Expert Guide to the WISC IQ Test for Children

What is the WISC IQ Test?

Intended to assess general intelligence, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, or WISC IQ test, has been designed for use in children between the ages of 6 and sixteen.

Created in 1949, it’s now one of the most widely used intelligence tests in the industry. Just like its sister test, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test (WAIS), the WISC was developed by famed psychologist David Wechsler, and owned by Pearson Clinical.

Some gifted schools, such as ACE Academy or Atlanta Gifted Academy, require that a WISC score be submitted as part of the application packet. Additionally, the exam can be utilized to identify the presence of developmental disabilities, giftedness, or attention disorders.

Currently, as the test is in its fifth edition, you may see it referred to as the WISC-V.

What Does the WISC Measure?

The WISC IQ Test measures an individual’s verbal and non-verbal intelligence across a wide variety of parameters. However, the term “intelligence” possessed a unique definition to the test’s creator. Wechsler does not believe in measuring a person’s total mental capacity. Instead, his test focuses wholly on performance-based metrics. Additionally, he believed intellect to be a multi-dimensional scale with a wide variety of determining characteristics. In summary, the WISC has been designed to measure how well a child performs when challenges are posed to their verbal and non-verbal capacities.

To be more specific, the exam will assess your child in the following areas:

  • Verbal Comprehension (VCI): Questions in this area test your child on his or her ability to reason verbally. Tested items include the ability to listen, reason, and to express a thought aloud.
  • Visual Spatial Reasoning (VSI): These problems examine your child’s ability to process visual and spatial information.
  • Fluid Reasoning (FRI): This area of the exam centers on quantifying a test taker’s ability to employ both inductive and quantitative reasoning.
  • Working Memory (WMI): The skills tested in this area include a child’s working memory. Specifically, the WMI score fixates on the speed and depth of perceptual and linguistic processing. This score helps provide a numerical analysis of a student’s ability to concentrate, plan, and display flexibility.
  • Processing Speed (PSI): This metric measures how efficiently your child performs cognitive tasks.
  • How is the WISC IQ Formatted? 

    The WISC IQ test will be administered by trained examiners over a time of approximately ninety minutes. This time will vary depending on the subtests and options selected prior to starting the exam. Depending on your preferences, the WISC can be taken in both digital and hard copy formats. The administration of the exam take places in a one-to-one setting.

    What Question Types Are On The WISC-V?

    In addition to ancillary and secondary subtests, which will not be covered here, the WISC IQ test has 10 primary question types:

  • Similarities: This is a measure of verbal comprehension. These problems require students to determine similarities between two given words.
  • Vocabulary: Children will be asked to provide the definition of a given word. This provides a measurement of a student’s verbal comprehension abilities.
  • Block Design: After being given a model, children will have to imitate it via red and white building blocks. The results help to form your child’s score for visual spatial reasoning.
  • Visual Puzzles: A child will be asked to choose three pieces that could create a given puzzle. Just like block design, this test fixates on distilling your child’s level of spatial visual processing.
  • Matrix Reasoning: Children will be shown an array of pictures and an empty box. They must use their fluid reasoning skills to determine the missing piece.
  • Figure Weights: The test taker views a picture of a scale and must pick which choice would keep the scale perfectly balanced. This is another measure of fluid reasoning.
  • Digit Span: After being orally read a sequence of numbers, a child will be asked to repeat it back. They must sometimes do so in reverse. This subset of questions measures the boundaries of a student’s working memory.
  • Picture Span: Children will be given pictures from a stimulus book and be asked to point out the pictures shown to them. They must point them out in the proper order to gain full points. Just like digit span questions, this measures your child’s working memory.
  • Coding: This test varies depending on the age of the child. Children under eight will be asked to mark rows or shapes with different lines per a given code. For older children, they must transcribe the codes themselves. This measure of processing speed test gives bonuses for fast completion.
  • Symbol Search: After being given rows of symbols and target symbols, the test taker will be asked to indicate if those target items appear in each row. Just like coding, this measures your child’s processing speed.
  • How Will My Child’s WISC IQ Test Be Scored?



    Your child’s test scores will be evaluated based on predetermined norms and the time it took them to complete the given subtests. Bonuses given for quick question completion can greatly impact a child’s final score.

    The first number shown, the overall IQ score, will be the one most commonly used in the admissions process for charter and gifted schools. Most gifted schools require WISC-V composite scores above the “average” level:

    In addition to their intelligence quotient, each subtest will be scored separately. You must analyze this set of numbers, such as the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) scaled score, to determine how well your child did in any given subject. This provides an excellent screenshot of their strengths and weaknesses.

    Lastly, to improve your ability to make comparisons, all score sheets will include a percentile ranking. This figure will be given for both the composite and individual subtests. This number will tell you what percentage of similar test takers performed at, or below, a child’s final score.

    Why Should My Child Take the WISC IQ Test?

    As one of the oldest and most up-to-date IQ tests on the market, the WISC is known to be both valid and verifiable. For that reason, it’s used by a wide variety of schools as a go-to admission’s test.

    In addition to potentially providing your child a brighter academic future, the results will provide an enhanced understanding of a person’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • The Wechsler test is considered inadequate for measuring scores at the extreme ends of the intelligence spectrum. For scores above 130, or below 60, the test can be considered inaccurate.
  • The age range of the WISC-V overlaps with that of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). This makes it difficult to determine the appropriate test to be used for students between 16 and 20 years of age.
  • While the test has been revised to include a greater variety of skillsets, it’s commonly criticized for testing a very narrow band of intelligence.
  • As the WISC IQ test requires specialized training to administer, this particular exam can be costlier than many other options.
  • How Should I Help My Child Prepare for the WISC IQ Test?

    Just because the WISC IQ test measures the innate, doesn’t mean that you should trust your child’s score to a toss of the dice. By familiarizing a child with the test ahead of time, you can ensure that questions they miss have nothing to do with unfamiliar formatting. You can find a variety of example WISC IQ test questions with a simple Google search (or just by downloading our own set of them). Try to complete a few full practice exams before practice day.

    In addition to practice, following these tips to help your child perform his or her best come exam day:

  • Require Explanations for All Chosen Answers: By asking your child to explain why they selected a given answer, you’re requiring them to examine their own thinking processes. Even if they get the answer correct, you need to maintain consistency and ask them to describe how they solved the problem.
  • Schedule the WISC IQ Test in the Morning: By taking the test first thing in the morning, you prevent brain fatigue from lowering your child’s scores.
  • Promote Healthy Habits: Make certain your child eats a great breakfast and gets plenty of sleep the night before the test.
  • Promote a Sense of Mindfulness: We think that meditation and mindfulness can help your child focus on exam day. By learning to peer past distractions, they can devote more of their energy to doing well.
  • Learn more about similar tests to the WISC IQ test that highly-selective schools require prospective students to take to gain admission, including the Stanford-Binet, OLSAT-8 achievement test, NNAT, and Cogat.