What does the WISC Test for children measure?

What does the WISC Test for children measure?

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In 1949, David Wechsler published the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, better known as the WISC scale. Its objective was to measure the intelligence of children between 6 and 16 years old. In 1974, a revised version, WISC-R, appeared. The changes were minimal. The WISC measures the verbal comprehension, perceptual organization and independence from distraction through two scales: verbal scale and manipulative scale. Both scales, both verbal and manipulative, are composed of six subtests each.

Throughout the article, the original WISC elaboration will be deepened. The revision and improvement dates of the later versions will be presented. The three factors will be addressed and the details of each of the scales and tests will be detailed. Finally, the last revision of the scale translated into Spanish, the WISC-IV and its differences with the original will be presented.


  • 1 Evolution of the WISC scales
  • 2 The 3 factors of the WISC scale
  • 3 Verbal scale and manipulative scale
  • 4 WISC-IV, latest Spanish adaptation
  • 5 Bibliography

Evolution of the WISC scales

Dates of publication of the original test:

  • WISC: 1949.
  • WISC-R: 1974.
  • WISC-III: 1991.
  • WISC-IV: 2003.

Dates of the publication of the test in its adaptation in Spain:

  • WISC: 1974.
  • WISC-R: 1993.
  • WISC-III: (not adapted).
  • WISC-IV: 2005.

The 3 factors of the WISC scale

Kaufman (1975) highlighted the three factors measured by the WISC scale: verbal comprehension, perceptual organization and independence from distraction. Each of these factors is measured with the subtests that make up the verbal and manipulative scale.

Verbal comprehension

  • Information.
  • Similarities
  • Vocabulary.
  • Understanding.

Perceptual organization

  • Incomplete figures
  • Comic books.
  • Cubes
  • Puzzle.
  • Labyrinths

Independence to distraction

  • Arithmetic.
  • Digits
  • Keys.

Verbal scale and manipulative scale

Verbal scale

  1. Information. Through this subtest, the information that the child can acquire through formal school education and informal education in the environment in which it operates is measured.
  2. Similarities Evaluate the child's ability to select and verbalize the relationships between two concepts, the thought associative and the ability of verbal abstraction.
  3. Arithmetic. It measures the ability to handle abstract numerical concepts, numerical operations and the capacity for attention and concentration.
  4. Vocabulary. The child will have to say the meaning of 32 words of increasing difficulty. The objective is to measure the level of education, the ability to learn and the environment in which the child develops.
  5. Understanding. Evaluates practical judgment, common sense and the acquisition and internalization of cultural elements. The child has to explain what he would do in certain circumstances or why certain practices are carried out.
  6. Digits It is a complementary and optional test. The child will have to repeat a series of digits that are presented orally. In this way, immediate auditory memory and attention span and resistance to distraction are evaluated.

Manipulative scale

  1. Incomplete figures The child is presented with incomplete drawings and must identify which part is missing. For this it is necessary that you know how to identify familiar objects and utensils and the isolation of the essential aspects from the non-essential ones.
  2. Comic books. The child will have to build and expose a story through some cards with drawings provided. In this way, perception, the visual integration of elements presented sequentially and their summary in a coherent discourse are evaluated.
  3. Cubes The child has to make drawings with cubes. The drawings will be of increasing complexity. Through this subtets, the ability to analyze, synthesize and reproduce abstract geometric drawings is measured.
  4. Puzzle. The objective is to form complete figures that are presented to the child cut into pieces. It is a test with time. The ability to synthesize a known object through its parts is evaluated. This requires visual synthesis capacity, visomotor coordination and ability to work while imagining the figure that is being formed.
  5. Keys. Evaluate visomotor skills, pencil and paper handling and associative learning ability. The task is that the child must complete the drawings presented to him through the correct symbols.
  6. Labertintos. It is a complementary and optional test. The goal is to find the exit of a maze and point it out with the pencil. Evaluate visomotor coordination, speed and planning and forecasting capacity.

WISC-IV, last Spanish adaptation

According to the General Council of the Official Associations of Psychologists (CGCOP), "The WISC-IV test is an excellent test for the exploration of cognitive abilities". His last adaptation to Spanish took place in 2005. The WISC-IV, unlike the original WISC, consists of 15 tests divided into four indices and a total CI. The four indices are: verbal comprehension (CV), perceptual reasoning (RP), working memory (MT) and processing speed (VP).

Verbal comprehension

Through verbal comprehension they are intended to evaluate "training skills of
verbal concepts, expression of relationships between concepts, wealth and precision in the
definition of words, social understanding, practical judgment, knowledge acquired and
agility and verbal intuition " (CGCOP). The tests that are administered are:

  • Similarities Ability to abstract and generality to give birth to two concepts that are given to the child.
  • Vocabulary. Lexical knowledge, conceptual accuracy and verbal expressive ability are evaluated.
  • Understanding. The objective is to measure the reasoning of the child's social judgment against the solution of everyday problems.
  • Information. It measures the ability to acquire, preserve and recover previously acquired knowledge. (Complementary test).
  • Riddles Evaluate the child's ability with respect to the skills to integrate information, generate alternative concepts and condense information. (Complementary test).

Perceptual reasoning

Through this index, constructive practical skills, visual analysis, simultaneous processing, and the formation and classification of non-verbal concepts are expressed. It consists of four tests:

  • Cubes It is a test with time. The objective is to measure the skills of analysis, synthesis and viso-spatial organization.
  • Concepts Measure the information of concepts and categories through visual material.
  • Arrays. The reasoning is analyzed by visual analogies. It implies the integration of visual information.
  • Incomplete figures It is a test with time. The abilities of recognition and perceptual organization of the child are analyzed. (Complementary test).

Work memory

Through the working memory the retention capacity and the storage of the information are measured. At the same time, the ability to operate mentally with the information given to the child is analyzed, as well as its ability to transform it and generate new information. All this is evaluated through three tests:

  • Digits Evaluate immediate memory and working memory. Indicates sequencing, planning, cognitive and alert flexibility skills.
  • Letters and numbers It measures the ability to retain and combine two types of information, organize it and prepare an organized set according to the test instructions.
  • Arithmetic. It is a test with time. Evaluate numerical reasoning skills, agility in the management and reorganization of information, memory Short term and attention. (Complementary test).

Processing speed

Evaluate the ability to explore visual information quickly and efficiently. As well as to order it, discriminate it and focus attention. It is evaluated through the following tests:

  • Keys and search for symbols. Through repetitive tasks, the associative speed skills, the Attention, motivation, learning, visual perception and resistance.
  • Animals. Through the orderly and disorderly search of information, the selective attention of the child is analyzed. (Complementary test).


  • General Council of Official Associations of Psychologists. Evaluation of the WISC-IV Test.Link: //
  • Amador, J., Forns, M. and Kirchner, T. (2006). The Weshsler Intelligence Scale for children revised. Work document. Faculty of Psychology. University of Barcelona. Link: //
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