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Identifying gifted children and dyslexia early diagnosis: risk of cheating on IQ tests

Marco Ripà
sPIqr Society Founder Email:

In this paper we provide a proposal to make an early screening of gifted children using a low-cost approach and at the same time investigating possible dyslexia in pupils we are testing. This will be obtained through the combination of two different types of IQ tests: the Raven’s Matrices and the WISC. For children younger than 9, we will also use eight subscales of the WISC-IV to discover a possibility of specific comorbidities. The aforementioned approach could (abstractly) also be used to discover hints of creative potential in a given subject, putting the IQ cut-off around +1.33 standard deviations from the expected mean (age corrected IQ≥120, σ=15). We are able to differentiate between three age groups (7-11, 12-13, 14-16) by making use of separate forms of the Raven’s Matrices for each of them and providing an increased ceiling for IQ estimation. Finally, we present a particular example of IQ growth by age, by taking one highly gifted boy who took a wide set of supervised and high range IQ tests as case study.

gifted children, giftedness screening, school, IQ, learning disabilities, standardized tests, cheating, Italy.


Around 10% of Italian children between 6 and 10 are affected by dyslexia and this number becomes higher in middle school. They find it difficult to read, write, make calculations. Reading disability is the most common form of dyslexia and it is not correlated with IQ, it is not caused by environmental factors nor psychological ones, sensorial deficits or neurological deficiencies [1]. It is necessary to discover this learning disability in time, if we want to reduce its impact on a child’s future: the worthy age for an appropriate diagnosis is 6 years old, but the screening is convenient until the age of 9. For this purpose, we have constructed a fast and relatively inexpensive method to search for giftedness in children who fall in the age range 7-16, looking for a possible learning disability (in particular dyslexia) with specific regard to children younger than 9. This method is based on a specific combination of two different types of IQ tests (Raven plus WISC), but it could easily be adapted to different targets. For example, we could try to investigate about creativity potential (even if it is not so simple to achieve a good indicator for this purpose) or underachieving problems (often related to hyperactivity). For children/adolescents in the age group 10-16, we are able to discriminate deeper and deeper in the IQ screening as the age grows. This let us to combine a collective IQ test with an individual one (or a high range IQ test), increasing the ceiling of our research and avoiding false positive cases. The IQ growth during early age is not linear, and it is not simple to detect highly (or profoundly) giftedness adolescence. To explain which factors involve great high IQ performances, we present a significant case study. Many famous supervised IQ tests, such as Stanford Binet (every version), WISC and WAIS, if used in the spirit of searching for high cognitive performances, suffer from a considerable risk of cheating. The risk reduction is perhaps the greatest advantage of qualitative high range IQ tests, if we are interested in validating brilliant high IQ performances. Despite of this benefit, high range tests implementation suffers from other kinds of problems [2]. Waiting for the dream realization of dynamics IQ tests (something like the quantum computers coming), we can try to theorize fully culture fair high IQ tests, using a particular method to obtain sequences from a given set of integer sequences via public rules. This my idea has to be further investigated in the future and it will be necessary to go deeper in the analysis if we want to create reliable IQ tests with a valid norm.

Education is a fundamental human right and it shall be suitable to individual needs and capabilities as much as possible. With specific regards to giftedness, it is vital to recognize in time human capital if we want to safeguard it, “nurturing talent-growing potential”. The first step in this direction is to train teachers to discover gifted children and to intervene in the most correct way (both individually and in classroom). Sometimes it is not simple to interact with gifted pupils, especially when a teacher has to respond to their existential questions plus a lot of curiosities and inquisitiveness. By supporting individual capabilities, we contribute to individual psychical good health, but there is more: this is a real strategic resource, direct to social development and human progress. Investing on talent will

3 bring benefits not only to economy, innovation and employment, but will also help social cohesion, progress and competitiveness, promoting the growth of the Knowledge Society. The standard approach to detect giftedness at early age, which I have theorized, is based on the combined use of two different standardized high IQ tests (a collective spatial test – i.e. Raven’s Matrices – plus an individual one). The Raven’s Matrices types that we have to use will be different according to the given age range we are considering: Coloured Progressive Matrices for 7-11 years old children, Standard Progressive Matrices for the 12-13 years old subset or Advanced Progressive Matrices otherwise. For every pupil younger than 9, we will add, at least, eight verbal-memory-arithmetic subtests of the WISC-IV (similarities, digit span, coding, vocabulary, letter-number sequencing, comprehension, arithmetic, word reasoning), searching for substantial variances between the performances achieved on the two different tests. This could represent a good hint for more detailed individual and personalized tests, trying to reveal specific comorbidities such as dyslexia, ADHD [3], dyscalculia, etc. For children above 9, we are firstly interested in detecting giftedness, so we will perform a preliminary screening using Raven’s Matrices, taking into consideration only results at or above the 90th percentile (the bottom level compatible with giftedness). For these 120+ IQ children (σ=15), we will administer the WISCIV to confirm the giftedness diagnosis, also giving a more detailed measurement of the theoretical/potential IQ of the subject. The ceilings grow-up as the age raises, in particular: 7-11→IQ 120-135, 12-13→IQ 125140 and 14-16→IQ 140-160 (in the range 7-12 years we calculate the theoretical IQ basing on the raw score obtained in the given test and on the age in months of the subject, because there is a huge cognitive development during this period, while for the other groups we use the age in years). This approach could be switched to specific underachieving research, adding to Raven’s Matrices another collective tool (e.g. SDAI or SCOD). Moreover, a 120+ IQ score represents a partial indication of a creative potential above the mean, since 1.33+ SD IQs are positively correlated with creativity.

Paul Cooijmans’ (founder of Glia and GIGA societies) study about high IQ development by age is very useful in the spirit of better understanding the ceiling of our approach: The upper bounds that we have previously estimated are based on my personal experience in the high IQ community, dealing with several gifted children and teenagers [4].
The following data refer to a highly gifted friend, previously very active in the high IQ community, who took a lot of supervised and high range IQ tests during his adolescence. His IQ development enables us to better understand the cognitive ability development of a very high IQ teenager. Taken tests list (converted to σ=15) Month-Year:

RAPM-Set II: raw 35/36, 08-2009; Isis Test: IQ 156, 08-2009; Cerebrals International Contest 2009: 88 composite (according to Dr. Jouve IQ between 153-161), 08-2009; Advanced Spatial Intelligence Test: IQ 147, 07-2009; Hieroglyphica: IQ 146, 05-2009; Compactica: IQ 150, 03-2009; SLSE48: IQ 154, 12-2008; SLSE I: IQ 148, 12-2008; Logima Strictica 36: IQ 143, 10-2008; Cooijmans Intelligence Test: IQ 143, 09-2008; Exactica: IQ 158 (raw 49/80), 08-2008;

4 Simplex: IQ 138, 07-2008; Nemesis Test: IQ 141, 04-2008; Plane&Space&Numbers: IQ 153, 03-2008; CFNSE-D: 99.914% (age corrected) – 99.89% (adult population), 11-2007; GET-γ: IQ 144 – age corrected, 08-2007; The Sùnesis Test: IQ 145.45, 04-2007; Median IQ 155, 06-2006. [Average score: IQ 147 (σ=15)] IQ scores are based on norms by the test author, if available.
Note: Declining of test scores in the period 05/10-2008 could have been caused because of some personal problems by the subject. These may have influenced his cognitive abilities or his attention span with the consequence of lower scores.

age (years) 11-12 12-13 15-16 16-17 17-18

year 2003 2004 2007 2008 2009

IQ mean (σ=15) 117,0 130,0 145,5 147,3 149,5

Number of tests taken 1 1 3 8 4

Table 1: A particular example of IQ growth by age.

Figure 1: Logarithmic interpolation of the IQ mean (Table 1) by age.

My IQ growth has been quite similar to the one above.
Most of the standardized and supervised IQ tests are not without risk if we want to use them for giftedness screening (even if they represent the best choice for average people’s reasoning skills evaluation, or IQ deficit diagnosis). It is regrettable that tests like the WAIS or Stanford Binet (every version) are sold at the moment on eBay for 300€-1000€.


Figure 2: The results of a search for professional IQ tests on eBay, using as keyword “Stanford Binet”.


Figure 3: The results of a search for professional IQ tests on eBay, using as keyword “IQ test”.

It is a joke to cheat on them, for example, achieving a perfect score under the supervision of a serious psychologist and in front of the Media too. Last year a famous episode of cheating occurred on the Cattell Culture Fair III (form A+B) with a boy who got a perfect score under the television eye, but that was not able to reach a 130 (σ=15) performance on a similar test, i.e. Raven’s Advanced Matrices with a time limit of 60 minutes [5]. One possible solution, to reduce this risk of cheating, is to use qualitative high range IQ tests, even if episodes of cheating also occurred on them (for example the Get-γ test compromised in 2010). A new idea to create totally culture free numerical high IQ tests, which I have had recently had, is based on a method to construct new integer sequences starting from a given and explicit set of sequences. The related solving of problems will be linked to inference and retro-analytical reasoning, similar to the retrograde analysis of chess problems [6].

Gifted students’ screening is very important in order to invest in the future from a meritocratic perspective, gaining individual richness from youths’ talents valorization.

7 An efficient strategy, to perform a preliminary talent screening, is to look for children’s IQ. For those ones under 10, as a preliminary indicator, it is abstractly possible to adopt an adult IQ test, distinguishing every performance above the adult mean on that test. The approach described in the present paper is based on the combination of a collective and culture free spatial test with an individual test (WISC-IV). This strategy assures a cheaper and faster method than administrating WISC-IV for every pupil: a good way to search for creative children and gifted ones. In fact, we can easily discriminate children at or above the canonical gifted level (IQ +2 SD from the mean) setting the Raven’s test to be bound at 120 (σ=15) and the WISC-IV cut-off at 130 [7]. A 120+ IQ could be a good indicator for creative potential by itself and students above 120 would be tested again using different solutions/tools. If necessary, children who suffer from ceiling effects on the Raven and WISC-IV tests could be investigated again using specifically designed high range IQ tests. To this end, it is essential to keep in mind that “There are all sorts of confounding variables that give rise to differences in scores; therefore, it is always advisable to be skeptical of the results you obtain.” [8] For pupils below 9, we are able to point out related learning disabilities too (dyslexia in primis), without forgetting the possibility that a child with disability could be a very gifted/talented little boy as well.

[1] AVKO Education Research Foundation, What is dyslexia?, Retrieved 5 July 2010.

[2] P. Cooijmans, Recommendations for conducting high-range intelligence tests (2010). [3] J. Nair , U. Ehimare ,B. D. Beitman, S. S. Nair and A. Lavin, Clinical review: evidence-based diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children. Mo Med, 103, pp. 617–621 (2006). [4] A. Reiss, M. Abrams, H. Singer, J. Ross and M. Denckla, Brain development, gender and IQ in children. A volumetric imaging study. Brain, 119, pp. 1763-1774 (1996). [5] 60 Minutes: Smarty Pants, Air date: 21/05/10 (7:30).

[6] O. Janko, The retrograde analysis corner (2010).

[7] R. de la Jara, IQ percentile and rarity chart.

[8] P. Laurent, Brief thoughts on the norms in high-range IQ tests. Criticism and self-criticism. (2011).