Types of Tests Used to Diagnose Learning Disabilities

Young girl taking a test
JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images 

Your child is doing poorly in school, and you want to know why. They're not lazy—in fact, they work hard—but they just can't seem to understand the concepts or score well on tests. If this describes your situation, there's a good chance that your child has a learning disability, and it makes sense to have your child evaluated.

Who Conducts Learning Tests

People who assess children for learning disabilities are usually experts in education, speech and language, audiology, or psychology. By conducting a series of tests, evaluations, and interviews, they work to understand what stands between your child and academic success.

Findings from these evaluations may reveal any of a number of issues, ranging from hearing loss or low vision to difficulties with focus, use of language, or reading. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques for managing almost any learning-related disability—but until the issue has been diagnosed, there's not much anyone can do.

Tests Used to Evaluate Learning

Diagnosing a learning disability in public schools requires several types of tests. Common tests used to diagnose a learning disability include tests of intelligence, achievement, visual-motor integration, and language. Other tests may also be used depending on the evaluator's preferences and the child's needs.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that a diagnosis of a learning disability is not made on the basis of a single test.

Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests (often called IQ tests) most commonly used to diagnose a learning disability include the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WIPPSI), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS).

Other common intelligence, or cognitive, tests include the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, Differential Abilities Scales (DAS), the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, and the Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI). Findings from these tests can help pinpoint areas of strength and weakness. With this information, schools can often suggest educational options or offer special support.

Achievement Tests

Common achievement tests used to diagnose a learning disability include the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ), the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), and the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA).

These tests focus on reading, writing, and math. If your child has fallen behind in a particular academic area, schools can offer remedial support, tutoring, and other tools to help your child catch up.

Visual Motor Integration Tests

Common visual motor integration tests include the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test and the Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration. Findings from these tests may help to determine if a child's brain is properly connecting visual cues to motor coordination. 

In other words, are they able to draw what they see? If they are having a difficult time integrating visual and motor skills, it will be very tough for them to learn to write or draw properly without special support.

Language Tests

Common language tests used in the diagnosis of learning disabilities include the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF), the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation, and the Test of Language Development. These tests explore your child's ability to understand spoken and written language and to respond verbally to questions or cues.

3 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. Learning Disabilities Association of America. Eligibility: Determining whether a child is eligible for special education services.

  2. Learning Disabilities Association of America. Evaluating children to determine eligibility for special education services and reevaluation requirements.

  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Learning disabilities.

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.