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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Do you need to test again?

Giftedness is a permanent "developmental lead," not a temporary one. Your IQ doesn’t change significantly over time, although if a child is very young when they were tested, re-testing a few years later may give you a more complete picture, particularly if the child was not fully engaged by the earlier testing or their scores were spread across a wide range. Only rarely do children who were tested at a young age score lower when retested. Ad if they do, then it is important to look at the other factors. Were they tested by the same person? Were they well on the day there were tested? Are they less engaged with learning than when tested earlier? Has anything happened in the meantime which might affect the child’s results?

Retesting with the same test is not advisable within about 18 months to 2 years due to the ‘practice effect’ which can potentially inflate scores. It is possible however to use a different test. If your child was assessed using the WISC IV for instance, you can test using the SB5 at any time.

If the first test highlighted other issues or difficulties which may have negatively impacted on your child’s scores you might decide to retest in the future after these issues have been addressed or treated. The results of the second test might then give you a more accurate picture of your child’s potential and pattern of strengths.

Although it varies a little from school to school, if you are seeking to accelerate your child, the school may request you have IQ test results that are less than two years old and that might be the catalyst for considering retesting.

What if the results of the first test are higher than the later one?Where a child has been retested with different results parents often ask ‘Which one is right?” and worry that lower scores on later testing means their child may have ‘lost’ his or her intelligence, or the results of the first test were a ‘mistake’. This is especially concerning where they feel the child’s school are likely to rely on the later results without regard for the reasons for the potential difference.

As the child has to provide their own answers to the questions on an individually administered IQ test, rather than choosing from a selection of answers as they would on a multi-choice test, it is virtually impossible to fluke an artificially high score on an individual IQ test.

Any score should be considered a minimum measure of potential. This means that the highest scores achieved provide you with the best picture of a person’s potential, regardless of whether it is an earlier or later test.

The variation between results may be due to any one of a number of factors. As different tests measure slightly different abilities, the child may have strengths which show on one test more clearly than another. If the child was assessed by a different person on each occasion, the degree of experience of the person or the rapport they developed with the child when administering the test may be reflected in the results. Scores will also differ if your child was previously assessed using a now-superseded test which was scored using a different method or scores calculated using a different method.

While an IQ test does not measure how much a person has learned in school, the school environment can have an influence on results. Psychologist Fiona Smith reported that preliminary findings from the analysis of 800 Stanford Binet 5th assessment with mildly to exceptionally gifted individuals in Australia showed the Full Scale scores steadily declined as age and time in school increased. She hypothesised that the longer a child is in school, particularly where the learning opportunities do not meet their learning needs, the greater the likelihood that it will impact on their results and depress their scores, especially for highly gifted children. **

What if the school asks that you test again?
If your child’s school suggests you need to retest, ask more questions. Find out why they feel that it is necessary - this will tell you what sort of information you need to gather in preparation for when you next discuss it. Finding out what they intend to do once they have the results will help you gauge whether it is an exercise effectively to buy time before putting anything in place, or whether they are genuinely looking for patterns in the subtest results to help them plan more appropriately for your child. Asking more questions may also help you get a sense of whether the reason is that they disbelieve the earlier results because they were from an independent psych rather than a school based psychologist or because they don’t match what they believe about the child. Sometimes parents are told that ‘everyone who sees that psychologist is told their child is gifted’. If you think this one through logically, the parents of children who saw ‘that psychologist’ whose child was not identified as gifted are unlikely to be coming to tell the school so or to ask for interventions.

You can then make your own assessment of whether retesting is going to provide useful new information, and whether it warrants the expense which is not inconsiderable.

** Fiona Smith presented these findings at the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented National Conference in Hobart in 2008. Her slides from this presentation titled Assessing Gifted Children: 10 Years experience using the Stanford Binet 5 can be downloaded from www.aaegt.net.au/Conference2008/PowerPoints/Smith.pdf

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