Using Tests to Identify Gifted Students

— National Association for Gifted Children
Updated on Jan 15, 2009

Most school districts use some form of standardized achievement, intelligence, or creativity tests in the identification and screening process for gifted programs and services. When used properly and when selected with care, these instruments may provide valuable information about students' abilities, including their strengths and weaknesses. Tests are also valuable for assessing students' needs, and for designing programs and services based on these needs. Despite their potential usefulness, tests also have limitations. Testing instruments are not perfect or infallible predictors of intelligence, achievement, or ability and should be selected and used carefully. While critically important in all assessment, this precaution must be given even greater consideration when assessing underserved gifted students (i.e., young children, culturally diverse students, linguistically diverse students, economically disadvantaged students, and students with other special educational needs).

Given the limitations of all tests, no single measure should be used to make identification and placement decisions. That is, no single test or instrument should be used to include a child in or exclude a child from gifted education services. The most effective and equitable means of serving gifted students is to assess them - to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to prescribe services based on these needs. Testing situations should not hinder students' performance. Students must feel comfortable, relaxed, and have a good rapport with the examiner. Best practices indicate that multiple measures and valid indicators from multiple sources must be used to assess and serve gifted students. Information should be gathered from multiple sources (caregivers/families, teachers, students, and others with significant knowledge of the students), in different ways (e.g., observations, performances, products, portfolios, interviews), and in different contexts (e.g., in-school and out-of-school settings).

Any school personnel who administer, use, or advise others in the use of standardized tests should be qualified to do so. They should:

1. Understand measurement principles, including how to evaluate the test's technical claims (e.g., validity and reliability)
2. Know about the particular test used, its appropriate uses, and its limitations, including possible consequences resulting from scores;
3. Administer, score, and interpret results in a professional and responsible manner;
4. Employ procedures necessary to reduce or eliminate bias in test selection, administration, and interpretation;
5. Understand the influence of cultural diversity, linguistic diversity, and socioeconomic disadvantages on test performance; and
6. Weigh the results of tests carefully with other information.

NAGC advocates that all school personnel continue to explore, adapt, and evaluate comprehensive assessment alternatives to ensure that all gifted students are given an equal opportunity to develop their potential.


Mile Marker Series

No matter where you are as a parent on your journey in the world of gifted education, you will find high quality information from NAGC’s vast online and printed resources all in one place, in this easy-to-use resource:

Developed by experts in the field and parents who have traveled the route before, this series will help parents of high-ability children find useful, up-to-date, practical information and guidance. You're the driver and can take the path that best meets your needs.

Policy Statements

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) periodically issues policy statements that deal with issues, policies, and practices that have an impact on the education of gifted and talented students. View the complete series at

Become an NAGC member and you'll open the door to many individuals who care about gifted children -- while at the same time you'll receive the benefits of membership that will keep you informed about the latest issues and events in gifted. Visit NAGC today.

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