Children's IQ Scores: What Do They Mean?

Intelligence tests are administered to children in educational settings for a variety of reasons. Continue reading to learn more about IQ scores and how they're commonly used.

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Interpreting Children's IQ Scores

What Is an IQ?

The term IQ, or intelligence quotient, refers to a single numerical score derived from one or more tests administered to evaluate particular aspects of human intelligence. According to David Palmer's 2006 book, Parent's Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education, the average score for customary intelligence tests is 100 with a standard deviation of 15; approximately 50% of the population will score between 90 and 109 on a modern IQ test.

An IQ test for children is measured in the same way that IQ tests are measured for adults; however, a child's IQ test is structured to calculate intelligence on a comparative scale with other children of the same age. Though IQ tests do measure certain aspects of intelligence, researchers debate whether an IQ score alone is enough to measure a child's intelligence.

How Are IQ Scores Used?

The IQ tests used most frequently within the K-12 public education system include the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), the Stanford-Binet, the Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Abilities Test and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. These tests are often used to evaluate children whose academic performance falls outside the norm for their age, such as children with mental health disorders, learning disabilities or gifted abilities. Educators may also distribute IQ tests to assess national levels of student proficiency. Finally, psychologists, sociologists, medical professionals and other researchers analyze IQ test results to explore possible correlations between individual IQ scores and statistical social patterns, such as mortality, unemployment and crime rates; education levels; occupation choices and genetics.

IQ tests are offered in different formats and may test a spectrum of attributes related to intelligence, such as verbal comprehension, quantitative logic, perceptual capacity, processing speed, pictorial reasoning and memory. Most intelligence tests are timed, though some are not. Tests may be administered in an individual or group setting.

Interpreting an IQ Score

According to Palmer's 2006 publication, a child who scores between 90 and 109 on an IQ test is classified as having an average level of intelligence. Students who score below 70 on an IQ test are designated with a borderline intellectual disability or some form of mental delay. An IQ score higher than 110 categorizes the test-taker as having an above average or superior level of intelligence. Those who score above 130 on an IQ test are frequently labeled as gifted. Palmer points out, however, that IQ test publishers offer different ways of describing IQ scores.

The Difference between IQ Tests and Achievement Tests

IQ tests don't rely on academic content; a child can't study for an IQ test to improve his or her score. Achievement test scores, which are based on academic content, often do improve with careful review and preparation. It's common for public school students to take at least one state achievement test during the school year, which schools administer to meet standards set by educational policies, such as the 'No Child Left Behind Act' (

If your child is scheduled to take an IQ test at school, assure him or her that the test isn't the type of exam one can study for. A solid night of sleep and a nutritious breakfast may be the best way to prepare your child for an intelligence test. It's also useful to consider that no single score can accurately evaluate your child's intelligence. For this reason, special education professionals and test administrators often give children a series of short tests over a period of days or weeks to gain a more precise cognitive assessment.

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