What to Consider Before Testing Your Gifted Child

Students Taking a Test.
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Before testing a potentially gifted child, parents should take a number of factors into consideration. There are several things you should be aware of in order to not only be empowered in your child's education but to 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.

The Top Reasons to Test Gifted Children

If you suspect your child is gifted, testing will allow you to understand his 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 he can develop his strengths further and learn to manage or improve his 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 special education advocates for their children if need be.

When to Test

The best time to test gifted children is between the ages of 4 and 8.

Testing before age 4 is likely to result in unreliable scores because a child's behavior is too unpredictable. IQ tests aren't usually stable until a child reaches the age of 5.

It is sometimes easy to recognize the characteristics of a gifted child at a very young age. Instead of testing, however, parents should look at ways to keep a young child challenged without being a  pushy parent. There is a multitude of 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, such as Yamaha music school, are designed for young children (ages 4 to 8) to explore music at a time when the "window" for learning by ear is wide open, and music education appears to help with other learning such as math down the line. 

Testing after age 8 can result in inaccurate scores as well and may result in the loss of opportunity you child may otherwise have if he were tested. That said, many gifted children won't be identified as such until after age 8. If that's 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 the child's giftedness. 

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.

Types of Tests for Giftedness

The two primary types of tests parents think about when they consider testing for their gifted children are IQ tests and achievement tests.

  • 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 a 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 percent.

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.

In addition to these tests, children may also be evaluated to see if they have "exceptional talent" (such as a 3-year-old reading chapter books) and intrinsic motivation.

Testers for Giftedness

Who should conduct tests for giftedness? It's recommended that testing is performed by someone who has experience in working with gifted children. Otherwise, test results may not be accurate. For example, a tester begins by asking the child the easiest questions and continues 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. Learn more about how to find someone to test your gifted child.

Costs of Gifted Testing

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 his or her experience. Graduate psychology students at a nearby university may do testing for a couple hundred dollars. However, they may not have experience with gifted children.

Questions to Ask About Giftedness Testing

As noted in this discussion, there are a number of factors which need to be considered before having your child tested for giftedness. Before signing up for testing, make sure to get answers to the following questions:

  • Is the best time to have your child tested, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of waiting?
  • If your child appears to be gifted, how will this affect his education? What are the next steps you will take?
  • What tests should your child have, and how do these compare with other tests out there?
  • What is the background and experience of the person doing the testing? How many gifted students has he had experience working with?
  • Why did the tester enter this field? (Testers may have a special interest in gifted children for personal reasons such as having a gifted child).
  • What is the cost of testing? What would be the cost of educational changes made if your child is indeed gifted?
  • What are the potential drawbacks to testing?
  • What is your motivation for testing? For example, is it to see if your child could gain admittance to a gifted program, is it for validation of what you are seeing, or is it to counteract comments other adults may be making about how you shouldn't push your child?
  • Would you treat your child any differently if you knew he was gifted?

    Bottom Line on What You Should Know Before Testing for Giftedness

    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 4, and its unlikely parents would do anything differently if their child indeed tested as gifted. What this means is that parents of all children, gifted or not, provide the opportunity for a young child to explore his interests and learn.

    Testing can also be inaccurate in a child over the age of 8, though many children are not identified before this time. If your child is older than this, talk to his teachers and testers about any other information which would be helpful, such as portfolios. 

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

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