Intelligence Assessments: Preparing your Child to Score Their Best

As someone who has been in the field of educational placement for over 20 years, I am asked every week the same question: “What steps can I take to make sure my child scores highly on their upcoming IQ assessment?

This is not an easy question to answer succinctly.  For starters, IQ tests are in general something you cannot study for.  I often explain to parents how IQ tests are designed to measure one’s ability to think and reason, commonly both with and without the use of words.  This is why puzzle solving, memory items, picture or pattern matching, and both verbal and visual analogies are common to IQ tests.  Short of sitting down and memorizing the dictionary from front to back for vocabulary items, there really is no way to study for an IQ test.

That being said, there are some tips I do offer parents who want to ensure their child performs well.  My personal observation is that IQ scores tend to vary widely, especially among younger children who may lack the maturity to sit still for the examination or lack the motivation to perform well.

Variability within a stated confidence interval is to be expected.  A confidence interval of 90% or 95% is standard practice to list on the assessment report, indicating that the psychologist is confident if retested the scores would land within a margin of error, which is generally a band of about 10 points at the 90% confidence interval or 15 points at the 95% confidence interval.

In 2007, researchers at the University of Florida found that overall mean scores for the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) was significantly higher than on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children−Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). While the WISC-IV is among the most common IQ tests administered, the RIAS is beginning to gain acceptance.  If your child gifted program accepts the RIAS for determining giftedness, you might consider looking into this as an option. Depending on the psychologist performing the assessment, they may be able to give you additional insight regarding which IQ test is best for your child.

Even within two tests that produce equivalent mean IQ scores in randomized samples, one test might require a skill that the child has not mastered.  For example, if a child has fine motor issues, the block design, symbol search, and coding subtests on the WISC-IV may not be appropriate.  Additionally, if a child is verbally shy, an IQ tests that only requires one-word responses may be preferable.  If the psychologist testing your child can spend some time reviewing you child’s strengths and relative weaknesses, they may be able to match you child with the best suited test for your child’s individualize needs.

Factors that can influence your child’s IQ score can include:

  • Motivation to perform
  • Duration and quality of sleep
  • The child’s general disposition and mood that particular day
  • Testing conditions including distractions in the room and rapport with tester.
  • Test anxiety or ADHD.
  • Ergonomics of testing environment (chair and table height is appropriate for the child).

To ensure that your child performs well on their upcoming IQ test you can start off by making sure they get a good night’s sleep.  Make sure all prescription lenses and hearing devices if required are available.  If you child has ADD / ADHD ensure they have taken all medications as prescribed.

If you child is taking an assessment where writing or working with blocks is required, they need to have full use of their hands and arms.  In other words if your child has a broken arm in a cast then it’s best to postpone the test until they have fully recovered.

Discuss the test with your child and try to get them excited about it.  Parents might phrase their explanation of the test to their child as, “You are going to play a number of games today, like working with blocks and answering questions.  It’s going to be fun and challenging, so be sure to do your very best!”

It’s also a good idea to just take it easy the day before the test.  In other words, don’t plan the test the day after an all-day hiking or theme park excursion.  Make sure the child is well rested and ready to go.  Also, to help with motivation you might want to take them to their favorite restaurant or play area after they take the test on the condition that, “you try your very best on all items.”  As there is no penalty for guessing on any item for many of the IQ assessments, children should know that it’s better to guess if you don’t know the answer rather than just saying, “I don’t know.”


Edwards, O. & Paulin, R. (2007). Referred students’ performance on the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children−Fourth Edition.  Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 25(4), 334-340.

Dr. Mike Bishop is an independent practice school psychologist with over 20 years’ experience administering psycho-educational assessments.  He has an educational consulting practice based in Tampa, Florida.  Dr. Bishop specializes in giftedness and helping high achieving students identify and gain acceptance into suitable educational environments.  Dr. Bishop has assisted hundreds of young people gain admission into Florida area gifted programs, Duke TIP, and MENSA. You can learn more about Dr. Bishop and his services at:

One thought on “Intelligence Assessments: Preparing your Child to Score Their Best”

  1. Relaxation is the OIL in the Machinery of your thinking. Columbia University (NYC) study revealed “planned relaxation” improved performance on IQ and Creativity Measures.

    One minute test taking tips– are offered as a “what to do on Monday” test prep “kit.” Please go to website

    Dr. Ron Rubenzer EDD, MA, Mph, MSE

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