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

For seven decades, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, also known as the WISC, has provided practitioners with a reliable and comprehensive tool to measure intelligence in children. Considered by experts and practitioners to be the gold standard among psychological and intelligence tests, 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 while preserving the clinical utility and psychometric excellence that are fundamental to the Wechsler suite of intelligence tests. Full tablet integration and real-time customization options enhance the flexibility and user friendliness of the WISC–V in digital format.

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 intellectual 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.

Intended outcome 1

Test scores can be interpreted as reliable and valid measures of intelligence and cognitive abilities in children. They can be used, along with other instruments, to identify children with intellectual giftedness or intellectual disability and to ascertain a child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Scores can also be used in conjunction with other data to inform treatment planning and placement decisions in clinical or educational settings, and to generate hypotheses about neuropsychological functioning.

More than 70 years of research indicate that the WISC–V provides a reliable and valid measure of a child’s intelligence that can be used for identification purposes or to inform or treatment planning and placement decisions.

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 conducted concurrently with standardization involving a total of more than 400 children without clinical conditions, the Full Scale IQ and subtest and composite scores related to these specific cognitive domains were significantly correlated with success in reading, mathematics, written expression, overall academic achievement, and several skills related to learning.

The WISC–V is sensitive to cognitive deficits that are commonly evaluated in clinical settings. Several studies have been conducted with special groups, demonstrating, for example, that 111 students 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 for detecting intellectual disability in children.

1 Raiford & Holdnack, 2014

Intended outcome 2

Test scores are consistent over formats, time and raters.

Pearson has conducted a number of studies that suggest the WISC–V produces scores that are consistent across paper and digital formats, across raters, and over a period of time.

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 (Daniel, Wahlstrom, & Zhang, 2014; Raiford et al., 2016). 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 (Raiford, Drozdick, & Zhang, 2015; Raiford, Holdnack, Drozdick, & Zhang, 2014). In another 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 (Raiford & Holdnack, 2014). Finally, 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. Similarly, intraclass correlations for the Verbal Comprehension subtests (which are subjectively scored) across 9 independent raters for 60 randomly-selected cases from the normative sample ranged from 0.97 to 0.99 (Raiford & Holdnack, 2014).

Intended outcome 3

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

Studies have demonstrated that WISC–V scores can be interpreted in the same way for males and females, for test-takers of different cultures, and for clinical and nonclinical samples.

One study has already shown that the meaning of (and thus interpretation of) WISC–V scores does not vary between genders (Chen, Zhang, Raiford, Zhu, & Weiss, 2015). Another study administered 14 WISC–IV subtests to  representative samples of students from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan (Chen, Keith, Weiss, Zhu, & Li, 2010). Results showed that the meaning of scores did not vary based on the students’ cultural backgrounds. A similar study was conducted with the WISC–IV for students with specific cognitive deficits and learning disabilities (Chen & Zhu, 2012), demonstrating ) that the meaning of scores does not vary across clinical and nonclinical groups.

Pearson has ambitious plans to conduct research that will further demonstrate the effect of the WISC–V on learner outcomes. For an overview of these plans, please see the accompanying Impact Evaluation Report below.

In 2013, we announced our efficacy initiative to measure the impact that our products and services have on our learners. We committed to publicly report our findings starting in 2018, and to subject those reports to external audit.  We are pleased to release our preliminary reports to share the work we have done so far and what we have planned ahead. The content in these reports reflects the continued refinement of our approach; while our work continues to advance, we are proud to share transparently what we have learned. We anticipate that we will continue to further refine these reports as we approach our 2018 target.

Age/Stage: Primary/Secondary

Type: Assessment

Report Downloads

Impact Evaluation Report