How TONI Tests Show Nonverbal Intelligence

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Nonverbal intelligence tests measure nonverbal reasoning. They are used to assess students who have language processing problems or those with limited English proficiency. In these tests, tasks are designed to remove verbal intelligence from the assessment of a child's reasoning abilities and to isolate and assess a student's visual learning skills. These tests are not designed to test all students for their nonverbal intelligence. They are meant for students who have speech, language, or hearing impairments or who are not verbally communicative.

These tests include the Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI), Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test-Second Edition (UNIT2), Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM), and the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Fourth Edition (TONI-4) 2010, and earlier versions of TONI.

Why Nonverbal Intelligence Tests Are Needed

Nonverbal assessments attempt to remove language barriers in the estimation of a student's intellectual aptitude. This is especially helpful in assessing students without speech or who have limited language ability, those with deafness or who are hard of hearing, and those with English language limitations.

Students with nonverbal autism are an example of a population where standard IQ tests do not assess their abilities well. Many who rank as intellectually disabled on standard tests can be better assessed with a nonverbal intelligence test.

To accommodate students with speech or language limitations, the test can be administered either orally or by using pantomime. Students don't need to provide oral responses, write, or manipulate objects to take these tests. The tests vary in how they are administered. The best designs don't require verbal directions or spoken responses.

Nonverbal intelligence tests can be one element of a comprehensive assessment of a child's abilities. They are only one factor used in the determination of a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students who have verbal communication difficulties need a full range of assessments, which can include observation, interviews, record reviews, and a variety of tests. The tests often provide instructions in multiple languages. 

The CTONI Measures Specific Skills

The CTONI measures several types of nonverbal reasoning skills. Through pictures and pointing responses, students solve problems using analogies, classification skills, and logical sequences.

Analogies assess the student's ability to recognize common features between unlike objects. Categorization tasks require students to identify common attributes for sorting pictured objects. The student's ability to understand logical sequences is also assessed. Test items measure both concrete and abstract concepts.

UNIT2 Test

The UNIT2 test is designed for ages 5 through 21 and has an entirely nonverbal stimulus-and-response administration format. It uses full-color stimuli, manipulatives, and pointing response modes. It has six subtests: symbolic memory, nonsymbolic quantity, analogic reasoning, spatial memory, numerical series, and cube design.

From these subtests, seven composite scores are derived for memory, reasoning, quantitative, abbreviated batter, standard battery with memory, standard battery without memory, and full-scale battery. The UNIT2 is considered a multidimensional test while the CTONI and TONI-III and RPM are all one-dimensional tests.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Florida Department of Education. Nonverbal tests of intelligence.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

  3. Delen E, Kaya F, Ritter NL. Test Review: Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence—Second Edition (CTONI-2)J Psychoeduc Assess. 2012;30(2):209-213. doi:10.1177/0734282911415614

  4. Moore AF, McCallum RS, Bracken BA. (2017). The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test: Second Edition. Handbook of nonverbal assessment. 2017:105–125. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-50604-3_7

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.