Understanding Your Child’s WISC-V Scores

What is the WISC-V?

The Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition, or WISC-V, is an individually administered intelligence test, or IQ test, designed for children between the ages of 6 and 16.  In total, the test only takes about an hour to administer; however, children may take the WISC-V as a part of a more comprehensive neuro-psychological evaluation which may take several hours. 

Who can administer the WISC-V?

The WISC-V must be administered by a licensed psychologist, neuropsychologist, or school psychologist.   In some states, an Educational Diagnostician can administer the WISC-V. The psychologist at your child’s school may administer the WISC-V as part of an IEP evaluation.  In rare cases, they may administer it to identify giftedness; however, schools typically use group-administered screeners for this purpose as it’s more cost effective.  

How much does the WISC-V test cost?

Services for IQ Testing, including the WISC-V, are generally fairly expensive.  If you suspect your child has a learning disability, your insurance company may cover the WISC-V as part of a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment; however, it can be difficult to find a provider that takes insurance, and you may spend months to years on a waitlist.  This varies tremendously based on your location.

You can also request that the school administer the WISC-V as part of an evaluation; however, you may have to “prove” that the information from an IQ test would benefit your child’s education.  Depending upon your child’s school, this may be easy or very difficult.


The cost for private IQ testing services can vary significantly. Fees typically start at around $500 for “just the WISC-V” with a limited report (scores without interpretation) to anywhere from $2000 – $5000 as part of a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment.  

How is the WISC-V Scored?

The WISC-V generates five composite scores including Verbal Comprehension (VCI), Visual Spatial Index (VSI), Fluid Reasoning Index (FRI), Working Memory Index (WMI), and Processing Speed Index (PSI).  A Full-Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) is generated based on seven subtests: Similarities, Vocabulary, Block Design, Matrix Reasoning, Figure Weights, Digit Span, and Coding. When we talk about an individual’s “IQ,” we are generally referring to their FSIQ score.  You may also receive a GAI score which is similar to an FSIQ; however, it places less weight on working memory and processing speed.  Significant discrepancies between a child’s FSIQ and GAI may indicate a learning disability.


The Verbal Comprehension Index measures an individual’s ability to process, assess, and apply word, or verbal, knowledge.  Questions on this section of the test assess: word knowledge acquisition, information retrieval (storing and recalling information), ability to reason/solve verbal problems, and communication of knowledge. 


The Visual Spatial Index measures an individual’s ability to assess visual details and identify visual spatial relationships or patterns.  The questions on this section of the test typically ask students to construct geometric designs from a model, identify distinguishing details between two similar images, etc.


The Fluid Reasoning Index measures an individual’s ability to identify relationships among visual objects.  Questions on this section of the test ask the tester to complete a matrix or series, typically a visual pattern. 


The Working Memory Index measures an individual’s ability to register, maintain, recall, and manipulate both visual and auditory information during a short period of time.  Testers are provided with a series of information and asked to recall the information.  Individuals with poor working memory may require more repetition when learning new material. 


The Processing Speed Index measures how quickly an individual processes new information.  Testers are given specific tasks to complete along in set amounts of time.  Individuals with slower processing speeds typically require more time to complete school work and other daily tasks.  A low Processing Speed Index indicates that a child took longer than average to complete certain tasks.  Very conscientious students, students with testing anxiety, or perfectionists often score lower on PSI regardless of how “fast” they may process information.   

What do my child’s WISC-V Scores mean?

 After your child completes the WISC-V, you will receive a numerical score for each index AND an age percentile rank.  Age percentile ranks are based on data collected from 2,200 children.  

If you paid for a full written report, this report will include an interpretation of the results, notes on your child’s behavior, demeaner, and response to the different sections, and recommendations for further evaluation (if pertinent).

While each program has its own entrance requirements, an FSIQ of 115 – 129 is generally considered “mildly gifted,” an FSIQ of 130 – 144 is generally considered moderately gifted, and an FSIQ of 145 to 159 is generally considered “highly gifted.” 

The standard components of the WISC-V cannot distinguish between highly gifted, exceptionally gifted (160 to 179), or profoundly gifted (180 or higher); however, extended norms can be used to assess IQ in these upper limits.  In late 2019, the WISC-V added extended norms, extending the upper end of the raw score range to 28 points and the high end of the composite score to 210.

I want to save money. Can I skip the written report?

Some psychologist will let you pay for just the test, but I highly recommend paying for and getting the written report. Having just IQ scores is not nearly as useful as the entire report.  For example, a written report often notes the order in which the sections were administered.  If your child scored lower on a section than you anticipated, this might be a good reason why.  You wouldn’t know that without the written report. If your child was non-cooperative, the report will note that too.  This will affect the reliability for the scores, and you may consider administering another IQ test in a few years for more reliable results if the current results prevent entry into a particular program.  Note, you cannot have your child re-take the WISC-V again in the same year as it skews the results.

What do my child’s WISC-V Scores mean?

The highest possible index score that can be achieved on the standard WISC-V is 155; the highest possible FSIQ is 160.  Pearson added extended norms that extend both the “floor” and “ceiling” of the WISC-V.  

Should I request that the psychologist use extended norms for my child?

It’s exceedingly rare for a child to actually need extended norms.  Statistically speaking, only 1 in 20 MILLION same-age children should be expected to obtain an FSIQ over 180.  Extended norms might make sense if your child’s IQ was assessed several years ago, and their scores indicated that they “hit the ceiling” on one or more subtests.

What should I Do with My Child's WISC-V Scores?

If you see a significant discrepancy (more than two standard deviations) between sub-test scores, consult the psychologist who administered the WISC-V.  They may recommend further testing to rule out learning disabilities.

IQ scores are often used for admittance into gifted and talented programs including:  pull-out or after school enrichment at your local public school, admission to Davidsons Gifted, admissions to HEROES Academy, admission to SENG gifted, etc. 

If you suspect a learning disability, the school may require IQ scores as part of a 504 evaluation or IEP.  If you chose to have this completed privately, you should send the full report to the school.

11 thoughts on “Understanding Your Child’s WISC-V Scores”

  1. Serena Cardenosa

    How do you get access to these tests? My child is homeschooled and so getting through the school is not possible.

    1. You have to be credentialed to have access. Not everyone has access to the assessments. Although, there is a Child Find law and by law if you would like your child assessed (under reasonable circumstances) the school district you’re closest to must do so.

  2. Is it normal for an IQ score to increase by 13 points, Visual Spatial score to increase by 17 points, Processing Speed to decrease by 17 points, and working memory to decrease by 10 points. There was a 2 year gap between evaluations. The first one was done by a school district the second one was done by an independent Psychologist. Looking for insight. Thank you.

    1. These are pretty significant changes. It’s not typical to see such significant changes; however, some factors may contribute to this. How old was your child during the first evaluation? IQ assessments done before age 6 aren’t considered as reliable, and I’ve seen significant variation in scoring from students who had IQ tests done at 4 or 5 versus their achievement later in childhood. I’ve also seen significant variation in assessed IQ when students in need of early intervention, speech therapy, OT services, other support services received those services and were later re-evaluated. Low processing speed and working memory are often associated with ADHD; students whose GAI falls in the gifted range but who have low processing speed and working memory should be evaluated for any twice-exceptionalities. On the other hand, if your child didn’t present with this discrepancy before, I’d also consider whether your child is on any medications that they weren’t on previously (especially psychiatric medications), the quality of sleep your child had before the night of the testing, your child’s overall attitude towards the test, the order the sections were administered in, etc. . An IQ evaluation is just one test one time — in your child’s case, twice! While IQ shouldn’t significantly change over a life-time, performance can vary due to exterior factors from one test session to another.

    2. An increase of 13 points on an overall IQ score is not statistically significant, especially if both scores were within the normative range (85-115). A full standard deviation would be 15 points. Evaluations have confidence intervals that can range between 5-10 point differences on any given day, depending on if the district used a 90% confidence interval or 95%.

      However, Gv and Gs do express a significant difference (17 points). The previous comment touches on how that may occur. Another point worth noting are extraneous factors such as a noisy environment, an unseasoned evaluator, distractibility (if the student was missing specials or recess), the time of the day, the mood of the student, amount of sleep obtained the night before, etc. which all could also have altering effects on scores. I have had students falling asleep during assessments or even refuse to comply. Since district evaluators may not test all domains within the same day, this could account for varying scores depending on the state of the student and testing environment.

      1. Can you describe some of the subtests? Or point me to a reference that describes them in detail? Matrix reasoning? Figure weights? Digit span? Coding? Symbol search?

    1. Are you referring to an FSIQ of 68 or an IQ in the 68th percentile? I’d need more details to answer this adequately.

  3. My daughter scored “low average” with verbal comprehension but scored 119 (“high average”) in visual spatial index and also 116 (“high average”) in processing speed. In the child memory scale she scored 137 (“extremely high”) in visual delayed memory, however I have no idea what “visual delayed memory” specifically means?
    Her report mentions there is a 33 IQ point difference with the verbal comprehension being the lower score. Does this indicate she is 2e (twice exceptional)?

    1. Are you referring to the working memory subtest? You’re missing some sub-tests. If she took the WISC-V, she should have five composite scores (VCI, VSI, FRI, WMI, and PSI). Visual Delayed Memory is not a composite score. I don’t know what your test report looks like, but it sounds like she might have been assessed as having “visual delayed memory.” This isn’t a term I’m really familiar with, but it sounds like a way to describe a visual processing disorder. I’d call the psychologist who did the testing for clarification.

    2. Depending on the assessment used, delayed memory, or delayed recall assesses a student’s ability to recall previously learned information. This subtest is usually a delayed portion of a previously administered subtest when evaluating long-term memory. Memory has two components: storage and retrieval. Storage is a student’s ability to hold information for a short period (short-term memory) or transfer to long-term memory for permanent retention. Retrieval is a student’s ability to recall information. A delayed recall subtest would inform the evaluator if your student has a difficult time recalling previously stored information. Think of it as a filing cabinet: storage is the information the filing cabinet contains, the ease of retrieval not only is determined by if the information was retained but how efficiently it was stored for easy access. If your filing cabinet is not properly organized, then you have a difficult time finding the information you need when you need it. If your student is able to retain the information, but struggles with recall, they may have a “disorganized” filing system, so-to-speak. Delayed recall is not a domain of cognition, but rather looks more deeply into a specific part of long-term memory.

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