Preparing Your Child for an Intelligence (IQ) Test

This post was originally published on 11/17/2010 and updated on 11/01/2021


Many private schools and advanced academic programs require children to take an intelligence test as part of the admissions process.  Often, when parents hear that their child needs to take an intelligence test that will be factored into the admissions decision, they assume that there is specific information their child needs to know in order to do well.  However, for two important reasons, it truly is not possible to study in the traditional sense for an intelligence test.  First, all of the specific test questions are confidential and cannot be accessed by the public.  Second, rather than asking fact-based questions, intelligence tests generally assess reasoning and problem-solving skills and require children to apply knowledge in novel situations.  


The Wechsler scales, including the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Fifth Edition (WISC-V) for children aged 6 to 16, are the most commonly used intelligence tests.  Although several publications advertise themselves as “study materials for the WISC-V”, there is no research to demonstrate that these (or other) publications lead to higher scores on the actual test.  This is because the tests assess reasoning and problem-solving skills that develop over time.  Thus, rather than teaching your child specific information that will most likely not be useful on the test, the best way to help your child prepare for an intelligence test, such as the WISC-V, is to support your child every day in observing, problem-solving, thinking critically, and in being persistent on tasks.  These kinds of cognitive skills are what the WISC-V is all about. 


So, if formal study sessions are not needed, what can you do to help your child prepare for an intelligence test?  Most importantly, you can help your child be at the “top of his/her game” on the day of the test.  This means your child should be well-rested, have a good breakfast, and be knowledgeable about what to expect.  In order to help them know what to expect, it is recommended that parents talk with their child before the test and explain several key points.  You can tell them that “the test is a set of fun and unique tasks that can help us understand how you think about things.”  Let them know that “the only thing you need to do is do your best.  If you have any questions, it’s okay to ask.  Try to stay calm and give your best guesses.”  Prepare them for the fact that “the test is supposed to get more difficult over time and you are not expected to know all of the answers.”  Lastly, in order to minimize test anxiety, try to de-emphasize the possible implications of their test scores. 


The psychologists at FamilyFirst have many years of expertise in administering intelligence tests to individuals of all ages.  If you have any additional questions and/or want to schedule an IQ test for your child, please feel free to give us a call.


Kelly H. Theis, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist