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Current Use of the
Stanford Binet, Form L-M

by Barbara Gilman, M.S. and Annette Revel, M.A.
Used with permission

The Gifted Development Center uses the Stanford -Binet Scale of Intelligence, Form L-M as a supplemental test instrument. Although there are more recently normed tests, those who work with the highly and profoundly gifted feel that it is the best test for locating children with intellectual abilities above the 99th percentile. Among those professionals who consider the use of the L-M as current accepted practice are Dr. Deirdre Lovecky in Rhode Island, Dr. Sylvia Rimm and Dr. Bruce Kline in Ohio, Dr. Brian Start in Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Karen Rogers and Dr. Stuart Dansinger in Minnesota, Dr. Martha Morelock in Massachusetts, Dr. Julia Osborn in New York, Dr. James Webb in Arizona, Dr. Sheila Vaughan of the Mirman School in California, Elizabeth Meckstroth in Illinois, Melody Wood in Maine, Kathi Kearney in Iowa and The Los Angeles Unified School District. All professionals who work with the highly gifted should be aware that the publishers of the Stanford-Binet scales now support the continued use of the Stanford-Binet, Form L-M.

A Wechsler test (WPPSI-R or WISC-III) is usually administered first, as such tests are widely accepted by a variety of schools, and the WISC-III provides valuable diagnostic information about the child's abilities. When a child performs at the 99th percentile on 2 or more of the Verbal Comprehension subtests, the Center recommends that the L-M be used as an additional assessment, to lift the ceiling and allow the child's strengths to be fully revealed.

The L-M was actually designed, among other things, to locate the highly gifted. There are items on this test that would be difficult even for many adults. The L-M emphasizes abstract reasoning ability, while the newer tests increasingly emphasize speeded answers and perceptual and visual-motor abilities. The Wechsler tests and the L-M's successor, the Stanford-Binet, Fourth Edition (released in 1986) have considerably lower ceilings than the L-M. They were designed to meet the needs of children who score in the middle 95%.

Elizabeth Hagen, one of the developers of the Stanford-Binet, Revision IV, stated in an interview that, "the upper one percent of individuals is usually not well differentiated by our present tests" (in Silverman, 1986, p. 171). Dr. Miraca Gross (1993), author of Extraordinarily Gifted Children, wrote in the International Handbook of Research and Development of Giftedness and Talent, "The many problems associated with [The Stanford- Binet, Revision IV] have led psychologists with a special interest in the highly gifted to recommend that the Stanford-Binet L-M ... be retained for use with children who are suspected of being highly able" (1993).

Giving a child out-of-level testing after scoring at the ceiling of a test is common practice. Talent searches utilize this approach with over 150,000 gifted students annually. Seventh and eighth grade students who score at the 95th (or 97th) percentile in mathematics and reading in grade-level assessments take the SAT or ACT as an above-level test. Some score 200 and others score as high as entering M.I.T. or Stanford students. Before the above-level testing, two students with identical achievement test scores may appear similar to teachers, but the College Board exams reveal they have widely different academic needs. Stanley (1990), who created the talent search concept, considers the L-M the original above-level test.

Clinicians working with extremely gifted children need a test with a higher ceiling in order to make appropriate educational recommendations. Whereas, previously, a score of 145 on an L-M would have resulted in different recommendations from a score of 160 or 190, the highest scoring children on current tests frequently score in the 140s, with a large range of abilities receiving approximately the same score. Administering an L-M along with a current test raises the ceiling and adds the benefit of many decades of score interpretation. Some children score similarly on a Wechsler test and an L-M, while others have dramatically different scores. For example, the child who scores 145 on both a WISC-III and an L-M would flourish in a school for the gifted, but might also be successful taking honors classes, extra enrichment courses, and, perhaps, skipping a grade. However, the child who scores 145 on a WISC-III and 195 on an L-M may have serious difficulty adjusting to school and will likely have different peer needs. Radical acceleration may be needed to accommodate fast-paced learning and support the child's motivation to learn. Even when placed in a school for the gifted, such a child may not be a "good fit" with the school's planned curriculum. The high L-M score can help teachers and parents anticipate such needs and support their observations when a child's program appears to need modifications.

Knowledge of a profoundly gifted child's IQ score may also prevent a well-meaning doctor or psychologist's misdiagnosis of attentional and personality disorders. Children in this range tend to have high energy levels and heightened emotional intensity.

The L-M was last normed in 1972. This has caused some confusion about whether a large discrepancy between a current Wechsler test score and a Stanford-Binet L-M score is due solely to the lack of current normative data. Based on Flynn's (1984) well known meta- analysis that general intelligence is increasing at a rate of 1/3 of an IQ point per year, the resulting number of points (currently eight to nine) might be considered a reasonable estimation of the portion of the discrepancy due to the old norms. However, there is some question as to whether the Flynn effect applies to the gifted.

In a recent letter to Linda Silverman, Director of the Gifted Development Center, John D. Wasserman, Director of Psychological Assessments at Riverside Publishing, elaborated this point: "Although we standardly recommend that the most contemporary norms be utilized for any test, it has not been effectively demonstrated that phenomena such as the Flynn effect (the notion that norms become obsolete over time due to improvements in population intelligence) apply to changes in abilities at the extreme ranges (i.e., for individuals at very high or very low levels of ability). Indeed, there are sound statistical reasons for assuming that there may only be very minimal changes at the extremes of ability and that most of the changes in question occur for children and adults near the population mean" (J.D. Wasserman, personal communication, December 23, 1997).

Even if the Flynn effect were applicable, it accounts for less than 10 IQ points. The remainder of the discrepancy reflects the higher level of abilities revealed on a test with a considerably higher ceiling. Clearly, where large discrepancies occur, only a small portion of the variation is attributable to norms. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to abandon, due to dated norms, the only major test capable of assessing the highly gifted population and lose the critical clinical information that it has to offer.

Efforts are underway to revamp and renorm the Binet Scale so that it is more useful with children at both extremes of the ability continuum. Linda Silverman has been invited to serve on the panel of leading psychologists who will guide the revision. In his letter to Linda Silverman, Wasserman states, "Our careful review of papers related to intelligence testing suggests that your research has been precisely on target in many important respects, such as the need for substantially improved assessment of gifted and mentally retarded individuals with allowances made for the trimodal distribution of intelligence in the general population" (J.D. Wasserman, personal communication, December 23, 1997). The plan for the Fifth Edition includes a return to the developmental age-scale format of the L-M edition

The fifth edition of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Binet V) should be available in approximately 3 years. Until that time, Riverside Publishing has indicated that it is permissible to use the L-M for assessing children at both ends of the IQ continuum, since the ceilings on other instruments are too low for the highly and profoundly gifted, and the floors too high to differentiate children in the severely and profoundly retarded ranges. Wasserman writes, "...Form L-M is one of the few reasonable options given the dearth of intelligence tests with sufficient ceiling to assess extremely gifted children." Recent Riverside Publishing catalogs recommended that the L-M not be used to rank order children but, rather, that it should be used "primarily for research purposes." This phrase is being removed from the 1998 catalog so that practitioners utilizing the L-M for the extremely gifted will not be challenged on scientific grounds. "We consider your continued use of Form L-M for gifted assessment to be reasonable and sound, based upon an informed knowledge of the literature" (J.D. Wasserman, personal communication, December 23, 1997).


Flynn, J. J. (1984) . The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 29-51.

Gross, M.U.M. (1993). Nurturing the talents of exceptionally gifted individuals. In K. Heller, F. Monks, & A. H. Passow (Eds.), The international handbook of research and development of giftedness and talent (pp. 473-490). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.

Silverman, L. K. (1986). An interview with Elizabeth Hagen: Giftedness, intelligence and the new Stanford-Binet. Roeper Review, 8, 168-171.

Stanley, J.C. (1990). Leta Hollingworth's contributions to above-level testing of the gifted. Roeper Review, 12, 166-171.

Barbara Gilman, M.S., supervises training in assessment at the Gifted Development Center in Denver. She is a longtime advocate for the gifted and was one of the founders of a charter school for high ability students.
Annette Revel, M.A., assesses and counsels gifted children at the Gifted Development Center. She also researches assessment of the highly gifted.

Barbara Gilman, M.S. and Annette Revel, M.A.


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