What to Consider Before Testing Your Child for Giftedness

young boy and girl taking test at desks in classroom

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Before testing a potentially gifted child, parents should take a number of factors into consideration. Doing so will help you be empowered in your child's education and also avoid the pitfalls that are all too common when there is not a clear reason for testing.

Let's look at the top reasons to get children tested for giftedness, the types of tests to use, the best time to test, and the questions you should ask in order to make the best decision for your child.

Reasons to Test Gifted Children

If you suspect your child is gifted, testing will allow you to understand their specific learning needs, including strengths and weaknesses. By identifying giftedness early on, it's more likely that your child's giftedness will be developed into talents.

Testing may also help your child get placed into a gifted program, where they can develop their strengths further and learn to manage or improve their weaknesses. Giftedness can be isolated to one area, and testing gifted children may lead to the identification of learning disabilities that require intervention and special accommodations from schools.

Without testing, these weaknesses are often overlooked in a child who excels in other areas. This information can help parents serve as educational advocates for their children.

When to Test Kids for Giftedness

It is sometimes easy to recognize the characteristics of a gifted child at a very young age. But according to the National Association for Gifted Children, it's best to wait until your child is at least 6 years old for gifted testing.

That's because IQ testing isn't accurate for children younger than 6 years. However, it may be possible to use various developmental milestones to predict future IQ test results. Instead of testing, parents should look at ways to keep young children challenged without being pushy. There are many options to keep gifted toddlers and preschoolers stimulated at home.

These include working with letters and reading with verbally gifted children, working with numbers and math for the mathematically gifted, visiting science museums and nature preserves for the scientifically gifted, and arts and crafts galore for the child gifted in art.

Music programs for young children explore music at a time when the window for learning by ear is wide open. Music education appears to help with other learning, such as math, down the line. 

Types of Tests for Giftedness

The two primary types of tests for gifted children are IQ tests and achievement tests. Both types of tests have pros and cons. Speak with school officials to get a better sense of the test that's most suitable for your child. A combination of both IQ tests and achievement tests are often required for admission to a gifted program.

IQ Tests

IQ tests measure ability. Schools often give group IQ tests, such as the Otis-Lemmon. Independent IQ tests, such as the WISC-IV, Stanford-Binet, and Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children are more accurate for gifted children.

An IQ test of 85-114 is average. A test between 115 and 129 is referred to as mild giftedness, 130-144 moderate giftedness, and 145 to 159 high giftedness. Scores higher than these are considered exceptionally or profoundly gifted. (A "genius" IQ test has historically been defined as an IQ over 160).

Achievement Tests

Achievement tests measure what a child already knows. Gifted children aren't necessarily high achievers based on grades in school but traditionally do well on standardized tests, with scores between 95% and 99%.

In addition to these tests, children may also be evaluated to see if they have "exceptional talent" (for example, highly advanced reading skills) and intrinsic motivation.

Inaccuracies in testing can be caused by several factors, including test ceilings, perfectionism, and underachievement. It's also important to note that giftedness is dynamic and changes over time. If you feel that may be the case with your child, find out if the school is willing to conduct testing as well as use portfolios of your child's work and other measures to assess giftedness.

Who Should Conduct Tests

Giftedness testing should be performed by someone who has experience in working with gifted children. Otherwise, test results may not be accurate. For example, some testers may begin by asking the child the easiest questions and continue asking until the child misses a certain consecutive number of questions.

An experienced tester will know to start with more difficult questions, so the child won't get tired or bored, which can cause the child to make mistakes. This can, in turn, lead to a low and inaccurate score.

Costs of Gifted Testing

When you start to investigate testing for your child, you will probably find that prices vary substantially. Testing can cost anywhere from $200 to $700. The average rate is between $500 and $600 and generally includes both IQ and achievement tests.

The cost is the same whether or not the tester has experience with gifted children or not, so be sure to ask any prospective tester about their experience. Graduate students in psychology may do testing for a couple hundred dollars. However, they may not have experience with gifted children.

A Word From Verywell

Testing for giftedness in children can open doors by helping a child develop those gifts into talents. But timing is important. Testing can be inaccurate before the age of 6, and it is unlikely parents could do anything differently if their child indeed tested as gifted. Parents of all children, gifted or not, should provide the opportunity for young children to explore their interests and learn.

If you do decide to have your child tested, make sure to find a tester who has experience working with gifted children. Such a person may also be a good resource if it appears your child is gifted.

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