Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - III

by Lizette Campbell (Child and Educational Psychologist) | Disclaimer NOTE - This test is now obsolete - a note on the current WISC-IV test will be published soon.

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (WISC-III) is a battery of tests for 6 to 17 year olds that evaluates intellectual abilities. The WISC-III consists of two scales, the Verbal Scale and the Performance Scale. Each of these scales has several subtests.

The Verbal Scale measures language expression, comprehension, listening, and the ability to apply these skills to solving problems. The examiner gives the questions orally, and the child gives a spoken response. The Performance Scale assesses nonverbal problem solving, perceptual organisation, speed, and visual-motor proficiency. Included are tasks like puzzles, analysis of pictures, imitating designs with blocks, and copying.

Several scores are obtained from the WISC-III. Scale scores (Verbal and Performance IQ scores) are the summary measures of verbal and performance skills, and the Full Scale IQ is an index of general intellectual functioning.

Factor scores and subtest combinations show other indices of cognitive ability. These scores may provide additional hypotheses about learning style and factors underlying scores on the WISC-III. Scale, factor, and subtest scores show strengths and weaknesses when compared to other young people of the same age or to the student's own pattern of development.

A typicial report summary may look like:

IQ Scale / Index

IQ Scale Score


Confidence Interval


Verbal IQ

Performance IQ

Full Scale IQ

Verbal Comprehension Index

Perceptual Organisation Index

Freedom From Distractibility Index

Processing Speed Index

Test scores change over time due to chance, error, and many other factors. A Percentile rank expresses the relative position of a score. For example, a percentile rank of 98 means that a child has scored as well as or better than 98% of students of the same age on that subtest. The confidence interval indicates the probable range of scores which can be expected when this individual is retested. Subtest scaled scores (listed below) range from 1 to 19.

Scaled Score

%ile Rank


Verbal Subtests


General factual knowledge, long term memory


Abstract reasoning, categories, relationships


Attention, concentration, numerical reasoning


Word knowledge, verbal fluency


Social judgement, common sense reasoning

Digit Span

Short term auditory memory, concentration

Performance Subtests

Picture Completion

Alertness to essential detail


Visual motor co-ordination, speed, concentration

Picture Arrangement

Sequential, logical thinking

Block Design

Spatial, abstract visual problem solving

Object Assembly

Visual analysis, construction of objects

Symbol Search

Speed of processing novel information


Fine motor co-ordination, planning, following directions

Intelligence tests like this one are samples of problem solving abilities and learned facts, and are good predictors of future learning and academic success. However, there are several factors that the tests do not measure. For instance, they cannot determine motivation, curiosity, creative talent, work habits, study skills, or achievement in academic subjects. These should also be considered when interpreting the scores in this report.


The information provided is intended to give parents an overview of the Wechsler Scales and how they are used to assess children. The Wechsler tests form one part of an assessment, and other measures may include an early developmental history, formal and informal observation of the child, academic skills testing, measures of personality, emotional and social development, examination of the child's creative and school interests and so on.

It is important to discuss any questions relating to your child's assessment with the psychologist who performs the assessment as they can put the test results and observed behaviours into context with their knowledge of the different tests and of child development. It is also important to realise that, as every child is unique, there cannot be a "recipe" type approach to interpreting their scores or results. This is particularly true of isolating one or two subtest scores.

Did you know?

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
Mary W. Shelley, English Novelist (1797-1851)

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