Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale

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Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
ICD-9-CM 94.01
MeSH D014888

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is a test designed to measure intelligence in adults and older adolescents.[1] It is currently in its fourth edition (WAIS-IV). The original WAIS (Form I) was published in February 1955 by David Wechsler, as a revision of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale.[2] The fourth edition of the test (WAIS-IV) was released in 2008 by Pearson.

The Wechsler-Bellevue tests were innovative in the 1930s because they gathered tasks created for nonclinical purposes for administration as a “clinical test battery”.[3] Because the Wechsler tests included non-verbal items (known as performance scales) as well as verbal items for all test-takers, and because the 1960 form of Lewis Terman‘s Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales was less carefully developed than previous versions, Form I of the WAIS surpassed the Stanford-Binet tests in popularity by the 1960s.[2]

Wechsler defined intelligence as “… the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment.”[4][verification needed]


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WAIS vs. WAIS-R above. (December 2009)

The WAIS was initially created as a revision of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale (WBIS), which was a battery of tests published by Wechsler in 1939. The WBIS was composed of subtests that could be found in various other intelligence tests of the time, such as Robert Yerkes‘ army testing program and the BinetSimon scale. The WAIS was first released in February 1955 by David Wechsler.


The WAIS-R, a revised form of the WAIS, was released in 1981 and consisted of six verbal and five performance subtests. The verbal tests were: Information, Comprehension, Arithmetic, Digit Span, Similarities, and Vocabulary. The Performance subtests were: Picture Arrangement, Picture Completion, Block Design, Object Assembly, and Digit Symbol. A verbal IQ, performance IQ and full scale IQ were obtained.[5]

This revised edition did not provide new validity data, but used the data from the original WAIS; however new norms were provided, carefully stratified.[5]


Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale subscores and subtests.png

The WAIS-III, a subsequent revision of the WAIS and the WAIS-R, was released in 1997. It provided scores for Verbal IQ, Performance IQ, and Full Scale IQ, along with four secondary indices (Verbal Comprehension, Working Memory, Perceptual Organization, and Processing Speed).

Verbal IQ (VIQ)

Included seven tests and provided two subindexes; verbal comprehension and working memory.

The Verbal comprehension index included the following tests:

  • Information
  • Similarities
  • Vocabulary

The Working memory index included:

  • Arithmetic
  • Digit Span

Letter-Number Sequencing and Comprehension are not included in these indices, but are used as substitutions for spoiled subtests within the WMI and VCI, respectively

Performance IQ (PIQ)

Included six tests and it also provided two subindexes; perceptual organization and processing speed.

The Perceptual organization index included:

The Processing speed index included:

Two tests; Picture Arrangement and Object Assembly were not included in the indexes. Object Assembly is not included in the PIQ.


The current version of the test, the WAIS-IV, which was released in 2008, is composed of 10 core subtests and five supplemental subtests, with the 10 core subtests comprising the Full Scale IQ. With the new WAIS-IV, the verbal/performance subscales from previous versions were removed and replaced by the index scores. The General Ability Index (GAI) was included, which consists of the Similarities, Vocabulary and Information subtests from the Verbal Comprehension Index and the Block Design, Matrix Reasoning and Visual Puzzles subtests from the Perceptual Reasoning Index. The GAI is clinically useful because it can be used as a measure of cognitive abilities that are less vulnerable to impairments of processing and working memory.

Indices and scales

There are four index scores representing major components of intelligence:

  • Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI)
  • Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI)
  • Working Memory Index (WMI)
  • Processing Speed Index (PSI)

Two broad scores are also generated, which can be used to summarize general intellectual abilities:

  • Full Scale IQ (FSIQ), based on the total combined performance of the VCI, PRI, WMI, and PSI
  • General Ability Index (GAI), based only on the six subtests that the VCI and PRI comprise.


Verbal Comprehension Core Description
Similarities X Abstract verbal reasoning (e.g., “In what way are an apple and a pear alike?”)
Vocabulary X The degree to which one has learned, been able to comprehend and verbally express vocabulary (e.g., “What is a guitar?”)
Information X Degree of general information acquired from culture (e.g., “Who is the president of Russia?”)
(Comprehension) Ability to deal with abstract social conventions, rules and expressions (e.g., “What does ‘Kill two birds with one stone’ metaphorically mean?”)
Perceptual Reasoning Core Description
Block Design X Spatial perception, visual abstract processing, and problem solving
Matrix Reasoning X Nonverbal abstract problem solving, inductive reasoning, spatial reasoning
Visual Puzzles X Spatial reasoning
(Picture Completion) Ability to quickly perceive visual details
(Figure Weights) Quantitative and analogical reasoning
Working Memory Core Description
Digit span X Attention, concentration, mental control (e.g., Repeat the numbers 1-2-3 in reverse sequence)
Arithmetic X Concentration while manipulating mental mathematical problems (e.g., “How many 45-cent stamps can you buy for a dollar?”)
(Letter-Number Sequencing) Attention, concentration, mental control (e.g., Repeat the sequence Q-1-B-3-J-2 in numerical and alphabetical order)
Processing Speed Core Description
Symbol Search X Visual perception/analysis, scanning speed
Coding X Visual-motor coordination, motor and mental speed, visual working memory
(Cancellation) Visual-perceptual speed


Distributions of full-scale IQ scores by race and ethnicity in the WAIS-IV US standardization sample.

The WAIS-IV was standardized on a sample of 2,200 people in the United States ranging in age from 16 to 90.[6] An extension of the standardization has been conducted with 688 Canadians in the same age range. The median Full Scale IQ is centered at 100, with a standard deviation of 15.[7] In a normal distribution, the IQ range of one standard deviation above and below the mean (i.e., between 85 and 115) is where approximately 68% of all adults would fall.

Other test variants and uses

The WAIS-IV measure is appropriate for use with individuals aged 16–90 years. For individuals under 16 years, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC, 6-16 years) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI, 2½–7 years, 3 months) are used.

A short, four-subtest version of the WAIS-III battery has been released, allowing clinicians to form a validated estimate of verbal, performance and full scale IQ in a shorter amount of time. The Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) uses vocabulary, similarities, block design and matrix reasoning subtests similar to those of the WAIS to provide an estimate of full scale IQ in approximately 30 minutes.

Intelligence tests may also be utilized in populations with psychiatric illness or brain injury, in order to assess level of cognitive functioning, though some regard this use as controversial. Rehabilitation psychologists and neuropsychologists use the WAIS-IV and other neuropsychological tests to assess how the brain is functioning after injury. Specific subtests provide information on a specific cognitive function. For example, digit span may be used to get a sense of attentional difficulties. Others employ the WAIS-R NI (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised as a Neuropsychological Instrument), another measure published by Harcourt. Each subtest score is tallied and calculated with respect to neurotypical or brain-injury norms. As the WAIS is developed for the average, non-injured individual, separate norms were developed for appropriate comparison among similar functioning individuals.

Today, various high-IQ societies accept this test for membership in their ranks; for example, the Triple Nine Society accepts a minimum score of 146 on any WAIS scale.[8]


  1. ^ Kaufman, Alan S.; Lichtenberger, Elizabeth (2006). Assessing Adolescent and Adult Intelligence (3rd ed.). Hoboken (NJ): Wiley. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-471-73553-3. Lay summary (22 August 2010).
  2. ^ a b Kaufman, Alan S.; Lichtenberger, Elizabeth (2006). Assessing Adolescent and Adult Intelligence (3rd ed.). Hoboken (NJ): Wiley. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-471-73553-3. Lay summary (22 August 2010).
  3. ^ Kaufman, Alan S.; Lichtenberger, Elizabeth (2006). Assessing Adolescent and Adult Intelligence (3rd ed.). Hoboken (NJ): Wiley. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-471-73553-3. Lay summary (22 August 2010).
  4. ^ Wechsler, David (1939). The Measurement of Adult Intelligence. Baltimore (MD): Williams & Witkins. p. 229.
  5. ^ a b “Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale–Revised”. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  6. ^ “WAIS-IV press release”. Pearson. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
  7. ^ “Distribution of IQ Scores”. MSN Encarta. Retrieved 2007-07-08.[dead link]
  8. ^ http://www.triplenine.org/main/admission.asp

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