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How Can I Prepare My Child for Testing?

by Aimee Yermish, Educational Therapist

Question: My child will take an IQ test next week as part of an entrance exam to a school for gifted kids.  Where can I could get access to any sample questions from the test?

Answer: You most certainly cannot. The test questions are held in the deepest confidentiality, and having access to them ahead of time is considered cheating. You cannot retake most of these tests within a year, because of the likelihood of remembering elements (the amount of overlap of the WPPSI-III with the WISC-III has been recently reduced to allow for kids to be tested with both, which can be a good thing for our kids who will ceiling the WPPSI-III at the older end of the age range).

The question types are not considered confidential, but it's kind of bad form to be noising them around, because pushy parents will in fact prep their kids by making up similar questions.  Now, if you want to be able to prepare your child for the experience of the test, there I can help you. There are some important things that kids should know about the tests before they take them.

"The psychologist is going to give you a whole bunch of different tests to learn more about how you think. Some of the tests will seem silly, some will seem like games, some more like schoolwork, some will seem strange, and some will seem familiar, but she'll give you all of the instructions you need. If there's something you don't understand, it's okay to ask questions, although depending upon the question you ask, she may or may not be able to answer it. She has rules about what she is allowed to say and how she is allowed to say it, but she'll do her best to make sure you understand.

"Most of the tests will start off very easy, so easy that you might be tempted to give silly answers. If you give a silly answer, even if you know the right one, she has to mark it wrong and give you even easier questions, so it's important that you give the best answers you know. They may be so easy at the start that you get bored, but it's important to stay focused and do your best. Then, the questions will get harder and harder, until they're really hard and you aren't sure what the answers are. Don't give up when you think it's too hard or you think you're making mistakes, just stay calm and give your best guesses. The questions are supposed to get so hard that even very smart older kids can't get them right all of the time, and even grownups have trouble with some of them. When it gets absolutely completely too hard for you, the psychologist will stop that test and go on to a different one. She has rules about when she has to stop, so you don't need to tell her."

"Sometimes you might know a bunch of different right answers to the question. That's okay, but you should probably give the one most kids would think of first. You can give the more fun answers and explain yourself afterwards."

Many times, gifted kids mess themselves up by not paying attention to the easy elements, so their total score gets reduced. Also, many perfectionist kids freak out and stop trying when they think they're starting to make mistakes, causing them to ceiling out long before they should (in this case, by "hit the ceiling" I mean get the number of questions wrong in a row that makes the psychologist have to stop the testing, not get so many questions right that they are not scorable with that test).

[Editor's note: these two paragraphs modified to remove any similarity to actual test IQ  questions.]  Sometimes our kids get so excited over knowing weird technicalities that they give answers that are not on the list of correct answers. For instance, if the psychologist were to ask how many planets there are, 9 would probably be the correct answer.  But if the child were to say 10, since Pluto and Charon are often considered twin planets, that answer might not be allowed.  Or the child were to say 8 planets, since Pluto and Charon are now thought not to be planets, but Kupier Belt objects, that answer may not be allowed. Or, given the wording of the question, the child might say that there are an infinite number of planets.  It's true, the question did not ask "in our solar system," and that makes the answer infinite, in our current understanding.

Depending upon how the child gave the answer, the psychologist might not even be allowed to ask you for a clarification, but would simply have to mark it wrong.  So give the "correct" answer first, and then you can discuss whether or not you agree with that.  Don't say, "Eight," say, "We learned in school that there are 9 planets in our solar system, but recently scientists discovered that Pluto and its supposed moon, Charon, are not really planets, but large Kupier Belt objects."  That second formulation makes it clear that the child isn't wrong, just possibly more right. Similarly, if the child were asked "What is this?" and the psychologist showed a picture of a bureau or dresser, don't show off by calling it a chiffarobe or a cabinet, even if those are technically correct. Just say a normal answer.

This article may be reprinted in its entirety, with the author's name and copyright included.  It may not be sold or used for profit; for other permissions, please contact the author.

2002 Aimee Yermish 

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