What is the WAIS Intelligence test or Wechsler Scale?

Robert Johnston
What is the WAIS Intelligence test or Wechsler Scale?

The WAIS test, which stands for Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults, is a standardized test used to measure the IQ of adults. The IQ is a score obtained by performing certain cognitive tests and which is evaluated based on the chronological age of the person and the expected results in the test according to their age group. The WAIS test is the most widely used intelligence test today and also has a version to measure intelligence in children: the WISC, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

This test rests on the basis of the definition that Wechsler gave to intelligence, considering it a global capacity that allows us to act and manage our environment effectively, as well as to think and act rationally. Wechsler considered that although this ability was somewhat general, it could be subdivided into different categories that could be measured through various tests.


  • History of the WAIS test
  • What exactly does the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale measure??
  • Criticism of the WAIS intelligence tests
    • Links of interest

History of the WAIS test

At the beginning of the 20th century, the psychologist Alfred Binet, interested in helping children with special educational needs, developed a scale known as the Binet Scale in which he measured the capacities of these children. After his death, although it was not what Binet proposed, his Scale would change its use and now called the Stanford-Binet Scale, it was taken as a measurement of the inherited abilities of individuals, a way of measuring intelligence as a unitary factor without taking into account the contextual conditions of individuals or their different capacities. Binet, however, considered intelligence as something very difficult to measure and that it could not be reduced only to a number.

Thus, the American psychologist David Wechsler, who also did not conceive of intelligence as something reduced to a single factor, published the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) for the first time in 1955. A test with which he intended to measure the intelligence of adults and young people based on different cognitive abilities and that had started as a refined revision of the scale that Wechsler had been creating since the 1930s, the Wechsler-Bellevue Scale.

Since 1955 there have been many changes and new versions introduced in the WAIS test that even today is still commonly used. Thus, the version currently used is the WAIS-IV, which presents new subtests and appropriate changes to the current information..

Wechsler's ideas have influenced later authors such as Howard Gardner, who developed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in the 1980s..

What exactly does the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale measure?

The WAIS is based on measuring the different capacities that people present in different areas, both in high and low measures, trying to find the strengths, as well as the specific needs that a person may present.

The WAIS also provides an overall score, but it does so by comparing people's scores to their age group. Thus, the figure 100 indicates the average of the intelligence scores of the general population that usually oscillate between 85 and 115.

Although the WAIS provides a general result, this is an average of the different factors that have been studied. These would be:

  • Verbal comprehension: These tests seek to evaluate semantic knowledge, as well as expression, verbal comprehension and abstract verbal reasoning. This is done through tests such as word definition, general knowledge tests, or comparison between words..
  • Perceptual reasoning: By measuring this factor, an attempt is made to assess the person's ability to solve abstract non-verbal problems using inductive reasoning, as well as perceive visual details and visual and spatial processing..
  • Working memory: Through the tests to evaluate working memory, an attempt is made to investigate the ability of the evaluated person to mentally manipulate, reason quantitatively or concentrate, remembering letters and numbers or arithmetic tests.
  • Processing speed: Tests to measure the “processing speed” factor involve tasks such as searching for symbols or encoding and trying to measure the speed to process information, as well as associative memory or graphomotor speed.

Criticism of the WAIS intelligence tests

Although it is true that the WAIS test is a good way to approximate the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of a person and that it is also a reliable test that is updated according to the different research results, it is also true that this type of tests , in general, they also have some criticism.

One of the biggest criticisms of the tests used to assess intelligence is that sometimes they are not true predictors of the results and successes that a person may achieve in life. The tests usually measure abilities such as abstract or verbal reasoning at a specific moment in our lives, but many investigations have affirmed that the figure that we obtain as an IQ can vary over the years according to the living conditions of individuals. That is why when a person receives a certain type of education, their IQ may increase or decrease depending on their familiarity with this type of test and these environmental factors..

In addition, there are cognitive abilities such as creativity or emotional intelligence that can be overlooked in this type of test that seeks very specific answers.

Despite these points to take into account, the WAIS intelligence test continues to be a very useful and reliable tool to find out which are the factors in which a person stands out and which are those that we must attend the most to improve people's lives..

Links of interest


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