Private School Testing: What's the WPPSI-IV? How do schools use it?

Posted by Valerie Slattery, PhD on 11/20/15 1:55 PM

WPPSI_Blog.jpgThe WPPSI? What the heck is that? Why does my four-year old have to take an IQ test? How do I prepare my child? What does the school use it for? These are all good questions—here are some answers.

What is the WPPSI-IV test?

WPPSI is an acronym and stands for Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence. The WPPSI is in its fourth revision/edition. The WPPSI-IV is an individually administered intelligence test designed for children aged 2 years and 6 months to 7 years and 7 months. It does not measure academic achievement or “school” skills. Rather, it attempts to predict what a child might be capable of given an ideal set of circumstances. Actual realization of skills is dependent upon adequate educational opportunities, experience, and exposure.

The WPPSI-IV is composed of a variety of individually administered subtests, each of which measures a specific area of cognitive ability. The subtests are grouped into categories, and the scores are presented as percentiles not percentages. For example, if a child earns a score at the 84th percentile, this indicates that he/she performed better than 84% of the children of the same chronological age (only 16% earned stronger scores). Scores at the 50th percentile are considered average or age appropriate. (See more on the subtests, below.)

How is the test administered?

The WPPSI-IV is only administered by trained and licensed psychologists. The test itself takes approximately 45 to 50 minutes to administer and is fun for kids! Parents usually do not join the child in the testing room. Once the child enters the testing room, the psychologist establishes rapport or makes the child comfortable and testing begins.

Can I prepare my child for the WPPSI-IV?

The simple answer is, no. The best advice is to make certain that your child is well rested, not sick, and has had a good breakfast before the test. Parents often ask what to tell their child about the test and who this new person is. It is best to let your child know that this new person will be like a teacher and is curious to find out how he/she learns things. It is usually not a great idea to tell children that they are going to play games (even though the test is very game-like) because they may not think the tasks are games and will wonder when Candy Land will appear!

How do schools use the WPPSI-IV Results?

The results of the WPPSI-IV are presented in a report, which goes to the parent and, with parent permission, to selected schools. It provides schools with a snapshot into the child’s skills and developmental level at the time of assessment. The test is only administered one time, and the results can be shared with all schools to which a child is applying. In fact, the WPPSI-IV cannot be given more than one time a year.

Each school uses the results of the test differently, and there is no one score that a school is looking for. Some schools use the test as a way to place a child in a group. Others may use the scores to learn more about how an individual child processes information. And finally, others may use the scores to determine if the child is the right fit for the school.

What are the subtests? What do they measure?

  • Because the WPPSI-IV is designed for young children, the test begins with a task that does not require the child to respond verbally. They are asked to reconstruct designs using blocks. This task is part of the Visual Spatial Index and measures visual spatial processing, integration and synthesis of part-to-whole relationships, attentiveness to visual detail, nonverbal concept formation, and visual-motor integration. Further, it taps a child’s ability to analyze and synthesize abstract visual information.
  • The WPPSI-IV proceeds next to a verbal reasoning task where the child is asked to make comparisons between two words or concepts, such as a tree and a bush. This subtest is a part of the Verbal Comprehension Index. This Index includes subtests that measure verbal abilities such as reasoning, comprehension, and expression. A child’s acquired knowledge, verbal reasoning and comprehension, and attention to verbal stimuli are also assessed. Further, a child’s ability to understand and process verbal information is tapped. All of the items on the subtests in this Index, even the picture items, are presented verbally and the child is required to articulate the responses.
  • The subtests on the WPPSI-IV alternate between verbal and nonverbal tasks. Other nonverbal tasks compose the Fluid Reasoning Index. The tasks on the Fluid Reasoning Index require visual perception and organization as well as the ability to reason with visually presented nonverbal materials. The tasks measure fluid and inductive reasoning, simultaneous processing, conceptual thinking, and classification ability. The skills tapped are usually not skills specifically taught in school. Most, if not all, of the subtests are novel to a child.
  • Perceptual speed, short-term visual memory, visual motor coordination, cognitive flexibility, visual discrimination, and concentration are skills assessed by the Processing Speed Index. This Index has been recently shown to be directly related to mental capacity, reading performance, and development and learning in general. The Processing Speed Index provides a measure of a child’s ability to quickly and correctly scan or discriminate simple visual information. It also involves short-term visual memory.
  • Finally, the WPPSI-IV taps into a child’s working memory. Working memory refers to the ability to hold information in mind and then do something with it. Recent research has suggested that working memory is an essential component in school learning. It is something that children are asked to do daily. For example, when a child is learning to read, it is important to be able to hold an image in mind (e.g., sight vocabulary words) so that they can recall them on different pages. Or, when a teacher gives a direction, a child must hold that information in mind as they complete the task.

What's Next?

Now that you know what the WPSSI is, it’s time to schedule the test! Not sure where to start? Consider this list of testing centers that some of our parents have used.

 

Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email admissions@lowellschool.org, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Private School Admissions

Valerie Slattery, PhD

Written by Valerie Slattery, PhD

Early Childhood Psychologist and Learning Specialist, Lowell School