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Social Processes: Methodology · Types of test

The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) is an intelligence test designed for children ages 2 years 6 months to 7 years 3 months developed by David Wechsler in 1967. It is a descendent of the earlier Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children tests.

It has since been revised twice, in 1989 and 2002.

The current revision, WPPSI–III, provides subtest and composite scores that represent intellectual functioning in verbal and performance cognitive domains, as well as providing a composite score that represents a child’s general intellectual ability (i.e., Full Scale IQ).


The WPPSI–III is composed of 14 subtests.

  • Block Design - While viewing a constructed model or a picture in a Stimulus Book, the child uses one- or two-colour blocks to re-create the design within a specified time limit.
  • Information - For Picture Items, the child responds to a question by choosing a picture from four response options. For Verbal Items, the child answers questions that address a broad range of general knowledge topics.
  • Matrix Reasoning - The child looks at an incomplete matrix and selects the missing portion from 4 or 5 response options.
  • Vocabulary - For Picture Items, the child names pictures that are displayed in a Stimulus Book. For Verbal Items, the child gives definitions for words that the examiner reads aloud.
  • Picture Concepts - The child is presented with two or three rows of pictures and chooses one picture from each row to form a group with a common characteristic.
  • Symbol Search - The child scans a search group and indicates whether a target symbol matches any of the symbols in the search group.
  • Word Reasoning The child is asked to identify the common concept being described in a series of increasingly specific clues.
  • Coding - The child copies symbols that are paired with simple geometric shapes. Using a key, the child draws each symbol in its corresponding shape.
  • Comprehension - The child answers questions based on his or her understanding of general principles and social situations.
  • Picture Completion - The child views a picture and then points to or names the important missing part.
  • Similarities - The child is read an incomplete sentence containing two concepts that share a common characteristic. The child is asked to complete the sentence by providing a response that reflects the shared characteristic.
  • Receptive Vocabulary - The child looks at a group of four pictures and points to the one the examiner names aloud.
  • Object Assembly - The child is presented with the pieces of a puzzle in a standard arrangement and fits the pieces together to form a meaningful whole within 90 seconds.
  • Picture Naming - The child names pictures that are displayed in a Stimulus Book.


The WPPSI–III provides Verbal and Performance IQ scores as well as a Full Scale IQ score. In addition, the Processing Speed Quotient (known as the Processing Speed Index on previous Wechsler scales) can be derived for children aged 4 – 7 years 3 months, and a General Language Composite can be determined for children in both age bands (2 years 6 months – 3 years 11 months & 4–7 years 3 months). Children in the 2 years 6 months – 3 years 11 months age band are administered only five of the subtests: Receptive Vocabulary, Block Design, Information, Object Assembly, and Picture Naming.

Quotient and Composite scores have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Subtest scaled scores have a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of 3. For Quotient and Composite score:

below 70 is Extremely Low,
70-79 is Borderline,
80-89 is Low Average,
90-109 is Average,
110-119 is High Average,
120-129 is Superior,
130+ is Very Superior.

This is true for most Wechsler Scales with the exception of the WIAT-III.


The WPPSI can be used in several ways, for example:

  • As an assessment of general intellectual functioning.
  • As part of an assessment to identify intellectual giftedness.
  • To identify cognitive delay and learning difficulties.

The clinical utility of the WPPSI-III can be improved and a richer picture of general function achieved when combined with other assessments. For example, when paired with the Children’s Memory Scale (CMS: Cohen, 1997) a measure of learning and memory functioning in children or the WIAT-II a measure of academic achievement, information can be gained on both cognitive ability and academic achievement in young children. Combinations such as these would potentially be of use in educational settings and inform educational interventions. A further potentially useful pairing includes the used of the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System (ABAS; Harrison & Oakland, 2003); this pairing can result in information on cognitive and adaptive functioning, both of which are required for a proper diagnosis of learning difficulties.

However, it is important to consider and recognise the limitations of using assessments. Some studies show that intelligence tests such as the WPPSI-III, especially for pre-K level, are unreliable and their results vary widely with various factors such as retesting, practice (familiarization), test administrator, time and place.[1] There are claims that some commercially available materials improve results simply by eliminating negative factors through familiarization which in turn puts children at a comfortable frame of mind.[2]

Psychometric Properties[]

The US standardisation of the WPPSI-III included 1,700 children aged 2 years 6 months – 7 years 3 months. The reliability coefficients for the WPPSI-III US composite scales range from .89 to .95. The UK sample for the WPPSI-III was collected between 2002–2003 and contained 805 children in an attempt to accurately represent the most current UK population of children aged 2 years 6 months to 7 years 3 months according to the 2001 UK census data. The UK validation project was conducted at City University under the direction of Professor John Rust.

The WPPSI-III has been formally linked with the WIAT-II. (The Psychological Corporation, 2001). The relationship between the WPPSI-III and the WPPSI-R, WISC-III, BSID-II, DAS, WIAT-II and CMS was also explored in order to evaluate the assessment’s reliability. A number of special group studies were also carried out during standardisation in order to improve the clinical utility of the tool. These studies included children with intellectual disability, developmental delay, language disorders, motor impairment, ADHD and those classed as gifted.


The WPPSI-III has been translated and adapted for use with different populations including Spanish, French (and French Canadian), German, Italian, Swedish, Korean, Japanese, Canadian, Australian, Dutch and Hebrew.

See also[]


  1. "Cracking the Kindergarten Code" by Andrew Marks, November 20, 2005, New York Magazine,
  2. See[dead link] .

Further reading[]

  • The Psychological Corporation. (2001). Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – Second edition. San Antonio, TX: Author.
  • Cohen, M. J. (1997). Children’s Memory Scale. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
  • Harrison, P. L., & Oakland, T. (2003). Adaptive Behavior Assessment System – Second Edition. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
  • Wechsler, D. (1989). Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – Revised. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
  • Wechsler, D. (1967). Manual for the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
  • Carroll, J.B. (1997). The three-stratum theory of cognitive abilities. In D.P. Flanagan, J.L. Genshaft, & P.L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 122–130). New York : The Guilford Press.
  • Gregory, R.J. (2007). Testing special populations: Infant and preschool assessment. Psychological Testing. Pearson Education, Inc.
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