IQ Testing and Grouping

In defining intelligence, there has always been the question of whether intelligence is measured as a remarkable occurrence or if it has many variables that are combined. For example, is it how “smart” a person is? Or is it their ability to perform well on standardized tests? Are they measuring a person’s intelligence? Or just some arbitrary quantity of the person’s IQ? Or is it a mixture of survival, mathematical, social and other abilities. There are many debates regarding whether measuring intelligence is determined from test scores and results, or if it is measured by the person’s ability to process and problem solve.

Uses of intelligence testing in an educational setting, intelligence and achievement tests are administered routinely to assess individual accomplishment. They are used to improve instruction and curriculum planning. High schools use these tests to assist in the students future educational planning and help decide what college or type of college to attend. Elementary schools utilize screening and testing procedures to help determine readiness for writing and reading placement. Intelligence can be measured, by intelligence tests, among them the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and the Wechsler Scale. These tests are intended to determine an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ). Intelligence tests usually provide an estimate of global cognitive functioning as well as information about functioning within more specific domains. Intelligence tests are quite stable compared to measures of other human traits.

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However, the degree of stability increases with age such that early childhood and preschool measures of intellectual function are far less predictive of later functioning than assessments taken during middle childhood. The stability of intelligence test scores may change as a function due to important environmental factors. Therefore, intelligence test scores are descriptive of a child’s functioning at that point in time when taking a test. The test scores could also be effected by environmental factors, child’s psychiatric status or educational program.

Theories of Process Psychometric Model Psychometric approach is defined as psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits. There are various psychometric approaches to intelligence. The following paragraphs describe three different theorists and their psychometric model. First is Charles Spearman, who believed that intelligence is a combination of two parts. According to his two-factory theory of intelligence, the performance of any intellectual act requires some combination of g, (general intelligence factor) which is available to the same individual to the same degree for all intellectual acts. (Specific factors) or so is specific to that act and varies in strength from one act to another. S is specific knowledge such as verbal reasoning or spatial problem solving. Spearman equated g with mental energy. If one knows how a person performs on one task that is highly saturated with g, one can safely predict a similar level of performance for another highly g saturated task. The prediction of performance on tasks with high s factors is less accurate. Thus, the most important information to have about a person’s intellectual ability is an estimate of their g or mental energy (Plucker 1989).

Guilford’s theory includes 150 abilities, arranged in three dimensions; contents, operations, and products. Guilford’s three-dimensional Structure of Intellect classified intellectual acts into 120 separate categories. These categories are operations dimension, products dimension and material or content dimension. He developed firm convictions regarding the ability of individual difference among people. Guilford believed that intelligence is much too complicated to be subsumed by a few primary mental abilities and g factor. His systematic theory gave rise to what is known as informational-operational psychology. Information-Processing Informational theorists believe human cognition is best understood as the management of information through a system with limited space or resources (Bukato and Daehler 1998). Thurstone’s theory is based on seven primary mental abilities.

In the area of intelligence, his theory maintains that intelligence is made up of several primary mental abilities rather than just the g and s factors. He was among the first to purpose and demonstrate that there are numerous ways in which a person can be intelligent. Thurstone’s Multiple-Factors Theory identified these seven primary mental abilities; Verbal Comprehension, Associative Memory, Word Fluency, Number Facility, Reasoning, Spatial Visualization, and Perceptual Speed. Thurstone’s theory has been used to construct intelligence tests that yield a profile of the individual’s performance on each of the ability tests, rather than general that yield a single score such as an IQ.

Two theorists that promote informational processing models are Sternberg and Gardner. Sternberg’s triarchic theory consists of three parts; cognitive components of intelligence, experience and intelligence, and context of intelligence. They are divided into three major sub-theories: Componential is encoding, combining and comparing stimuli, and evaluating one own performance.

Contextual is the adaptation to one’s environment. One of Sternberg’s most important contributions to intelligence theory has been the redefinition of intelligence to incorporate practical knowledge. As Sternberg insists, “real life is where intelligence operates’ and not in the classroom…The true measure of success is not how well one does in school, but how well one does in life (Trosky, 1998)”. Dr. Howard Garner believed that intelligence is the ability to find and solve problems and create products of value in one’s own culture. Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence (MI) maintains that people often show marked individual differences in their ability to process specific kinds of information (Bukato and Daehler 1998). Gardner originally identified seven such faculties, which he labeled as “intelligences”: Linguistic, Musical, Logico-Mathematical, Spatial, Intra-personal, Inter-personal, and Bodily Kinesthetic. Multiple intelligences theory, is a polarized way of understanding their intellect. Recent advances in cognitive science, developmental psychology and neuroscience suggest that each person’s level of intelligence is actually made up of autonomous faculties that can work individually or in concert with other faculties.

Interpreting and Grouping Methods have three common methods for reporting performance on tests are developmental, percentiles and standard scores. The most common is developmental scores, which are sometimes classified as “mental age” and “grade equivalents,” although many tests provide age-equivalent scores. Many schools show reaching of goals and objectives by utilizing these types of test scores. The strength within developmental scores are that the result is descriptive, meaning it can clearly show the difference in a score. For example hearing that Bob has a mental age of seven years, or a third grade reading level, provides what seems to be a vivid picture of where Bob stands within the rest of the seven year olds.

Percentile scores provide an index of where one stands relative to others on a scale of 1 to 100. A score at the first or 100th percentile does not mean that the person got all of the questions on the test right or wrong. Percentile score mean that the individual performed worse or better than everybody else in the comparison group. Nonetheless, like developmental scores the unit of measure varies across the range. There is relatively little difference between scores at the 40th and 60th percentiles, but a 20 point difference near either tail of the distribution will be substantial.

Standard scores scales have the advantage of being indicative of performance relative to others, but the unit of measure remains constant across the range of scores. Standard score scales report scores in standard deviation units from the normative sample’s mean. Thus, to interpret standard scores, one must know the mean and standard deviation of the scale on which it is based.

Grouping and Validity are one of the most important questions that always come up regarding validity and reliability of these tools are what are the tests really measuring? Are they measuring a person’s intelligence? What about their ability to perform well on standardized tests? Is that alone, another measurement of their intelligence? It is critical to examine the situations around which these tests are given. A person may not have had lunch or breakfast, could possibly be ill that day or is having an anxiety attack about taking the test. Many factors go into the test itself. Other major factors are cultural backgrounds, parenting practices and the home environment are also very important factors. To issue a truly standardized test, the testing environment should be the same for everyone taking the test. No matter how carefully written, standardized intelligence tests have particular cultural biases, and are almost always based on language ability and mathematical prowess.

These traits are important and desirable, but they may not be the only factors in determining a person’s intelligence. Intelligence consists of abilities necessary to adapt to the environment to achieve goals. Psychologists differ on how they define intelligence and exactly which abilities comprise “intelligence.” Intelligence testing provides standardized and objective measures that can be considered useful for evaluating children and adolescents.

Intelligence testing reveals something about the person’s academic type and their general mental abilities. Newer or recently developed test may be better equipped to encompass all of the components necessary to evaluate a person’s intelligence level. It is important to realize the biases, cultural differences and other factors that may interpret a score or result. IQ tests that fail usually fall into two main groups. The first grouping is where the tests assume too much. Examples of this flaw are the assumption that speed is always good, vocabulary is a good indicator of intelligence, and that different test taking environment won’t affect the outcome. The second grouping comes because the tests gauge the wrong items. Examples of this are different culture groups being asked to take the same tests as everyone else, and the fact that the tests ignore so many types of intelligence (like social and physical). These two groupings illustrate where the major failings of popular IQ tests occur and can be used as tools for judging others.

IQ tests are not good indicators for a person’s overall intelligence, but as their use has shown, they are extremely helpful in making predictions about how a person will perform in an academic setting. Perhaps the problem comes in the name intelligence tests when it is obvious this is not what they really are. Keep in mind that the IQ tests of today definitely has its applications in society, but the progress of a child depends on many factors and should not be used to quantify their overall intelligence by any means.


  1. Bukatko, D., and Daehler, M. W., (1998). Child Development: A Thematic Approach
    (3rd ed.). Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. Plucker, J., Ph.D., (1998). Learning and Cognition. Indiana University General Intelligence, Objectively Determined and Measured.
  3. Trosky, S. M., (1989). Contemporary Authors, Vol. 126. Gale Research, Detroit, Mi.

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IQ Testing and Grouping. (2018, Jun 27). Retrieved from