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The Validity of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale

written by: Mayflor Markusic • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/17/2012

One of the most popular and most often used assessment tests to determine the intelligence quotient of students and identify those who have special education needs is the Stanford-Binet Scale. There are, however, instances when the score obtained from this test is not considered valid.

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    Brief History

    The first version of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was developed in 1916 and it was considered a revision of the earlier 1905 Binet-Simon scale. The assessment was the brainchild of Alfred Binet, a French psychologist who was commissioned by the French government to devise a test that could help identify children who needed to be in special education programs.

    He was assisted by Dr. Theodore Simon and in 1916, the Stanford University, through the leadership of another psychologist, Lewis Terman, published a revised version of the Binet-Simon Scale. The test was subsequently used by the American Psychological Association to test the intelligence of army recruits. And since then, later and updated versions were released in 1937, 1960, 1986, and 2003. The latest is the fifth edition that is simply referred to as the Stanford-Binet 5.

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    Purpose of the Test

    Today, this assessment test is just one of the many standardized instruments that measure an individual’s intelligence. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale measures three key mental abilities of individuals whose ages range from 2 to 23 years old. These are memory retention, basic cognitive processing, and general intelligence.

    These are measured using five factors, namely, working memory, visual-spatial processing, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, and fluid reasoning. Since the test also wanted to pinpoint communication disorders, these five factors are tested in two domains, the verbal, and the non-verbal.

    The results can also be used in predicting a student’s academic success. In this case, the assessment test is treated as an aptitude test. But many psychologists still recognize the original purposes of the test, which are to diagnose a student’s learning disabilities and to evaluate the mental capacity to reveal either retardation or giftedness. This evaluation leads to better educational plans.

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    Administration of the Test

    The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale may take as little as 45 minutes or as long as 2 hours and 30 minutes, depending on the number of sub-tests administered to the examinee. The older ones take more sub-tests and more sub-tests take a longer time to complete. But no matter what age, all examinees must take six of these sub-tests, which are Comprehension, Vocabulary, Quantitative, Pattern Analysis, Bead Memory, and Memory for Sentences. There are a total of 15 sub-tests in which the scores are grouped into four areas:

    • Verbal Reasoning - The score in verbal reasoning is supposed to reflect the examinee’s verbal knowledge, which is acquired in school and at home. The score shows the examinee’s ability to apply such knowledge to new situations.
    • Quantitative Reasoning – The score in quantitative reasoning demonstrates the examinee’s knowledge and skill in using numerical concepts.
    • Abstract/Visual Reasoning – The score in abstract/visual reasoning indicates the examinee’s abilities to solve problems through reasoning, to determine the logic behind patterns, and to perform mathematical operations.
    • Short-Term Memory – The score in short-term memory shows the examinee’s skills in focusing, using short-term memory, and understanding sequences.
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    Limitations

    The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale is probably one of the most well developed standardized tests in the field of education. It underwent several revisions and validity tests. And this is why the scores of this assessment instrument are sometimes treated as unquestionable. That is, a high score means giftedness and exceptionality and a low score means mental retardation.

    Many teachers forget that an individual’s intelligence is assessed by using more than one instrument and is influenced by several factors. And there are instances when the scores obtained from this test can be rendered invalid.

    For example, a considerable number of preschoolers may obtain a score of zero. This does not imply that the preschoolers have profound mental retardation. The zero score might be due to the preschoolers’ lack of co-operation and concentration during the test. Or it might be due to the test’s difficulty. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale has been criticized as being insensitive to age.

    There was also a study conducted by Dr. Piotrowski and published in 2005 in the journal, Psychiatric Quarterly, stating that a person’s ability to score high in verbal reasoning is not affected by the presence of psychosis. In this case, this assessment test could not be used as a sole instrument for determining mental health. Aside from such cases, this test remains a fairly reliable way to measure intelligence.