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Preliminary Observations on the WIAT-II – Some serious, some trivial

  • In general, the graphics and the content of the items appear to be much improved and excellent.  (Trivial: Note that the graphic designer has still been unable to spell the word OPEN upside down and backwards on Oral expression, item 14.  Might be the same person who allowed the sun to melt the door handle off the WISC-III PA item and had the robber place an extra hat box on the shelf in the same subtest!)
  • The Oral Expression subtest still does not appear to consider the quality of oral expression in the scoring.  Grammar, length of utterance, vocabulary, and other essential components of oral expression seem to have little effect on scores.  Apparently, a series of ungrammatical phrases and sentence fragments using primitive vocabulary (except for certain key words) could score as high as a series of eloquent, perfectly grammatical, compound, complex, and compound/complex sentences with embedded clauses and a rich vocabulary.  We are hearing reports from practitioners that Oral Expression seems to be yielding inflated scores, especially for children with oral language problems.  We suspect that the scoring rules and the heavy use of visual materials might account for such reports of allegedly inflated scores for children with oral language problems.  The scoring seems in some instances arbitrary.  For example, does the failure to compare the story to ones own experiences or another story represent a weakness in oral expression or the ability to stay focused on the assigned task or simply a lack of narcissism?  Even the administration example for the visual passage retell (story about Emily) does not contain any narcissistic, self indulgent statements.  How is a child expected to know that this is part of the scoring rubric – we never gave an example?
  • Even studying the examples in the manual, Oral Expression remains difficult to score reliably.
  • One wonderful aspect of the WIAT was the lovely contrast between Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension.  You had two tests, normed on the same sample, that were (except for the memory demand of Listening Comprehension) nearly identical in format, with one requiring reading and the other only listening.  This contrasting pair was tremendously helpful in distinguishing reading comprehension problems from more pervasive language comprehension problems and in documenting the severity of a reading problem compared to an expectation based on oral comprehension.  That contrast is now lost in the WIAT-II.
  • The Reading Comprehension questions appear to be good and much better than the ones on the WIAT.
  • The Reading Comprehension scoring rules in the easel should, we think, provide more guidance on querying.  Although much improved over the WIAT, the acceptable answers still place a premium on the examinee guessing what the question really is asking, so there are many possible answers that suggest good understanding but receive no credit and apparently warrant no query.
  • The Listening Comprehension subtest now seems to be primarily two very brief vocabulary test (Receptive Vocabulary – 16 items, and Expressive Vocabulary – 15 items) with an extremely brief (10 items) sentence comprehension test thrown in.  The formats are very similar to the PPVT-III, OWLS Listening Comprehension, and EVT, respectively.  If this is an area of concern, we would be more inclined to use those tests to gain a larger number of items.
  • However, one examiner has reported preferring the new Listening Comprehension subtest, especially the sentence comprehension component, and finding it does a better job of documenting listening problems observed by teachers.  Students who do better on the WIAT-II Listening Comprehension than they do listening in class might be demonstrating good listening potential impaired by distractibility in class.
  • The Listening Comprehension subtest has, as noted above, 3 separate parts (sub-subtest?) with continuous numbering from 1 to 41. There may be some confusion regarding scoring of these parts.  On the record form the discontinuation rule indicates that an examiner stops after “6 consecutive scores of 0.”  Is this for the entire test or for each separate part?  Since the Record form does not indicate that the discontinuation rule is actually to be applied to “each section”, and because the numbers imply that the test is all one set of items (1-41), an examiner may discontinue testing without giving the child a chance on each of the 3 sections.  One must reads carefully page 74 in the Examiner’s manual to see that the discontinuation rule applies to each of the 3 sections.

·        The lack of top and bottom in the norms tables is a concern.  We realize that the test is not designed for gifted adolescents, but the low and uneven tops on some of the subtests for adolescents could significantly skew results for a bright (not gifted) adolescent with strengths in those areas with low tops and weaknesses in other areas.  Please see the scores of Sam McGee (zero raw scores) and Ginny Genius (perfect raw scores) as well as WIAT II Minimum and Maximum Standard Scores by Age and Subtest.

  • The reading speed measure would be a wonderful addition were it not for the possibility that the student might read some or all of the stories aloud.  Also, measuring reading speed on a comprehension test is risky.  Some students might cautiously re-read the story before announcing they were done, while others might barely skim it, planning to review it for detail when they heard the questions.
  • The Reading Rate chart in the record form is interesting, but difficult to interpret (even assuming the student read silently, did not obsessively reread, and did not simply skim and wait for questions).  Definitions (e.g., "Far below average to below average") are given on the page for the quartiles, but not for the various shaded areas on matrix.
  • Differences between computer data-entry and hand-scoring for Written Expression has confused some examiners and caused scoring errors.
  • The Pseudoword Decoding is a wonderful addition.  We wish there were a comparable Pseudoword Spelling.
  • In general, the alternative correct pronunciations for Pseudoword Decoding are good.  Could a /z/ sound also be correct for "nesal"?
  • There has been a lot of discussion about Reading Comprehension.  Some examiners have been pleased that the required stopping and ending points diminish frustration.  Others have asserted that, when they tested limits, students have missed many items below the starting point or passed many beyond the stopping point, leading them to question the validity of the resulting scores.  New rules and new norms were developed by The Psychological Corporation, which seems prudent, but which will increase confusion. For further comment see:  WIAT-II Reading Comprehension Changes and Comment    The new rules and normative information can be obtained at the following link:
  • The optional procedure described in Product Update No. 1 ["If the student is able to respond correctly to many of the items in the new (lower) grade level, the examiner may continue to administer items beyond the stop point for that grade level according to his/her clinical judgment, but not beyond the original start point."] seems like a very good idea, but unfortunately a potential cause of inter-examiner inconsistency in scores (much like the essentially optional basal and ceiling rules on the WJ III).
  • The inclusion of phonological items in the WIAT-II is very good, but we have some concern about burying the phonological items within the Word Reading subtest (rather than making a separate subtest with a sufficient number of items as was done with the valuable, new Pseudoword Decoding).  We am suspicious of tests that measure two or more different skills in a single subtest (known as the "Two Handles on a Shovel" phenomenon, best illustrated by the K-TEA Brief Form and the MBA).  It might prove difficult, for example, to sort out young children with strong phonological skills and very weak decoding from children with moderately weak phonological skills and moderately weak decoding. 
  • We really like the inclusion of all 26 lower-case letters in Word Reading.  We are not sure what the three letter-matching-from-memory items contribute, and one of the three pulls for reversals (d p b).
  • For the Word Reading rhyming items, the examiner provides a good explanation if the student does not respond, but not if the student makes an error (which would seem to doom the next three items).  We wish the first (essentially practice) item (30) were not scored, given the wide variations in previous experience young children will bring to this subtest.  Item 34 (beginning sounds) gets an explanation for either no response or an error, which seems much more reasonable.
  • The lamination on the Word Reading and Pseudoword Decoding cards does not seem very strong.
  • On Numerical Operations items 6 and 7 (penny counting), two wrongs may make a right: the child may point wrong (missing a penny) and count wrong (skipping a number) and come up with the right answer.
  • The answer spaces for the common-fraction items on Numerical Operations are confusing.  Are the answers to be placed on the line or does the line separate a numerator form a denominator?
  • There really aren't many items on Numerical Operations for high school students with dyslexia but decent math skills.  This could be a serious limitation when assessing strengths and weaknesses.  Item 54 (missing hypotenuse of a right triangle with sides of 3 and 4 is (like the similar WJ-R item that was improved on the WJ III) too easy to guess.
  • Math Reasoning item 53 should, we think, accept a range of answers, e.g., 70% to 80%, rather than only precisely 75%.  Item 60 is very unclear.  Does "the least expensive set" refer to the TV that was least expensive before the sale or the one that is least expensive after the sale mark-down?  Item 66 is hopelessly unclear.  "How many ways are there to arrange four books on a shelf?"  You could stack them horizontally, front cover on top, in any of 24 sequences.  You could stack them horizontally, back cover on top, in any of 24 sequences. You could arrange them in a line in any of 24 sequences.  You could stand up 2 and use 2 for bookends.  You could . . .
  • We read and understood the discussion of the importance of testing homonyms on the Spelling subtest (page 12, Examiner’s Manual), but still think that there are too many homonym and near-homonym items.
  • Many of the Written Expression items are very good.
  • More practice may help, but even with two manuals to consult, we continue to find ambiguities in scoring Written Expression.  We are concerned about the scoring accuracy of inexperienced examiners and examiners who do not work full-time as evaluators.
  • However, one examiner has reported that the Written Expression subtest does a good job of picking up writing problems missed by other tests.
  • We really dislike the Parent Report form.  It may bewilder most parents.  The greatly elevated normal curve makes the extreme categories seem much too large in proportion to the average category.  Parents may pay more attention to the heights at which the subtest abbreviations are written than to their positions along the baseline. Unlike the more “normal” normal curve provide on the page with Ability-Achievement Discrepancy Analysis, the parent’s normal curve does not provide any reference scores below the curve.  This would seem a reasonable addition to this section.  The Parent Report form reads as though it is intended to be sent home with no face-to-face meeting and no narrative report.  It strikes us as woefully inadequate for that questionable purpose, a purpose we view with alarm and wish were not encouraged.
  • The Princess Summerfallwinterspring phenomenon (precipitous drops in scores overnight from Fall to Winter or Winter to Spring) is very small on the WIAT-II.  See WIAT II Norm Changes, based on Grade, Between Seasonal Norms [It takes some searching to find the definitions of the seasons on page 40 of the manual.  Fall = August, September, October and November; Winter = December, January, and February; and Spring = March, April, May, June, and July.  “What are the three seasons of the year?”]
  • The extra Oral Expression norms pages for nine-year-olds in third grade are unexpected and easy to miss.  They are found on pages 242 and 243 of the Scoring and Normative Supplement for Grades PreK -12.
  • However, the expected increase in raw scores from one grade to the next to maintain a standard score of 100 is often two points or less.  Please see  WIAT-II Raw Score for a Standard Score of 100 by Winter Norms.  This low rate of growth makes me worry about the use of the WIAT-II for re-evaluations.  We do not think it is generally wise to use any individual achievement test for monitoring annual growth, but one of the most popular uses of such tests is, sadly, for special education teachers to stop teaching for a couple of weeks each spring and administer individual achievement tests to all of their students.
  • Nice caveats about grade-equivalent scores on p. 145 of the manual.
  • Information from page 151 of the Examiner's manual provide some clues as to the effect of age on the WISC-III scores.  See Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Third Edition Normative Re-anchoring (1991-2001)