Duke TIP

Gifted Testing

Parents decide to have their child tested for a variety of reasons: to qualify for specialized programming, for data to use in advocacy efforts, and to just confirm suspicions about advanced ability. Whatever the reason, parents should approach testing in a careful and informed manner.

  • Selecting a Test Administrator
  • Selecting the Test
  • Understanding Testing Lingo
  • Commonly Used Instruments
  • Selecting a Test Administrator

    Testing can be done either privately or through the school system. There are pros and cons with each route.

    Private Testing

    School Testing

    Can be costly

    Free of charge in public schools

    Testers can be selected based on their experiences with gifted children and their ability to document both strengths and weaknesses.

    Tester may not have much experience with gifted children and may tend to focus on weaknesses due to this inexperience.

    Administer protected tests, which can only be sold to licensed professionals.

    Typically use brief or group administered measures that are unprotected to ensure that all students can be tested.

    Better chance that students will be tested using instruments that best document a student’s ability.

    Instruments used may not be the best option for some students.

    Parents have the option of deciding what to do with the results.

    Schools have access to the results and will become a part of the child’s cumulative records.

    Parents will have access to the full report of scores, which will be interpreted by the tester with recommendations.

    Some schools may not share scores with parents if they are considered part of a confidential admissions process. Reports, interpretation, and recommendation information may be minimal.


    If the purpose of having a child tested is just to gain entrance into a gifted and talented program, then school testing should be adequate. However, if parents have deeper concerns regarding appropriate educational placement or questions pertaining to discrepancies between ability and performance, private testing may provide more relevant information.

    There are several considerations when selecting a test administrator. The tester should

    1. be licensed with the ability to administer protected tests thus ensuring validity;

    2. have experience in testing gifted children;

    3. have a large number of assessment tools that includes the latest versions of selected instruments; and

    4. should be able to suggest specific services that address a child's individual needs.

    To locate a qualified tester in your area, contact departments of psychology or professors of gifted child education at local colleges and universities. Word of mouth from other parents can be of help as is becoming affiliated with state and local organizations that focus on gifted children.

    Selecting the Test

    Tests should be selected that will draw on the strengths of the child. Of special consideration is the degree of verbal content on a test. Tests with significant verbal content should be used with caution when assessing linguistically and culturally diverse students. Ideally, a variety of information related to achievement, aptitude, and intelligence should be collected.

    • Achievement Tests—measures what a child knows or understands about a content area (i.e., math). Commonly administered achievement tests include: Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS); California Achievement Test (CAT); and the Stanford Achievement Test. The ACT Assessment used for college entrance falls under the category of an achievement test. 
    • Aptitude Tests—Predict future performance in a particular domain. Examples of such tests include: SAT Reasoning Test (SAT); and the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT). 
    • Intelligence Tests—samples behavior already learned in an attempt to predict future learning. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV); the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales-Fifth Edition (SB-V); and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) are examples of IQ measures.

    In some cases, diagnostic tests may also be used to assess learning disabilities, cognitive difficulties, or emotional disorders (i.e., ADHD, dysgraphia, visual motor deficits).

    Understanding Testing Lingo

    Validity and Reliability

    The instruments selected should be valid and reliable. Information relating to validity and reliability studies can be found in the instruments technical manual, on the publisher's Web site, or in test review publications.

    Validity refers to the degree in which an instrument measures what it purports to measure. Three types of validity are typically reported.

    • Content Validity—the degree to which the questions on the test adequately cover or are representative of the domain (intelligence, creativity, leadership, etc.) under consideration. 
    • Construct Validity—the degree to which an instrument measures the domain or construct that is purports to measure. 
    • Criterion-Predictive Validity—the degree to which the test can predict performance on another measure that assesses the same area in a different way.

    Reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable over time in measuring what it is intended to measure.

    Norming Samples

    Norming samples used should be representative of the most recent census data, for this reason, tests that have not been renormed in more than 10 years should be avoided. The demographics of the students being tested should to the greatest extent possible match those of the norming sample.


    Various types of scores are provided on assessments. These might include raw scores, standard scores, grade- and age-equivalent scores, percentile ranks, and stanines.

    • Raw Scores—the number of items answered correctly on the test. These scores are not comparable across tests and generally provide little information since they are not placed in any sort of context. 
    • Standard Scores—are basically raw scores that have been translated using a conversion table provided with the test so that a student's performance can be compared to others of the same age or grade level. Unlike percentile ranks, standard scores are expressed in standard deviation units on a normal curve and are comparable across tests. 
    • Grade- and Age-Equivalent Scores—estimates that are used to describe a student's score in terms of a grade or age level in which the student is functioning. These scores are often misinterpreted. For example, if a fourth grade student receives a grade equivalent score of 8.1 on the reading portion of a grade-level achievement test, this does not mean the student is reading at the eighth grade level. It means that this student reads fourth grade material as well as the average eighth grader would read it. 
    • Percentile Ranks—indicates the percentage of others that the student did better than on the test. For example, a person scoring at the 88th percentile, did better than 88 percent of those in the norming sample. 
    • Stanines—short for standard nine, these scores range from 1 to 9. A stanine of 1, 2, or 3 is considered below average whereas stanine scores of 7, 8, or 9 are above average. 

    Commonly Used Instruments

    Following is a listing of some tests commonly used to assess ability or screen for potential giftedness. Additional listings can be found using the Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook or the Educational Testing Service's database.

          Assesses abilities in reasoning and problem
          Grades K-12
          Riverside Publishing

          Evaluates cognitive processing
          Ages 5 to 17
          Riverside Publishing

          Measures both general intelligence and discrete ability areas
          Ages 6 to 17
          PRO-ED, Inc.

          Measures cognitive abilities and achievement.
          Ages 2.6 to 17.11

          Estimates intellectual ability from human figure drawings
          Ages 4 to 89
          Western Psychological Services

          Measures nonverbal reasoning abilities
          Ages 6 to 90
          PRO-ED, Inc.

          A norm-referenced instrument; assesses characteristics, skills, and talents of gifted
          Ages 5 to 18
          PRO-ED, Inc.

          Designed to help identify gifted students
          Grades K-12
          Hawthorne Educational Services, Inc.

          Designed to assess observable student behaviors indicating giftedness

          Measures processing and cognitive ability
          Ages 3 to 18
          American Guidance Service, Inc.

          Measure of verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability
          Ages 4 to 90
          American Guidance Service, Inc.

          Identifies giftedness in music, art, and leadership
          Scholastic Testing Service, Inc.

          Measures academic potential by assessing cognitive skills related to the learning process
          Scholastic Testing Service, Inc.

          Assess strengths and weaknesses in the area of leadership
          PRO-ED, Inc.

          A nonverbal cognitive assessment
          Stoelting Co.

          Assesses nonverbal reasoning abilities
          Ages 5 to 17

          Nonverbal group measure of reasoning and problem solving
          Grades K-12
          Harcourt Assessment

          Measures abstract thinking and reasoning ability
          Grades K-12
          Harcourt Assessment

          Measures academic achievement
          Ages 5 to 22
          American Guidance Service, Inc.

          Designed for use in obtaining a rating of the student's facility in using process skills that develop ability to think, reason, and search for knowledge independently and to communicate and interact effectively with all members of society. PRO-ED, Inc.