IQ Tests for Children
IQ tests for children assess general intellectual ability. They are used to predict a child’s academic potential and future achievements, and to support their specific learning needs.
There are various IQ tests for children that can assess different areas of a child’s cognitive abilities.
In general, intelligence tests for children evaluate:
They are also a good indicator of giftedness.
IQ test scores are compared with expected abilities for that child’s age group and give an overall indication of their abilities in relation to other children their age.
IQ tests for children are used by schools, educational psychologists and parents, to identify gifted children and assess special educational needs and learning difficulties.
They are only recommended for children showing unusually high or low intellectual ability, to support them in their academic journey.
Standard school testing is usually sufficient for assessing early childhood intelligence, and as IQ tests are expensive, it is normally best to wait to use them until a child displays signs of exceptionally high or low ability.
IQ tests for children can give a good overview of a child’s cognitive abilities but are not an accurate prediction of a child’s academic potential.
Intelligence should be measured in multiple ways, as different areas of a child’s abilities will fluctuate and develop at different speeds, and an IQ test alone cannot give a full picture.
As mentioned, IQ tests for children are used when a child displays signs of unusually high or low intelligence.
Signs of high intelligence in young children include:
- Learning quickly
- A large vocabulary at an early age
- Extreme curiosity
- Being able to focus for long periods
- Exceptional reasoning skills
Signs of low intelligence in children include:
- Being slow or late to start speaking
- Impaired memory
- Difficulty communicating
- Finding it challenging to complete simple tasks like dressing or feeding themselves without help
In either case, an IQ test can form an important part of understanding your child’s specific learning needs and your capacity to advocate for those as your child moves through their education.
The critical issue with IQ testing for giftedness in children at an early age is that intelligence is not linear and that cognitive capacity can and will change as that child learns, develops and grows.
Furthermore, believing that intelligence is fixed can significantly impact behavior as a child grows.
A child who believes they are gifted may become averse to challenge through the belief that their intelligence is fixed and therefore there is a limit to what they can learn.
Labeling intelligence can also mask indicators of more serious learning difficulties. Many of the indicators of a high IQ in children are also indicators of other complex learning needs, such as autism, global delay or dyslexia.
Neurodiverse children will often display differences in memory, vocabulary, energy levels and intense curiosity around particular subjects. Mislabeling a child as gifted could therefore block the support they need as they progress through their education.
Ultimately, a Child’s IQ test can be a good benchmark assessment of ability, but will fail to show the whole picture of a child’s learning potential and individual strengths and weaknesses.
Even the earliest intelligence tests were created with the understanding that intelligence cannot be assessed with one metric.
It is important to keep a perspective on a child’s IQ score and view it in the context of an ongoing, qualitative assessment of that child’s needs.
So, IQ tests for children should be administered with care, and with the child’s best interests in mind.
IQ tests for children can be carried out any time after a child first starts to talk.
However, IQ scores have been shown to fluctuate as a child grows and develops.
Different IQ tests for children come with different recommendations for age, with some recommending tests from age five, and others suggesting it is best to wait until the child is several years into their middle-school education.
IQ tests are expensive, so testing too early is likely to be a waste of money and may cause you and your child’s teachers to treat or view the child differently.
In general, IQ tests will give the most accurate scores, or scores that are unlikely to fluctuate too much, from age seven or eight. They could be used earlier, but only to assess acute learning difficulties that require particular support.
There are numerous IQ tests for children. Here are some of the more popular ones:
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (or WISC-V) is the most commonly used IQ test for children.
It is used by clinical psychologists, educational psychologists and neuropsychologists to identify cognitive delay, evaluate autism and determine overall intelligence levels in children. It can be administered in person or remotely.
It comprises two groups of subtests, administered one after the other:
- Verbal Intelligence Group
- Performance Intelligence Group
There are six tests in each group.
In the Verbal Intelligence Group subtests, children are given verbal, numerical and logical-reasoning questions to solve, as well as some recall questions.
The types of questions vary slightly depending on the age of the child being tested.
In the Performance Intelligence Group, the child is given various puzzles to solve involving pictures and blocks, which measure capacities such as hand-eye coordination and deducing cause and effect.
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children is the most thorough test. It gives five scores for different factors of cognitive ability as well as an overall intelligence quota.
It can be taken by children aged 6–16. For younger children, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) can be used to assess for the same issues.
Tests are typically taken in educational institutions or hospitals.
The Standford-Binet test is the American iteration of the first formal intelligence test published in 1916 by Lewis Terman in France.
It is a child IQ test that calculates an overall score from a series of composite tests comparing children of the same age. It can be taken by anyone aged 2–89 years.
The test evaluates fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visuospatial reasoning and working memory.
The original Stanford-Binet tests collected information from thousands of children and established average scores in each of these areas.
From this, the concept of mental age was derived, and it is against these averages that an intelligence quota is measured.
For example, if a child has a mental age of 13.5 according to the intelligence test, but their actual age is 10, their IQ will emerge as 135 (13.5/10 x 100).
The Differential Ability Scales – Second Edition (DAS-II) is a composite battery of 20 subtests that can be administered individually, depending on which areas of cognitive ability are of interest to an educational psychologist and need to be investigated.
They can be taken by children aged approximately 2–17.
There are different tests for preschool and primary-school children, and children over the age of six.
The batteries provide a General Cognitive Ability score, which gives an overview of verbal working memory, visual memory, recall, recognition, processing and understanding of numerical concepts.
Beyond giving an overall indicator of your child’s general intelligence or giftedness, the main purpose of a child IQ test is to help better understand your child’s specific strengths, weaknesses and the support they may need as they move through their education.
A detailed report from a child’s IQ test can be shared with your child’s teachers to help them adapt their curriculum and teaching to best support your child.
It is very possible that administering an IQ test results in no change for your child.
The outcome varies greatly between families. It falls to you as a parent and to your child’s school to decide how to make use of the information from an IQ test.
You can find a professional to administer your test through your state’s gifted association and advocacy group.
At your child’s school, a counselor or school psychologist may also be able to refer you to a test center.
The composite score of a child’s IQ test will give a number that indicates a child’s intelligence on a scale of 70–150 or higher.
The number is calculated by comparing their actual age with their mental age.
Mental age/Chronological age × 100 = IQ
So, a child with a mental age of 12, but a chronological age of 10, would have an IQ of 120.
Any score over 100 is above average, and a score below 80 is considered to be of concern.
Usually, children are considered gifted with a score of over 120.
The standard IQ tests all use composite scores based on proficiencies in several areas. A full test report should show you scores in each of these areas, and also which percentile your child’s cognition falls into for that area.
There are some issues to be aware of with child IQ test scores.
First, the number alone does not give a full picture of the range of a child’s cognitive abilities.
It also fails to take into account factors such as environment and culture, and only values their ability to work alone, and not with others, on solving problems.
Second, it is only a benchmark measure of intelligence at that point in a child’s life.
As your child develops, so will their IQ. A second test would give a different result, although it is unlikely an exceptional IQ score is just the result of a child having a good day.
Nonetheless, events, environment, wellbeing and interactions with other children and adults will significantly impact your child’s development, and by extension their IQ score.
Notably, the first IQ tests were developed with the belief that intelligence could not be measured by one metric. It is important to view the score of your child’s IQ test in the context of your broader understanding of their unique strengths, weaknesses and abilities.
Ensure your child is relaxed – How a child feels on the day of their test will have a huge impact on the outcome. It is important to prepare your child by explaining that there is no pass or fail for the test. As they may be visiting a hospital to take the test, also explain that they are not sick and there is nothing wrong with them, so there is no reason for them to be worried or afraid.
Frame the test in a positive way – If you can, avoid using the word ‘test’ when you are explaining where you are going. Instead, you could use phrases like, “We are going to find out if you’re good at puzzles or reading today". Tests are anxiety-inducing, but games and challenges spark excitement. Find a way to help your child enjoy the experience.
Explain what will happen during the tests – As the tests are largely problem-solving puzzles that use cubes, pictures and games, you can also explain to your child that the test should be fun.
Encourage them to answer all the questions – As there is no pass or fail, you can explain to them that they won’t be in trouble if they’re not sure of an answer, so guessing is ok.
Eat, sleep and hydrate – Children perform at their best when they have eaten healthy food and have drunk enough water. The day before the test, ensure your child is hydrated and has had enough sleep.
Reward them afterward – The tests are draining as they challenge every part of a child’s cognition. Plan a rewarding and relaxing activity for after the test that you can both look forward to.
If you are considering taking your child for an IQ test, first consider why you wish to know their IQ score.
Labels of giftedness or high intelligence can have a significant impact on a child’s view of themselves and how they relate to others as they develop. All children have the potential to learn, grow and develop regardless of their first IQ score.
If you want to support your child and their specific needs as best you can, and also advocate for these needs to your child’s school, choosing to take a child IQ test could be a great starting point for gaining a better understanding of how your child is learning.
Once you have the test results, it is best not to share these with your child in a black-and-white way by telling them that they are gifted or they are of low ability. Instead, you can discuss the overview and results from different parts of the test with them.
Intelligence is not linear and cannot be measured in one way, which is why all child IQ tests use a composite of different assessments to provide a detailed report on a child’s cognitive abilities.
A wide range of positive traits form your child’s particular learning abilities, and it is important to reward all of them as they grow and develop. Being great at solving puzzles is only useful if that child is also resilient and doesn’t give up when the puzzles get too hard.
Having a large vocabulary and being articulate is only useful if that child learns to listen to their peers.
Beyond a child IQ test, consider your own measures of intelligence and metrics of success and how you can support your child’s development by positively reinforcing these as they grow.