Intellectual and Achievement Assessment in Education


During the twentieth century, intellectual and achievement tests were introduced to the industrialized world. That was the beginning of changes in the context of both employment and educational processes. The emergence of these tests in the USA caused a significant shift, as the opinions were divided. One group of researchers argued that the acquired skills and abilities underlie the core of intelligence. Others objected that intelligence is connected solely with genetic factors and is a personal trait. Moreover, the hypothesis that ethnic and racial characteristics also affect intelligence started to emerge. Today, new researches tend to support Binet’s original ideas, considering them more progressive.

The History of Intellectual and Achievement Assessment Progress

At the end of the 1800s, the first studies of intelligence were conducted by Sir Francis Galton, an English scientist. He succeeded in creating his laboratory for testing physical characteristics and sensory qualities, like the reaction time (Wasserman, 2018). Galton can be called a pioneer of statistical and psychometric methods (Wasserman, 2018). Furthermore, he is considered a father of contemporary intelligence research (Wasserman, 2018). In the light of the existing technologies of his times, his success in measuring the chosen parameters was not very substantial. His main success was in creating a working hypothesis of the nature of intelligence which formed the basis for all further research.

On the threshold of the following century, a successor of Galton emerged. It was the French scientist with the name of Alfred Binet (Wasserman, 2018). His primary contribution is the development of the first intelligence test similar to contemporary IQ examinations. Binet created and structured the questions, which, according to him, could be answered correctly by children of any age (Wasserman, 2018). Initially, his objective was to identify children with learning disabilities or unusual characteristics. Binet’s theory was based on the assumption that intelligence develops with age and is comparable within an age group.

The first IQ formula was presented by William Stern, a psychologist from Germany, who used Binet’s tests as the basis. In the USA, Binet’s theories were adopted by Lewis Madison Terman, who contributed to the widespread use of IQ tests (Wasserman, 2018). His assessments could be used for both children and adults. In the 1930s, David Wechsler, a psychologist from the USA, used written tests in order to evaluate adult intelligence (Parkin, 2018).

During the last century, Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales and Wechsler tests attained widespread popularity. They examine cognitive processes, including spatial reasoning and processing, vocabulary, long-term memory, immediate memory, and knowledge and arithmetic (Parkin, 2018). The efficacy of these examinations, however, was questioned by numerous critics. They claimed that school systems, quality of education, and other factors might distort the results of the tests due to cultural discrepancies (Boyle et al., 2016). Cattell’s Culture Fair Intelligence Test and Raven’s Progressive Matrices emerged as a response to these critics (Boyle et al., 2016).

The Comparison of Methods of Intellectual Assessment

Among the most popular intelligence assessment tests is the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS). It is a set of six items that measure an individual’s intelligence in three domains – verbal, non-verbal, and composite memory (Raines et al., 2018). Each of these areas is comprised of two sub-tests. For verbal assessment, assignments include reasoning and guessing; for non-verbal, individuals should identify the missing part of a picture, and choose an odd item from a sequence (Raines et al., 2018). Memory testing is more complex than the other two domains. The assignments evaluate both verbal and non-verbal memories.

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (SBIS) is similar to RIAS – it is comprised of several sub-tests that evaluate human intelligence in several domains. The number and format of sub-tests, however, differ from RIAS significantly. SBIS assesses fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, and working memory (Mahdavi & Zkamkari, 2016). Theories behind SBIS are significantly older than RIAS because SBIS is based on the studies of Terman (Mahdavi & Zkamkari, 2016). Like RIAS, it has been revised several times and is currently in its 5th edition.

The Comparison of Methods of Achievement Assessment

While intelligence tests evaluate an individual’s general capabilities in reasoning and memorizing, achievement tests are aimed at assessing specific skills related to school subjects, such as math and language. Woodcock-Johnson IV, for instance, measures scholastic aptitude and academic achievement (Mather & Jaffe, 2016). One of the unique characteristics of this test is that there is no time limit (Mather & Jaffe, 2016). It makes test results more valid because individuals are not pressured by time constraints (Mather & Jaffe, 2016). There is also no writing assignment so that individuals with reading impairments may take the test (Mather & Jaffe, 2016). The primary disadvantage of this assessment is that it is not possible to compare achievement test results with intelligence reports. This problem, however, is solved in the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), because the developers provide tools for making a comparison between WIAT and Wechsler IQ scales (Parkin, 2018). Similar to Woodcock-Johnson IV, WIAT is not timed except for the written portion (Parkin, 2018). In other aspects, such as question topics, WIAT and Woodcock-Johnson are comparable.

The Effect of Testing Bias on the Client in the Private and School-based Settings

The issue of testing bias has accompanied intellectual assessments since their emergence centuries ago. This challenge can be summarized as the inability of tests to reflect the intellectual capabilities of students accurately (Kruse, 2016). While in certain circumstances, this distortion of results may undermine some individuals, private schools may turn this bias into an advantage (Kruse, 2016). When test results show that a child has potential and it can be fulfilled in the school, parents are more willing to pay substantial amounts of money for tuition. In other words, private schools may use distorted results as an instrument for attracting parents.

In other circumstances, however, issues with test validity lead to problems with fairness. For instance, when assessing the skills and abilities of candidates, testing bias may lead to an employer making an unethical decision (Kruse, 2016). A similar situation can be observed in state-funded school settings. A teacher may fail to design a test free of cultural and racial biases (Kruse, 2016). The result is that students from cultural and racial minorities may score significantly less than other individuals. In turn, it may lead to psychological issues because of a feeling of unfair treatment or because of continuous mocking from the classmates.

Private schools are trying to solve this issue by designing more valid tests for educational assessments. However, the role of the financial component is significant in this context (Kruse, 2016). Parents and students have access to bias-free examinations as long as they pay for private education. It is unfortunate because not many families, especially from cultural and racial minorities, are able to afford private education for their children.


The history of intelligence assessment is long and has gone in parallel with research in psychology and cognitive sciences. Despite a ubiquitous effort to deliver a test that measures intellectual capabilities and achievement without pitfalls, many of the contemporary scales are subject to bias. Cultural and racial fallacies result in disadvantages for minority groups. Alternatively, distortion in test results may be used by private educational institutions for profit maximization.


Boyle, G. J., Stankov, L., Martin, N. G., Petrides, K. V., Eysenck, M. W., & Ortet, G. (2016). Hans J. Eysenck and Raymond B. Cattell on intelligence and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 103, 40-47.

Kruse, A. J. (2016). Cultural bias in testing: A review of literature and implications for music education. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 35(1), 23-31.

Mahdavi, A., & Zkamkari, K. (2016). The diagnostic validity of new version of Tehran-Stanford-Binet intelligence scale in students with learning disabilities. International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1(1), 2104-2112.

Mather, N., & Jaffe, L. E. (2016). Woodcock-Johnson IV: Reports, recommendations, and strategies. John Wiley & Sons.

Parkin, J. R. (2018). Wechsler individual achievement test – third edition oral language and reading measures effects on reading comprehension in a referred sample. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 36(3), 203-218.

Raines, T. C., Reynolds, C. R., & Kamphaus, R. W. (2018). The Reynolds intellectual assessment scales, second edition, and the Reynolds intellectual screening test, second edition. In D. P. Flanagan & E. M. McDonough (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 533–552). The Guilford Press.

Wasserman, J. D. (2018). A history of intelligence assessment: The unfinished tapestry. In D. P. Flanagan & E. M. McDonough (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 3–55). The Guilford Press.

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