Measuring Giftedness

What is Gifted?

In truth, there is no universally-accepted definition of gifted.  For some, being gifted could mean having an extraordinary ability in, say, music, art or athletics.  Others might argue that those strong in leadership skills are gifted.  However, experts typically use IQ scores to measure giftedness.  In fact, giftedness is a continuum, with a range consisting of five levels.  So not all giftedness is created equal, and it is very lonely at the top.  The higher the IQ score, the smaller the pool of individuals that share it.  No wonder many gifted kids feel isolated and different - in many ways they are!

IQ Tests & Giftedness

IQ tests, as they are known, are tests that measure an individual’s intellectual ability or potential.  They do not measure what someone has learned already.  IQ tests measure innate ability.

Group IQ tests are sometimes given to an entire class to screen for gifted programs, but individual IQ tests, given one-on-one by a trained examiner, provide more reliable results and a great deal more information.  Typically, parents who want their child tested must go outside of the school/school district and pay for an assessment.  While there are IQ tests for children as young as 2 years of age, most professionals believe waiting until a child is 5 or 6 offers results that are likely to stay stable over time.

Giftedness in our population

What percentage of our population is gifted?  This is a subject of some debate.  Many experts would tell you that only 3-5% of the population is gifted.  Looking at the data below, using a 130 point IQ score as a basis for giftedness, then less than 3% of the population is gifted.

Either way, it is clear that a child that is on any level of the gifted spectrum is very unique and will probably stand out from his or her peers in the classroom or in a social situation.  In future blogs, I will discuss how gifted kids are different and have different needs, as well as examples of enrichment programs that I’ve researched and can recommend to you.


Five Levels of Giftedness: The Scores & What They Mean

There are a number of IQ tests, but parents are generally most familiar with the Wechsler tests (WHPPSI or WISC) and the Stanford-Binet (SB).  IQ scores for our population fall along a bell-shaped curve, meaning that 50% of the population scores around the average (IQ scores of 90-109) and as the curve drops on either end, the percentage of people scoring in that range gets smaller and smaller.  We can divide those upper levels of IQ into various levels, each with their own characteristics.

Mildly Gifted

•IQ scores of 115-129, represent the 90th-98th percentiles

•what most of us think of as bright

•make up a large proportion of students in gifted programs

•like being read to before age one

•can do simple addition and subtraction before age four

•reading 2-3 years beyond grade level by age seven

•parents realize children are not being challenged and contact someone for help between grades two and four

Moderately gifted

•IQ scores of 130-144, represent approximately 98th - 99th percentiles

•can pay attention while being read to by five to nine months

•can count to 5 (or higher) by age two

•know many sight words and may be reading by age four

•master most kindergarten skills by age four

•are independent on the computer by age four and a half

•are impatient with the repetition and slow pace of school by age six to seven

Highly gifted

•IQ scores of 145-159, represent approximately 98th - 99th percentiles

•independently look at and turn pages of books before ten months

•question santa or the tooth fairy by age three or four

•rarely go through any stage of phonetically sounding out words

•intense interest in mazes between ages four and five

•spontaneously read (with or without instruction) before kindergarten

•read 2-5 years beyond grade level by age six

Exceptionally gifted

•IQ scores of 160-179, represent the 99th percentile

•books are a favorite interest by three to four months

•knows entire alphabet by fifteen to twenty-two months

•at four or five years can perform many academic and intellectual functions of an eight year old

•reading for pleasure and information by age five

•can play adult level card games and board games by age five and a half

•most are capable of completing all academic work through 8th grade by 3rd or 4th grade

•these are the kids that attend college at ages ten, eleven, and twelve

Profoundly gifted

•IQ scores of 180+, represent above the 99th percentile

•knows numbers, letters, colors, and shapes before they can talk

•can speak in full, complex sentences by fifteen months

•have kindergarten skills by age two

•spontaneously reads, understand fairly complex math problems, and has existential concerns by ages four to five (with or without instruction)

•frequently one parent must postpone their career to advocate for their child’s education

What a Gifted Child Needs

As you can see, gifted children have unique characteristics that require modifications to the typical educational setting.  An educational consultant can work with you to identify your child's needs and formulate an plan to address your child's profile.