The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: An IQ Test Unlike Any Other

My educational advisory firm works with as many as 1,500 parent clients each year, dealing with all points of school entry, from preschool to high school. One question many parents ask is whether to have their child take the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale as an intelligence assessment tool.

The Stanford-Binet is never required by private schools as part of the admissions process. Some selective, gifted public school programs use an abbreviated version of it as an admissions tool. That said, the Stanford-Binet is the crème de la crème of intelligence testing worldwide, which is why many parents test their children to judge which type of school would be the best fit.

The Stanford-Binet (“SBIS”) is an individually administered intelligence test. The test was created in France in the early 20th century, and revised at Stanford University in 1916 for use in the U.S. Originally, the test was meant to identify children with intellectual and developmental deficits in order to place them in newly created special needs classrooms.

Over time, the SBIS went through many updates, assessments, and alterations. The SBIS is now in its fifth edition. There is a sixth edition, but it is not often used as an intelligence assessment tool. The test is now used by the general population and can be administered to subjects of almost all ages.

The Stanford-Binet’s results are highly sensitive and often quite accurate, even when administered to young children. Unlike other tests for school admission to public or private school, the Stanford-Binet does not test how much or how well a child has learned up to the point of the test, but instead is predictive of general intelligence. It cannot be coached, tutored, or studied for. The test consists of subtests (like most intelligence or admissions testing), but is, generally, un-timed. The test is always administered by a trained PhD in psychology who will move the test subject onto the next section when he or she begins faltering as the subtest become progressively more difficult.

Originally, the SBIS only tested verbal skills because it was widely believed that verbal acuity and intellect were closely linked. It was soon recognized that many “gifted” individuals, especially children, teens, and young adults, are often as, or more, gifted non-verbally. In many cases, highly intelligent subjects are not particularly verbally-gifted. Therefore, the non-verbal sections of the test (of which there are many) are now considered integral to accurate intelligence assessment. The SBIS results are given in an IQ number. It may be thrilling to learn that your child has an extraordinarily high IQ, but do not let this number create unreasonable expectations.

The Stanford-Binet is expensive to administer, but that may be its only drawback, assuming the parents are prepared to receive and accept the real numbers of their child’s intellectual capacity. A parent who is not heavily influenced or prejudiced by numbers — and no parent should be — can learn a great deal about his or her child’s abilities from the SBIS and its subtests and, often, decide which direction to guide that child’s education. While it is often said that the SBIS is simply a snapshot of a moment in time, I have worked with many families where the child was tested in subsequent years and the results are little changed from the original or baseline testing even at a very young age.

What a parent cannot really learn from testing is how a child will use those abilities in school or later life, or how his or her interests and passions will ultimately emerge.