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Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children


The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, often abbreviated as WISC, is an

individually administered measure of intelligence intended for children aged six years to
16 years and 11 months.


The WISC is designed to measure human intelligence as reflected in both verbal and
nonverbal (performance) abilities. David Wechsler, the author of the test, believed that
intelligence has a global quality that reflects a variety of measurable skills. He also
thought that it should be considered in the context of the person's overall personality.

The WISC is used in schools as part of placement evaluations for programs for gifted
children and for children who are developmentally disabled.

In addition to its uses in intelligence assessment, the WISC is used in neuropsychological

evaluation, specifically with regard to brain dysfunction. Large differences in verbal and
nonverbal intelligence may indicate specific types of brain damage.

The WISC is also used for other diagnostic purposes. IQ scores reported by the WISC
can be used as part of the diagnostic criteria for mental retardation and specific learning
disabilities. The test may also serve to better evaluate children with attention-
deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) and other behavior disorders.


The Wechsler intelligence scales are not considered adequate measures of extreme
intelligence (IQ scores below 40 and above 160). The scoring process does not allow for
scores outside this range for test takers at particular ages. Wechsler himself was even
more conservative, stressing that his scales were not appropriate for people with IQs
below 70 or above 130. Despite this restriction, many people use the WISC as a measure
of the intelligence of gifted children, who typically score above 130. The age range for
the WISC overlaps with that of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale(WAIS) for people
between 16 and 17 years of age, but experts suggest that the WISC provides a better
measure for people in this age range.

Administration and scoring of the WISC require a competent administrator who must be
able to interact and communicate with children of different ages and must know test
protocol and specifications. WISC administrators must receive training in the proper use
of the instrument and demonstrate awareness of all test guidelines.

The Wechsler intelligence tests, which include the WISC, the WAIS, and the WPPSI
(Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence), are the most widely used
intelligence and neuropsychological assessments. The first version of the WISC was
written in 1949 by David Wechsler. The newest version of the WISC is the WISC-III
(Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition, most recently updated in 1991).
Since Wechsler's death in 1981, the tests have been revised by their publisher, the
Psychological Corporation.

The theoretical basis for the WISC and the other Wechsler scales is Wechsler's belief that
human intelligence is a complex ability involving a variety of skills. Because intelligence
is multifaceted, Wechsler believed, a test measuring intelligence must reflect this
diversity. After dividing intelligence into two major types of skillsverbal and
performanceWechsler used a statistical technique called factor analysis to determine
which specific skills fit within these two major domains.

The current version of the WISC (the WISC-III) consists of 13 subtests and takes
between 50 and 75 minutes to complete. The test is taken individually, with an
administrator present to give instructions. Each subtest is given separately. There is some
flexibility in the administration of the WISCthe administrator may end some subtests
early if the test taker appears to have reached the limit of his or her capacity. Tasks on the
WISC include questions of general knowledge, traditional arithmetic problems, English
vocabulary, completion of mazes, and arrangements of blocks and pictures.

Children who take the WISC are scored by comparing their performance to other test
takers of the same age. The WISC yields three IQ (intelligence quotient) scores, based on
an average of 100, as well as subtest and index scores. WISC subtests measure specific
verbal and performance abilities. The Wecshler scales were originally developed and later
revised using standardization samples. The samples were meant to be representative of
the United States population at the time of standardization.

The WISC is considered to be a valid and reliable measure of general intelligence in

children. It is regularly used by researchers in many areas of psychology and child
development as a general measure of intelligence. It has also been found to be a good
measure of both fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence refers to inductive
and deductive reasoning, skills that are thought to be largely influenced by neurological
and biological factors. Fluid intelligence is measured by the performance subtests of the
WISC. Crystallized intelligence refers to knowledge and skills that are primarily
influenced by environmental and sociocultural factors. It is measured by the verbal
subtests of the WISC. Wechsler himself did not divide overall intelligence into these two
types. The definition of fluid and crystallized intelligence as two major categories of
cognitive ability, however, has been a focus of research for many intelligence theorists.

Verbal IQ

The child's verbal IQ score is derived from scores on six of the subtests: information,
digit span, vocabulary, arithmetic, comprehension, and similarities.
The information subtest is a test of general knowledge, including questions about
geography and literature. The digit span subtest requires the child to repeat strings of
digits recited by the examiner. The vocabulary and arithmetic subtests are general
measures of the child's vocabulary and arithmetic skills. The comprehension subtest asks
the child to solve practical problems and explain the meaning of simple proverbs. The
similarities subtest asks the child to describe the similarities between pairs of items, for
example that apples and oranges are both fruits.

Performance IQ

The child's performance IQ is derived from scores on the remaining seven subtests:
picture completion, picture arrangement, block design, object assembly, coding, mazes,
and symbol search.

In the picture completion subtest, the child is asked to complete pictures with missing
elements. The picture arrangement subtest entails arranging pictures in order to tell a
story. The block design subtest requires the child to use blocks to make specific designs.
The object assembly subtest asks the child to put together pieces in such a way as to
construct an entire object. In the coding subtest, the child makes pairs from a series of
shapes or numbers. The mazes subtest asks the child to solve maze puzzles of increasing
difficulty. The symbol search subtest requires the child to match symbols that appear in
different groups. Scores on the performance subtests are based on both the speed of
response and the number of correct answers.


WISC scores yield an overall intelligence quotient, called the full scale IQ, as well as a
verbal IQ and a performance IQ. The three IQ scores are standardized in such a way that
a score of 100 is considered average and serves as a benchmark for higher and lower
scores. Verbal and performance IQ scores are based on scores on the 13 subtests.

The full scale IQ is derived from the child's scores on all of the subtests. It reflects both
verbal IQ and performance

IQ and is considered the single most reliable and valid score obtained by the WISC.
When a child's verbal and performance IQ scores are far apart, however, the full scale IQ
should be interpreted cautiously.