Outline of the WISC-IV General Ability Index

Instructor: Nicole Gaines

Nicole is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a master's degree in counseling.

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) is a common clinical assessment. In this lesson, we will detail the components of the WISC-IV and explore the benefits of understanding a child's individual cognitive abilities.

What is the WISC-IV?

Contrary to what your grandmother might tell you, the WISC is a psychological assessment designed to measure the intelligence quotient (IQ) and the cognitive abilities of children aged 6 to 16-and-11 months, not a cooking instrument (whisk)! Ok, I promise to refrain from any more terrible jokes for the remainder of this lesson.

There have been five revisions of the WISC; the WISC-IV was published in 2003, but the newest version, the WISC-V, became available as of 2014. If a psychologist were to administer a WISC to you, it would be completed individually and would take somewhere between 1 to 1.5 hours to complete the core subtests. The WISC-IV is comprised of 15 subtests, 10 of which are core subtests, and 5 of which are supplemental. The supplemental tests are used in cases like interrupted testing or special circumstances.

After the administration of the WISC-IV, the psychologist would spend between 4 to 8 hours to score and complete the report. That's a total of 5.5 to 9.5 hours of testing and reporting for the core subtests, but that long length of time shows the strong reliability and validity of this assessment.

How Are Children Chosen to Be Tested?

Let's say you are a child in second grade and you seem to be struggling with reading comprehension. Concerned, your teacher contacts your parents and gains permission to refer you for testing with your school psychologist. Your school psychologist meets with you one day at school to administer the WISC-IV and determine if you have any delays in cognitive functioning. The WISC would be administered to you either by paper and pen or by utilizing a web-based program.

What Are The Benefits of a WISC Assessment?

If you were referred to take the WISC-IV with your school psychologist, there can be many benefits in obtaining your assessment results. The younger you are when you are evaluated, the better. Early detection of reading and learning problems can help in obtaining the assistance you need to catch up to your age-level abilities.

The assessment can also identify learning disabilities, better understand how you learn, and identify if you are intellectually 'gifted.' In general, the WISC-IV helps schools make accommodations and learning plans for individual children. This allows teachers to understand your learning processes, your strengths and weaknesses, and the impact that they might have on your performance as a student.

The Outline of the WISC-IV

The purpose of the WISC is to allow a psychologist to identify your learning patterns. It has four parts to the test, which are referred to as 'indexes.' These indexes include: the Verbal Comprehension Index, the Perceptual Reasoning Index, the Working Memory Index, and the Processing Speed Index. Each of these four indexes includes various subtests that are scored to give you four separate index scores. Sounds interesting, right? Here's how it is broken down:

Verbal Comprehension Index

Your Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) - measures your verbal concept formation, verbal reasoning, and knowledge you have acquired from your environment.


  • Vocabulary: word knowledge and retrieval.
  • Similarities: Verbal concepts and reasoning.
  • Comprehension: social knowledge and awareness.
  • Information: recall of verbally encoded, factual information. (supplemental subtest)
  • Word Reasoning: general reasoning ability. (supplemental subtest)

Perceptual Reasoning Index

Your Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) - measures your perceptual and fluid reasoning, spatial processing, and visual-motor integration.


  • Block Design: visual spatial reasoning and visual-constructional ability.
  • Matrix Reasoning: non verbal reasoning and concept formation.
  • Picture Concepts: abstract, categorical reasoning.
  • Picture Completion: attention to visual detail. (supplemental subtest)

Working Memory Index

Your Working Memory Index (WMI) - requires you to utilize your memory processes to change orally presented verbal sequences, or to recall orally presented sequential information.


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