WISC–V Introduces Digital Tools to Build on Intelligence Assessment’s
Long Legacy

For 70 years, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, known as the WISC, has provided a reliable and comprehensive tool to measure intelligence in children. The WISC–V—the fifth and most current edition—was developed over the course of five years by psychologists and nationally recognized experts in child clinical psychology, neuropsychology, and learning disabilities. The WISC–V stands out from its predecessors by providing new digital capabilities.

Practitioners rely on the WISC–V to provide a comprehensive measure of overall intellectual ability and five cognitive ability domains that impact learning and performance in the classroom. The test results are used to determine giftedness and identify intellectual disability.

The WISC-V is also used, in conjunction with a comprehensive battery of tests, to identify specific learning disorders and to assess children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injuries, language disorders, or other neurodevelopmental or psychological issues. Identifying specific learning disorders in a timely and accurate manner allows educators to determine educational interventions and classroom accommodations necessary to maximize children’s chances of academic success.

"I gave the WISC–V this morning to a young boy with autism...The test was engaging for him, new and exciting for me, and allowed us to connect on a whole new level due to the technology component.

–School Psychologist from Virginia

Assessment Quality Indicator

Test scores can be interpreted as measures of intelligence in children and can be used for identification, placement, and resource allocation. (Validity)

More than 70 years of research indicate that the WISC–V provides a valid measure of a child’s intelligence that can be used, along with other instruments, to identify intellectual giftedness or disability, and to determine a child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Scores can also be used to inform treatment planning and placement decisions in school or clinical settings, and to make hypotheses about neuropsychological functioning.

The product’s technical and interpretive manual reports the results from the most recent studies on the WISC–V.1 For example, the WISC–V scores were standardized using a nationally representative sample of 2,200 children. All 21 of the WISC–V subtests, which measure separate but related cognitive functions, were supported as effectively measuring cognitive abilities such as verbal comprehension, visual spatial ability, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.

In two other studies, which were conducted concurrently with standardization involving more than 500 learners without clinical conditions, the Full Scale IQ, subtest, and composite scores were significantly correlated with success in reading, mathematics, written expression, overall academic achievement, and several skills related to learning. Similarly, a recent study with over 2,000 learners demonstrated that performance on the WISC-V explained 25% of the variance in a measure of risk of academic failure,2 which means that it can measure 25% of reasons learners fail in school.

The WISC–V can also identify common cognitive deficits, as demonstrated by several studies with special groups. For example, 111 learners with mild or moderate intellectual disabilities and 20 with borderline intellectual functioning (i.e., students with an FSIQ ranging from 70 to 85) scored significantly lower than students without clinical conditions that had been matched to the clinical sample in terms of age, sex, race/ethnicity, parent education level, and geographic region. Further analyses supported the test’s sensitivity and specificity for detecting intellectual disability in children.

Assessment Quality Indicator

Test scores are consistent over time and/or over multiple raters. (Reliability)

Pearson has conducted a number of studies that suggest the WISC–V produces scores that are internally consistent and are also consistent across raters and over a period of time, showing reliability. Internal consistency reliability indices, which capture how well all the items on the test are consistently measuring the same thing, were computed based on the normative sample. These indices, which can range from 0 (perfectly inconsistent) to 1.0 (perfectly consistent) were uniformly high for all WISC-V composite and subtest scores, with the reliability of primary index scores, for example, ranging from 0.88 to 0.93.3

The internal consistency of subtest scores is also high for special groups of learners. These indices were computed for learners in clinical groups, including those with some form of intellectual disability, those with specific learning disorders, and English Language Learners. When averaged across groups, indices ranged from 0.86 to 0.97 (depending on the subtest) and were comparable to those obtained for non-clinical learners.4

WISC-V scores are also consistent over testing sessions. In one study, 218 students were administered the WISC–V on two occasions. The average testing interval was just shy of a month, and the scores remained adequately stable across age bands and overall, with test-retest correlations ranging from 0.71 to 0.90.5

Finally, WISC-V scores are consistent across different raters or scorers. Interscorer agreement across two independent raters for a subset of all subtests based on the normative sample was extremely high, ranging from 0.98 to 0.99.6

Assessment Quality Indicator

Test scores can be interpreted in the same way for test-takers of different subgroups. (Fairness)

Studies have demonstrated that WISC–V scores can be interpreted in the same way for males and females and from different racial/ethnic groups, which are indicators of fairness. One study demonstrated that the interpretation of WISC–V scores does not vary between genders.7 Another study demonstrated that scores from the WISC-V show patterns that are highly consistent with contemporary models of intelligence, and that these score patterns are the same for white, African-American, and Hispanic males and females, which suggests that the scores have the same meaning and can be interpreted in the same way for these groups.8

Research has also shown that the paper and digital formats of the test produce comparable results. For example, studies involving random assignment of 350 and 651 children without clinical conditions, respectively, to either the paper or digital format of the test concluded that scores for the two formats are equivalent.9, 10 Pearson has also completed studies that show that children with intellectual giftedness, intellectual disability, specific learning disorders, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and motor impairment perform as expected on the WISC–V in digital format.11, 12 Learners taking either the digital or the paper format of the test are not at a disadvantage relative to learners taking the other format, and scores from the two groups can be interpreted in the same way.

Age/Stage: Primary/Secondary

Type: Assessment

Report Downloads

Read how we conducted the research in the 2015-2016 Research Report.

1 Wechsler, D. (2014). WISC­-V: Technical and Interpretive Manual. Bloomington, MN: Pearson.

2 Kaufman, A. S., Raiford, S. E., & Coalson, D. L. (2016). Intelligent testing with the WISC-V. John Wiley & Sons.

3, 4, 5, 6 Wechsler, D. (2014).

7 Chen, H., Zhang, O., Raiford, S. E., Zhu, J., & Weiss, L. G. (2015). Factor invariance between genders on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Fifth Edition. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 1­5.

8 Scheiber, C. (2016). Is the Cattell–Horn–Carroll-based factor structure of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Fifth Edition (WISC-V) construct invariant for a representative sample of African–American, Hispanic, and Caucasian male and female students ages 6 to 16 years? Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, 2(3-4): 79-88.

9 Daniel, M.H., Wahlstrom, D., & Zhang, O. (2014). Equivalence of Q-­interactive and paper administrations of cognitive tasks: WISC­-V. Q-­interactive Technical Report 8. Bloomington, MN: Pearson.

10 Raiford, S. E., Zhang, O., Drozdick, L.W., Getz, K., Wahlstrom, D., Gabel, A., Holdnack, J. A., & Daniel, M. (2016). WISC­-V Coding and Symbol Search in digital format: Reliability, validity, special group studies, and interpretation. Q-­interactive Technical Report 12. Bloomington, MN: Pearson.

11 Raiford, S.E., Holdnack, J., Drozdick, L., & Zhang, O., (2014). Q-­interactive special group studies: The WISC­-V and children with intellectual giftedness and intellectual disability. Q-­interactive Technical Report 9. Bloomington, MN: Pearson.

12 Raiford, S.E., Drozdick, L., & Zhang, O., (2015). Q-­interactive special group studies: The WISC­-V and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and accompanying language impairment or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder. Q-­interactive Technical Report 11. Bloomington, MN: Pearson.