[LMB] OT: IQ Tests

Jelbelser jelbelser at comcast.net
Sat Jun 26 01:37:11 BST 2021

Well designed, skillfully administered, individual Q tests do measure some things. Sometimes they even measure what they purport to measure. Sometimes. And there are a lot of caveats about how accurate their results are in individual cases. They can show individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses. For some people the spread between subtest scores is so great that a single, composite score is invalid. It is unlikely that a person can score significantly higher than their true cognitive ability, but quite likely that they scored lower. 

Unless things have changed in the decades since I was a special ed teacher, IQ evaluations are not considered valid under the age of 5, except in a ballpark, hedged way. I’ve seen the cut-offs between levels change by redefining the underlying statistics. And IQ testing is very much a statistical game.

To be diagnosed as mentally retarded,  a person must not only score below whatever the cut-off is on an individually administered IQ test, but also score below a certain point on a measure of adaptive behavior. This is an assessment of how that person functions in everyday life compared to what is expected of someone of that age in that culture. So someone who blows an IQ test but is able to do whatever is expected cannot be identified as mentally retarded.

Both of my children have had IQ tests administered as part of neuropsych evaluations (neither is neurotypical and there were concerns testing would help elucidate). My son scored quite well, but the report included question, based on the tester’s observations, that the score reported was lower that his true IQ.

In the 1960s, as today, there was concern about how accurate various testing was for non-White people. The College Board designed an alternative SAT attempting to correct for this. To test this test, it was administered to seniors in the D.C. public schools (at that time I believe 96% black). They could not discriminate by administering it only to non-White kids, so we all took it. I remember the reading comprehension section had a passage about patching walls. There was one of those convoluted following directions test. I can’t remember the rest. Scores were given in quintiles. I scored in the top quintile. I was getting a lot of mail from colleges wanting me. I was also a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. It was hard to tell which list most of the recruitment was from, but the college that wanted Miss Lily-White Me for my “black experience” was a give-away. I don’t think anything came of the College Board’s test.

One of my two great talents is to do much better than I deserve on multiple choice tests, hence the National Merit thing. But I couldn’t do well in fill-in-the-blank, or God help me, an essay test. Recognition, not generation. 

A proper IQ test is all generation and problem-solving.

Janet in TN

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