What Is the WISC

The WISC is an IQ test developed by David Wechsler to measure the general intellectual ability of children between the ages of 6 and 16. The most current version of the WISC test is the WISC-V test, which is composed of five primary indexes, listed here. The test may take between 10 minutes to three hours to complete, depending on the final goal of the assessment and how many sections were given. The test may be taken either online or in pencil and paper format. The test can also be used to diagnose specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dyscalcula.

WISC Content

The WISC Test is made up of five subtests, each with its own primary index scores. Students must complete two subtests to generate a primary index score. During a full test, students must complete sixteen subtests. The following is a list with explanations of all the subtests (the subtests in bold are those used to calculate the primary index scores):

  • Fluid Reasoning Index (FRI) – measures inductive and quantitative reasoning:
    • Matrix Reasoning – Students are asked to pick a picture that fits the given array of pictures. This section is not timed.
    • Figure Weights – Students are asked to balance a picture of scales by picking the appropriate weight within the set time limit.
    • Picture Concepts – Students are asked to view a series of pictures presented in 2-3 rows to determine which pictures go together based on an underlying concept.
    • Arithmetic – Students are asked to orally solve elementary math problems.
  • Processing Speed Index (PSI) –  measures processing speed:
    • Coding – Students are presented with shapes (6-7 years old) or numbers (8 and older) and must write the corresponding symbol under each shape/number according to a given key in under 120 seconds.
    • Symbol Search – Students are given rows of symbols and target symbols, and then asked to mark whether or not the target symbols appear in each row.
    • Cancellation – Students are asked to scan random and structured arrangements of pictures and mark specific target pictures within a two-minute time limit.
  • Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) –  measures verbal reasoning:
    • Similarities – Students are asked to describe how two words or items are alike, with the score varying according to the property picked by the child.
    • Vocabulary – Students are asked to define a certain word. The score varies from 0 to 2 based on the understanding shown in the response.
    • Information – Students are required to answer questions about general knowledge.
    • Comprehension – Students are required to answer questions about social situations or common concepts, such as proverbs, common sense, and social customs. The score varies from 0 to 2 based on the depth of the response.
  • Visual Spatial Index (VSI) –  measures visual spatial processing:
    • Block Design – Students are asked to place blocks according to a displayed model. Completing some of the puzzles before the end of the time limit may earn the student extra points.
    • Visual Puzzles – Students are asked to use three puzzle pieces to reconstruct the shape given in the stimulus book within the set time limit.
  • Working Memory Index (WMI) –  measures working memory ability:
    • Digit Span – Students are asked to repeat the 2-9 numbers given either in the order they heard them or in reverse.
    • Picture Span – Students are asked to select pictures in the order they saw them in the stimulus book.
    • Letter-Number Sequencing – Students are asked to rearrange a series of numbers and letters so that the numbers come first, from lowest to highest, and then the letters, in an alphabetical order.

WISC Format

The WISC test comes in several different formats:

  • Full Scale – This format includes all sixteen subtests.
  • Primary Index Scales – This format contains only two subtests per subject, so ten subtests overall.
  • Ancillary Index Scales – These scales provide more information about the learning and cognitive abilities of the child.
    • Quantitative Reasoning – Measures mathematical abilities, understanding of quantitative relationships, problem-solving, and working memory.
      • Figure Weights
      • Arithmetic
    • Auditory Working Memory – Measures memory spam, rote memory, attention and concentration, immediate auditory memory, working memory, numerical ability, auditory sequential processing, planning ability, and mental manipulation.
      • Digit Span
      • Letter-Number Sequencing
    • Nonverbal – Measures visual-spatial reasoning and IQ; useful when the child has language related issues, such as English learners, children with a hearing impairment, and children with language spectrum or autism disorders.
      • Block Design
      • Visual Puzzles
      • Matrix Reasoning
      • Figure Weights
      • Picture Span
      • Coding
    • General Ability – Estimates general intellectual ability in a way that is less reliant on working memory and processing speed.
      • Similarities
      • Vocabulary
      • Block Design
      • Matrix Reasoning
      • Figure Weights
    • Cognitive Proficiency – Measures the efficiency with which a student absorbs cognitive information and processes it.
      • Digit Span
      • Picture Span
      • Coding
      • Symbol Search
  • Complementary Index Scales – These scales are designed to diagnose specific learning disabilities.
    • Naming Speed Index: measures rapid, automatic naming.
      • Naming Speed Literacy – Students are asked to name the object as quickly as possible.
      • Naming Speed Quantity – Students are asked to name quantities of squares as quickly as possible.
    • Symbol Translation Index: measures visual-verbal associative memory.
      • Immediate Symbol Translation – Students are asked to translate a string of symbols into a phrase based on a provided key.
      • Delayed Symbol Translation – Students are asked to translate a string of symbols into a phrase based on the key given in the former task.
      • Recognition Symbol Translation – Students are asked to translate a symbol based on the key provided in the Immediate Symbol Translation task.
    • Storage and Retrieval – provides a broad estimate of the child's ability to store information long-term and then retrieve it later, both accurately and fluently.

WISC Scores

Results of the WISC test are divided into five primary index scores focusing on the five different aspects measured by the test. Seven out of the ten subtests are used to determine the IQ score:

  • Similarities
  • Vocabulary
  • Block Design
  • Matrix Reasoning
  • Figure Weights
  • Digit Span
  • Coding

The following table contains the IQ range explanations for child's scores:

Score Intelligence Classification
176 and Above Profoundly Gifted
160-175 Exceptionally Gifted
145-159 Highly Gifted
130-144 Moderately Gifted
115-129 Above Average / Bright
90-114 Average Intelligence
80-89 Below Average
70-79 Borderline Mental Retardation
50-69 Mild Mental Retardation
35-49 Moderate Mental Retardation
20-34 Severe Mental Retardation
Under 20 Profound Mental Retardation


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