Parents put a lot of careful thought and effort into selecting the schools they think will be the best fit for their child and for themselves. They go on tours, speak with faculty members of admissions departments, solicit advice from friends, and of course, they complete the myriad requirements for the actual applications. Cognitive tests are often one of these requirements, and can also often be a source of stress for parents, especially when they don’t know what to expect.

The following are some basics of cognitive testing to help demystify and optimize your child’s experience.

The Actual Test

Children 5 years and younger typically take the WPPSI-IV (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence). It usually lasts around 45 minutes, and consists of multiple activities that measure different aspects of cognitive function. Children often enjoy the activities, as some involve looking at pictures or working with blocks. Development at this age is often uneven, so you may find that your child scores better in one area than another. This is normal.

Children 6 years and older take the WISC-V (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). It usually lasts from about 60-90 minutes, and consists of multiple activities that measure different aspects of cognitive function.

Both tests will yield an overall score, as well as scores for the individual aspects, or domains, of cognitive function. These may include, but are not limited to, verbal abilities, memory, and reasoning.

Try Not To Worry

Kids, especially the younger ones, typically enjoy the process, and do not inherently feel worried about it. If you’re worrying, though, they’ll pick up on it and typically have a harder time performing to their best abilities.

That being said, it’s also okay if your child does appear nervous; most testers work with lots of children and are very experienced with helping them to feel comfortable.

Do Not Practice

While practice kits certainly exist, any practice or familiarity with the test invalidates the test. Often, children who have experience with test activities will report things like, “Oh! I did this at home!” at which point the tester will have to end the assessment. It is not worth it to try to give your child “the upper hand.”

Instead, prepare your child for the test by saying something like, “This morning we’re going to see X (in our office, we typically steer away from using the word “doctor” and have children use our first names) to do some different activities like working with blocks and looking at pictures.” This is accurate information, but also the bare minimum that they need to know, especially younger children. For most, that explanation is enough, so keep it simple.

Remember Health

The night prior to the assessment, make sure your child gets a good night sleep.

If he or she is ill, reschedule the appointment.

The morning of the test, do your usual morning routine and make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast.

For younger children, it is best to take the test in the morning rather than later in the day when they can begin to tire. While older children can take the test later in the day, we typically discourage appointments after 1:00. We want kids to be alert and attentive so they can do their best.

Keep in mind that testing is only one part of the application, and in and of itself, will not determine whether or not your child is accepted to a specific school. Also, the younger the child, the less reliable the results are over time, so a child’s scores at 4 years old do not necessarily predict their potential cognitive abilities as they get older.

The best way to help your child (and you!) through this process is to be informed and remain as relaxed as possible.

If you are interested in scheduling an admissions test or have further follow-up questions, contact us at  (301) 652-5550.