Sep 22, 2009
Your Child’s IQ Score: How to Prepare for Your Child’s Intelligence Test
There are many reasons parents seek an evaluation of their child’s intellectual functioning, which we commonly call ‘IQ’ testing. Aside from an evaluation to diagnose learning problems, parents seek IQ testing for school admission or entry into a ‘gifted and talented’ program. No matter what the reason, having an IQ test done can be anxiety provoking for both parent and child. It is easy to lose perspective on what the IQ test actually does, and what the scores actually mean.
Across the world, people have broad interpretations of what it means to be intelligent. Many people interpret having a higher IQ with all sorts of positive outcomes, such as high achievement in school, prestigious careers, or upward mobility in society. Psychologists use IQ tests as tools to measure an abstract concept known as ‘G’, which may be broadly defined as the ability to solve problems. IQ tests typically assess abilities including: abstract reasoning, language functioning, processing speed, visual-spatial reasoning and a person’s knowledge base. How well a child does on various types of tasks shows a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that can be extremely useful in helping him succeed. It is important to note that an IQ test does not measure qualities such as talent, determination, or creativity. These latter qualities tend to be every bit as important in determining a person’s quality of life as his intelligence. Keep in mind that getting a number score from an IQ test does not change who he is or what he can do well.
There has been a recent surge in companies who sell IQ test ‘preparation’ to anxious parents. People sell materials taken from IQ tests, or sell ‘tutoring’ that they promise will raise children’s scores. These individuals exploit parent’s natural desire to do what is best for their children. What many parents do not know is that individuals are providing and illegal and unethical services. They are teaching children to cheat. IQ tests are kept highly confidential because they are critical tools in making diagnoses. Psychologists and Neuropsychologists need them to make important diagnoses such as learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, or to measure the impact of degenerative illnesses. That is why all IQ tests are copyrighted, making it illegal to expose the content. Licensed psychologists are bound by an ethical code, as well as copyright laws, to protect the content of the tests. A psychologist who offers to ‘help’ your child score higher or share test materials should be reported to the state licensing board. Anyone who would act unethically or illegally is not someone you want interacting with your child. Unfortunately, there are unlicensed people who have access to IQ tests, so it is important to check credentials. Aside from the fact that these people are acting illegally, the services they provide are not likely to raise scores as their advertisements claim.
It may seem strange that IQ preparation would not be a good thing, since we encourage our children to study for tests all the time. IQ tests are different. They are designed to present people with unfamiliar types of problems to see how well they adapt. Consequently, even if a child has been exposed to the test materials or taught to practice similar types of problems, there is usually not a significant increase in the child’s scores. Even if a test preparations program did raise the scores a bit, the resulting IQ test data would be contaminated and useless. Some parents may feel it is worth a bit of cheating to get a child into a special school or program. They may believe that this will give their child the best opportunity. However, there are negative consequences of inflating a child’s scores. Placing a child in an academic program that is not a good match for him is not kindness. It makes no more sense than putting him in a super competitive soccer team if he did not have the ability to make the team on his own. If there is not a good match between the child and the program, the child is likely to be overwhelmed, and to feel bad about himself because he can to keep up with his friends.
So how should you help your child get ready for an IQ test? You should start during infancy by talking to him and playing with him. As he grows, consider each day a chance to learn something new. The sorts of activities that will truly prepare a child for IQ testing include: puzzles, reading, building blocks, solving riddles, going to museums, and enrichment classes (anything from art and computer classes to music lessons). Most products that promise to improve your child’s IQ are only entertainment. This includes baby videos that promise to make your little one smarter, ‘learning’ toys, television programs, and computer software. Research has shown that these are no substitute for the kinds of real-life activities that will foster your child’s problem solving abilities.
Finally, when you are ready to schedule the testing, prepare your child by lowering his stress level. Find a licensed psychologist who has a good reputation for ethical practice. Find someone who specializes in children, who can help your child feel comfortable during testing. Have the child tested on a weekday morning, when he is at his most alert. Do not be tempted to make an appointment in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekend. These are times when your child has less energy. Avoid offering your child a reward or prize for earning a certain score. If a child is worrying about not getting a prize or disappointing you, he can not concentrate on the test. A good night sleep and a healthy breakfast have a big impact on test performance. Finally, relax. If you are worried about the test, you will only make your child nervous. Praise his effort (IQ tests are tiring!) and take him out to lunch afterward for a job well done.