How to assess gifted & talented students

Written by aleksandra ozimek
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How to assess gifted & talented students
Gifted children can show musical talent at a young age. (piano practice image by Lisa Eastman from

Gifted and talented students are often recognised for their outstanding performance in school and their ability to use their creativity and imagination proactively. Gifted may mean intelligent, but doesn't need to be defined as someone with perfect grades. These children are capable of higher performance and should be offered a level of education that lets them realise their potential. Gifted children have advanced cognitive abilities.

Skill level:

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    Figure out whether the students need an assessment test. Most gifts and talents cay be recognised without tests. Some students, even bright ones, do poorly on tests. However, assessments are helpful in examining reasoning, language and processing skills. The tests also identify attention span and learning style. They explore children's cognitive abilities and help measure academic achievement, strengths, weaknesses and many gifts and talents.

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    Administer the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales-Fifth Edition. This test includes a full-scale IQ test. It identifies strengths and weaknesses, as well as individual learning styles. The Stanford-Binet assesses students on fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing and working memory. The full-scale IQ test is composed of sub-tests and includes verbal and nonverbal skills.

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    Calculate the scores after the test is administered. Scores are determined as standard scores with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Therefore, most students should obtain a full-scale IQ score between 85 and 115. A score of 120 or higher indicates talent or giftedness, according to Duke University's Talent Identification Program. Scores above 120, according to the Gifted Resource Center of New England, indicate the level of giftedness. Students with scores of 120 to 144 are considered gifted, those with scores of 145 to 160 are highly gifted and those with scores of 161 to 180 are exceptionally gifted. Children with scores above 180 are profoundly gifted.

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    Give a standard IQ test, as was done throughout the years, to determine intelligence. These tests can be obtained at schools and online, making them an easy way to assess students. However, these tests do not take into account the student's talents and gifts because they only test verbal and nonverbal skills, or solely academic skills.

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    Use the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, which is the most requested test for assessing gifted students, according to Duke University's Talent Identification Program. It is a strong diagnostic test that assesses verbal and visual-spatial skills in addition to processing speed and memory. It's composed of verbal and nonverbal sections, and identifies verbal intelligence, performance intelligence and language ability, especially helpful in assessing bilingual children.

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    Create your own assessment using a combination of these tests or using other resources. Some gifted and talented students can be identified without testing, but assessments usually help further highlight their specific skills. Use one or more tests, or none, or focus on clinical assessment by a professional, who will identify personal experiences and viewpoints in relation to the child's talents.

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    Use other methods other than intellectual testing to assess gifted students. For example, use social or emotional testing, which consists of showing images, stories or objects to see the child's interpretation of them. There is no right answer to such assessments, because children's reactions may vary. The way they react may show aggressiveness, creativity or inborn talent.

Tips and warnings

  • A psychologist's assessment might not match your assessment of a student. Take further action if you feel a child was not assessed accurately by administering an IQ test, for example.
  • An IQ score does not have to correctly identify a child's gifts or talents. Take into account the student's grades and such talents as playing instruments, reading difficult material or learning languages quickly.

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