Selected Subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson—Third Edition (WJ III): Tests of Achievement

Selected Subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson—Third Edition (WJ III): Tests of Achievement

Scale Standard Score 90% Confidence Interval Percentile Rank


Applied Problems 107 101-113 68

Calculation 94 90-98 34 Reading

Reading Fluency 103 98-108 58

Passage Comprehension 106 100-112 66 Written Language

Spelling 99 93-105 47

The Performance scale is comprised of two indexes, termed Perceptual Organization (PO) and Processing Speed (PS). A significant difference (19 points) was found between the scaled scores of the PO Index (105) and the PS Index (86). This large discrepancy indicates that Lauren performs better on performance tasks that require nonverbal reasoning than on performance tasks of visual processing speed. Due to this significant difference between the two indexes of the performance scale, the V-IQ versus P-IQ difference cannot be interpreted as a meaningful representation of Lauren's abilities on verbal versus performance tasks. To achieve a better understanding of her assets and deficits, specific comparisons between the indexes of the two scales must be performed.

Lauren performs equally well on verbal conceptualization tasks (79th percentile) and nonverbal reasoning tasks (63 rd percentile), as evident from her performance on the Verbal Comprehension Index (112) and Perceptual Organization Index (105). Comparing the Working Memory Index (111) of the Verbal Scale with the Processing Speed Index (86) of the Performance Scale manifests a significant difference of 25 points between these two indexes. This gives support to the idea that Lauren does well (77th percentile) on tasks that require performing various operations with numbers (e.g., computing arithmetic problems, repeating sequences of numbers, and ordering numbers and letters in numerical and alphabetical order). This also supports a hypothesis of a possible deficit in processing speed. She scored in the 18 th percentile on the PS Index (comprised of two timed subtests), coding and copying symbols in one task and searching for target symbols in a search group in another task. A possible interpretation for her poor performance on these subtests is that her excessive planning and very methodical and deliberate processing slow her work on certain tasks. She was never impulsive in her answers to any subtest; however, her so-called strength of organization was detrimental to her scores on tasks that required fast performance.

Perhaps the most meaningful representation of Lauren's overall abilities is found through examination of her individual strengths and weaknesses. In terms of her processing style, Lauren evidenced a significant relative strength in holistic, right-brain processing and a relative weakness in her integrated brain functioning. In other words, Lauren's preferred way to process information is using primarily gestaltlike processing, or interpreting information as a whole. This holistic processing approach was evidenced by her superior performance (95th percentile) on a task that required her to assemble puzzle pieces of common objects into an integrated whole and a task that required her to complete a series of incomplete gridded patterns by choosing the correct response from a set of five choices. In contrast, Lauren evidenced a significant relative weakness on tasks that required integrated brain functioning, using both sides of the brain to solve tasks. Integrated brain functioning requires both analytic and sequential processing characteristic of the left hemisphere of the brain, as well as the visual-spatial and nonverbal components of the right hemisphere. Integrated brain functioning examines bits and pieces of the information in a problem, rather than simply looking at the information as a big picture. Lauren's weakness in integrated brain functioning was evidenced by her performance on a task that required her to arrange a set of pictures to create a logical story sequence and a task in which she constructed geometric patterns with blocks. This weakness was further evidenced by her performance on a task (25 th percentile) in which she examined a key of hieroglyphiclike symbols paired with numbers and she reproduced the symbols corresponding to the numbers, and a task in which she searched for target symbols in a search group of symbols (16th percentile). Though one viable hypothesis for these low scores is her tendency to apply a holistic processing approach, it is also worth noting that both of these tasks were timed. Her low scaled score on the tasks comprising the Processing Speed Index warrants slow processing speed as a possible hypothesis for her poor performance on the subtests described here.

Lauren also demonstrated a significant relative strength in semantic cognition, the ability to use words and ideas to convey meaning. This ability was evidenced by her performance on subtests in which she gave definitions of words (91st percentile), explained similarities between objects (63rd percentile), and solved arithmetic problems mentally (91st percentile). This was also noted in the description given to the examiner of the components of her Kinetic Family Drawing. In this supplementary test, Lauren was provided with a pencil and paper and asked to draw a picture of her family doing something. She worked on the drawing for five minutes and then was asked to explain the components of her drawing. Lauren presented an elaborate story of her family in which she clearly articulated the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings of all of her family members. Her explanation exhibited her strength in semantic cognition as she used her words and ideas to convey meaning to her drawing.

Lauren demonstrated significant relative strengths in both her acquired knowledge and her fund of information. These abilities were evidenced by her performance on a subtest in which she demonstrated her knowledge of common events, objects, places, and people and a second subtest in which she gave definitions of words. These subtests, as well as her performance on a subtest in which she solved arithmetic problems orally, are also evidence for her strength in long-term memory, as they tapped into her knowledge of information and concepts that Lauren probably learned decades ago. The fact that she is now fifty-seven years old and is able to remember this information demonstrates her vast fund of acquired knowledge and her impressive long-term memory abilities.

In line with her strengths in semantic cognition, acquired knowledge, and fund of information, were Lauren's scores on tests of achievement. Lauren was administered selected subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson—Third Edition (WJ-III): Tests of Achievement, which is an individually administered battery of tests measuring academic achievement. She was administered subtests in the areas of mathematics, reading, and spelling. The WJ III subtests were administered to Lauren in response to her referral question with the hopes that the results might contribute further information about Lauren's strengths and weaknesses in academically related domains, in contrast to the cognitive domains that are assessed by the WAIS-III alone.

Lauren performs better on tasks in which the information is meaningful to her in some way. This concept was demonstrated by her performance on two WJ III subtests. A comparison of Lauren's mathematics Applied Problems standard score (107) and her mathematics Calculation standard score (94) revealed a significant difference (13 points) between these two skill areas. The arithmetic problems that she was asked to solve that were more applicable to daily life and encapsulated some meaning for her (Applied Problems) were solved with much more success than those that were strictly computations of mathematics with no practical significance (Calculation).

Further evidence for the above skill in solving applied problems as well as strength in acquired knowledge was found in Lauren's performance on the Kaufman Functional Academic Skills Test (K-FAST), an individually administered test of achievement given to individuals ranging in age from 15 to 85 years. The K-FAST is not an IQ test, but is, instead, intended to be an achievement-based test that yields a composite score of Functional Academic Skills and subtest scores on Arithmetic and Reading. Lauren performed in the Above Average range on the K-FAST (79th percentile), earning a scaled Functional Academic Skills score of 112. There is a 90% chance that this composite score lies somewhere between 106 and 118. The K-FAST measured how well Lauren could apply her mental ability and past learning to realistic situations that dealt with arithmetic and reading. The majority of items on the K-FAST had practical significance. For example, items on the arithmetic subtest included telling time on a clock, counting numbers of objects, and reading graphs. Lauren chose, initially, not to use the pencil and paper that were offered to her for the Mathematics subtest. She said that she wanted to try to see if she could do the computations in her head. She successfully solved the problems mentally until she reached the last few items that required more complicated arithmetic. This style of problem solving further supports the hypothesis that she performs better on mathematical applications than on pure computation because analyzing the problem in her head has more "practical" significance for her as a teacher than simply performing the operations of the problem. The reading subtest included items such as describing the meaning of signs and symbols, interpreting recipes, and defining abbreviations. Lauren seemed to enjoy the K-FAST test. Her Above Average performance on this test provides further evidence of her strength in acquired knowledge, long-term memory, and fund of information.

In addition to her strong abilities on school-related tasks, Lauren demonstrated specific relative strengths in both the integration of verbal concepts and the output of verbal expression. These strengths were evidenced by her performance on three WAIS-III verbal subtests that required her to solve arithmetic problems orally, explain the similarities between objects, and articulate social rules and concepts or provide solutions to everyday problems. Articulate verbalization was further noted in her explanation of her Kinetic Family Drawing (previously discussed), and her ease of verbalization with the examiner during the intake interview. Though she evidenced strengths in verbal conceptualization and expression, Lauren demonstrated that her spelling abilities were less well developed. This was noted by her performance (47 th percentile) on the Spelling subtest of the WJ III (previously discussed). Familiar words such as loyalty, obedience, and prejudice were misspelled by Lauren. As is true for many adults, her spelling skills may have declined over the years due to the fact that Lauren has been out of school for several years, and usually depends on her computer's spell-check rather than worrying about correcting errors herself. Lauren also commented to the examiner at the beginning of this subtest that she "hates spelling ...I always just use a dictionary or my spell-check to spare myself the agony."

In contrast to the strengths described above, Lauren demonstrated significant relative weaknesses in both visual memory and visual sequencing. These weaknesses were noted in a task that required her to pair numbers with their hieroglyphic symbols presented in a key. Her weakness in visual memory was further noted in two tasks: one in which Lauren had to examine pictures of objects and settings and determine important parts that were missing in the picture, and in another in which she examined a group of symbols to determine if it contained one of the symbols present in a target pair. Lauren was not able to quickly retrieve the visual images required to perform well on these tasks. Her visual sequencing weakness was noted in a task in which she had to rearrange sets of mixed-up pictures to create a logical story sequence. Her weaknesses in both visual memory and visual sequencing supports her weakness in sequential processing, which is in contrast to her strong holistic processing style (interpreting visual-spatial relationships as a whole rather than in parts).

Summary and Conclusion

Concerned about her feeling of inadequacy as a substitute teacher for certain subjects and grade levels, Lauren, a 57-year-old female, was referred by her employer for a psychoeducational evaluation to assess her cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Lauren was interested in determining what grade levels and academic subjects she is qualified to substitute for and she wanted specific recommendations to enhance her performance as a teacher.

Lauren's WAIS-III profile contained significant variability among her Indexes, which rendered her Verbal IQ and Full Scale IQ meaningless as a representation of her overall ability, and warrants interpretation of the individual Indexes and her subtest strengths and weaknesses.

As evident from her performance on the Verbal Comprehension Index (112) and Perceptual Organization Index (105), Lauren performs equally well on verbal conceptualization tasks (79th percentile) and nonverbal reasoning tasks (63rd percentile). In addition, Lauren's Verbal Comprehension and Working Memory indexes were almost identical, indicating that she performs equally well on all types of verbal tasks including those dependent on acquired knowledge as well as tasks of performing operations with numbers. The 19-point discrepancy found between her Perceptual Organization Index and her Processing Speed Index indicates that Lauren per forms better on performance tasks that require nonverbal reasoning than on performance tasks of visual processing speed. Lauren tended to use a methodical, planning approach in her performance work and, therefore, tended to work slower on the performance tasks.

A significant relative strength was noted in Lauren's holistic processing and a significant relative weakness was found in her integrated brain functioning. Taken together, this means that Lauren tends to process information by predominantly using the right side of her brain and examining information as an integrated whole. Lauren demonstrated a significant relative strength in semantic cognition evidenced by several subtests of the WAIS-III, as well as her explanation of her Kinetic Family Drawing and her higher scores on the mathematics Applied Problems versus Calculation subtest on the WJ-III. Other relative strengths include her level of acquired knowledge, fund of information, and use of long-term memory. These strengths were demonstrated on several of the WAIS-III verbal subtests (describing similarities between objects, defining vocabulary words, and articulating social rules and solutions to problems), as well as her above-average performance on the K-FAST. Lauren also manifested strengths in the integration of verbal concepts and the output of verbal expression exhibited on three WAIS-III subtests, her Kinetic Family Drawing explanation, and her articulate conversation with the examiner. In contrast to these verbal strengths, Lauren was weaker in her spelling ability, indicated by her performance on the Spelling subtest of the WJ III. Other relative weaknesses of Lauren included poor visual memory, visual sequencing, and short-term memory.

Overall, Lauren is an intelligent woman who seems very dedicated to her occupation as a substitute teacher and places importance on performing well. She may be at a slight disadvantage in her job because of her age and the number of years she has been out of school. This may account for some of her relative weaknesses in visual memory, spelling, and processing speed. Her concerns about teaching mathematics were unfounded in this evaluation, but she performs best on mathematics tasks when she can apply the problem in a practical way to her daily life. Lauren is skilled in verbal tasks and has a vast knowledge base. Therefore, it is apparent from this evaluation that she is qualified to substitute teach for a variety of grade levels and subjects. She needs to realistically recognize her weaknesses but also give herself credit for the many strong abilities she possesses.


1. Though Lauren is qualified to teach at a high level in mathematics, to relieve some of her anxiety surrounding this subject she would benefit from being able to examine the specific lesson plan and calculations prior to teaching the concepts to a class. It is recommended that her employer make special arrangements with the schools that Lauren substitutes in to provide her with preparation materials for the mathematics classes that she is asked to teach.

2. Based on Lauren's mathematics scores in this evaluation, she might benefit from employing an application problem-solving approach to difficult mathematics questions that she encounters in the classroom. This means that she should try to apply the arithmetic question to her daily life or a practical situation to make it more meaningful and interesting to her. She may also be able to increase her speed in solving mathematics problems with extra practice on timed tasks in her spare time.

3. Lauren's difficulties with spelling might be remedied by an intensive review of commonly misspelled words. There are several books available that contain spelling exercises to help individuals brush up on their skills in this area. It is recommended that Lauren acquire one of these books and start reviewing the proper spelling of some commonly used words.

4. Lauren might also be able to improve her visual memory by simply attempting to exercise it more in her daily life. For example, instead of writing down a phone number after seeing it in the phone book, she should try to hold it in her short-term memory long enough to dial the number, and then later try to write down the number on a piece of paper. Successfully using her memory more often may also give her more confidence in her abilities.

5. It is recommended that Lauren consider brief psychotherapy to work on her poor self-image and low self-esteem. She might also benefit from a support group for relatives of family members who have a psychological disorder. Such supportive environments may help her to better cope with her mother's depression and would give her extra social support from other individuals who are dealing with the same issues.

Megan Lucas Examiner

Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger, Ph.D.


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