An Explanation of Wechsler Tests

WISC-III Welchsler test materials.

Onderwijsgek / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is an intelligence test which determines an individual child's IQ, or intelligence quotient. It was developed by Dr. David Wechsler (1896-1981), who was the chief psychologist of New York City's Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.

The test that is typically administered today is the 2014 revision of the test that was originally devised in 1949. It is known as WISC-V. Over the years, the WISC test has been updated several times, each time changing the name to represent the proper edition of the test. At times, some institutions will still utilize older versions of the test.

In the latest WISC-V, there are new and separate Visual Spatial and Fluid Reasoning index scores, as well as new measures of the following skills:

  • Visual-spatial ability
  • Quantitative fluid reasoning
  • Visual working memory
  • Rapid automatized naming/naming facility
  • Visual-verbal associative memory

Dr. Wechsler developed two other commonly used intelligence tests: the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI). The WPPSI test is designed to assess children aged three to seven years and three months.

The WISC essentially outlines students' intellectual strengths and weaknesses and provides insight into their overall cognitive abilities and potential. The test also compares children to peers of a similar age. In the most general terms, the goal is to determine the potential for a child to grasp new information. While this assessment can be a great predictor of potential, the IQ level is, by no means, a guarantee of success or failure.

Where the Wechsler Test Is Used

Private schools serving children in 4th through 9th grades often use WISC-V as part of their admissions testing procedures, which may be in place of, or in addition to, other admission testing like the SSAT. Those private schools that use it do so to determine both a child's intelligence and his or her performance in school relative to that intelligence level.

What the Test Determines

WISC determines a child's intellectual capabilities. It is frequently used to diagnose learning differences such as ADD or ADHD. The test also helps to assess strengths in order to determine gifted children. The WISC test indices are verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. The subtests allow precise modeling of a child's intellectual abilities and readiness for learning.

Interpreting the Test Data

Pearson Education, a company that sells the Wechsler testing products, also scores the tests. The clinical data that the tests provide help the admissions staff develop a complete understanding of your child's intellectual strengths and weaknesses. However, the wide range of assessment scores can be daunting for many and difficult to understand. Not only do school officials like teachers and admission representatives need to understand these reports and what the scores mean, but so do the parents. 

According to the Pearson Education Website, there are options for the type of score reporting available for the WISC-V, which will provide a narrative explanation of the scores including (the following bullet points are quoted from the website):

  • Narrative summary of the child’s background, history, and test behaviors
  • Interpretation of the Full-Scale IQ and all primary, ancillary, and complementary index scores
  • Integration of the reason for referral in test score interpretation
  • Recommendations based on WISC–V performance
  • Optional Parent Summary Report

Preparing for the Test

Your child cannot prepare for WISC-V or other IQ tests by studying or reading. These tests are not designed to test what you know or how much you know, but rather, they are designed to determine the test-taker's capacity to learn. Typically, tests like the WISC consist of tasks that assess various measures of intelligence, including spatial recognition, analytical thinking, mathematical ability, and even short-term memory. As such, just make sure that your child gets plenty of rest and relaxation before the test. The school is accustomed to administering these tests and will instruct your child what to do at the appropriate time.


  • "Clinical & Classroom Assessment Products." Professional Assessments, Pearson, 2020.
  • Wechsler, David, PhD. "Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children | Fifth Edition." Pearson, 2020.
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Kennedy, Robert. "An Explanation of Wechsler Tests." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Kennedy, Robert. (2020, August 29). An Explanation of Wechsler Tests. Retrieved from Kennedy, Robert. "An Explanation of Wechsler Tests." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 27, 2023).