validity and reliability of IQ tests. Some of them purport to have actual test questions. I can't imagine that it is in a child's best interests to attempt to cheat to that extent on an IQ test.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the responses. I think we will stay open to testing in the future, but likely won't retest this year. If we feel the elementary program we choose for him is not working, we may consider trying a different test. I do feel if we had tested in a different environment or if my son's mood had been different or if I had been in the room or if any number of other factors had been altered, his score may have been somewhat different.

I appreciated the quote from that New York Times article saying even administrators using the exams say they are "practically worthless as predictors of future intelligence." I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they're practically worthless, but it was an interesting article. I certainly don't want my son to be limited in anyway by the result of one test taken as a four-year-old! The article also addressed the issue of IQ scores changing overtime and discussed the instability of IQ scores. I wonder to what extent such changes are the result of actual changes in intelligence versus normal test variations?

I'm not sure what test my son was given. I do know it started off with red and white blocks. There was also a section where he was asked to identify the missing part of a picture. And one section where he copied symbols into shapes. The whole test took less than 45 minutes. Does anyone know what test this was? To be honest, I don't think a longer test would be a reasonable option for my four-year-old. It just wasn't exciting enough to hold his interest for much longer.
post #10 of 11
That sounds like the WPPSI.
post #11 of 11
I didn't get the impression that the article was just about kids that are prepped for IQ tests, but the usefulness IQ tests for identifying giftedness in young children over-all.

I was very interested in the comment that only about 25% of kids that test as gifted in kindergarten will test into gifted programs when they are older based on IQ tests.

It's not that big of a change, really. In many school districts a 3-5 point difference in scores, (eg. 125-127 score vs. a score of 130) would make all the difference.

I think it argues strongly for not tracking kids as gifted or not gifted until after 2nd or 3rd grade, and for using a behavior check-list in addition to an IQ test.

I'm a little biased about the use of these high stakes tests for young kids, though. I have a good friend who was denied entrance to a grade school gifted program because she missed the cut-off by one point. She eventually graduated from medical school at Washington University (top 3 in the US). She's a brilliant,intuitive ER doc. My brother wasn't identified by the school district as gifted until he was 15 because his dyslexia messes with his early test results. He is a software developer now.
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