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A Kindergarten Crib Sheet

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While buying the answers to the WPPSI isn't suggested -- unless your kid can keep his mouth shut, in which case he'll probably score in the ninetieth percentile without expensive tutoring -- it doesn't hurt to know what to expect. The test is composed of two sections, a verbal scale and a performance scale, and five different subtests within each section.

The verbal tests are designed to measure how well a child expresses him- or herself in words. The performance tests are intended to examine the child's nonverbal intelligence, and how he uses his hands to manipulate things and solve problems. Here -- without giving away the answers -- are some of the challenges your little one is likely to encounter.

VERBAL
Information The purpose of this test is to probe a child's general knowledge of the environment, not the easiest thing to prep for. A typical question might be something like "What color are cherries?"

Vocabulary Being able to parrot four-syllable words is less impressive than knowing what a one-syllable word means. The tester might start off with something simple like tree, eventually moving up to more complicated, abstract concepts such as anger.

Similarities The tester might ask the child something like "How are a pear and a peach alike?" "They're both fruits" wins more points than "You eat them."

Arithmetic In addition to asking the child to count blocks, or showing him or her a picture of hands holding different numbers of pennies and asking which has the least, the tester will also pose purely verbal simple math problems, such as how much money the youngster has left after he buys something. This subject could be a slam-dunk for any little kid who ever shook down his mom for penny-candy money.

Comprehension A test of a toddler's common sense and social awareness. "Why do we need firemen?" is the kind of question on this subtest.

PERFORMANCE
Mazes No secret here. They start off simple, getting successively more labyrinthine.

Block Design The tester shows the child an abstract design. The youngster is then asked to duplicate it using blocks. This tests not only his or her ability to analyze patterns but also hand-eye coordination.

Object Assembly A fancy term for puzzles. Not exactly the kind you buy in a store, but close enough to make the investment worthwhile.

Picture Completion The tester might show the child something like a picture of a foot without toes, or a sailboat missing half its sail, then ask what's been left out.

Geometric Design Kids are asked to copy a printed design. It might be something like a triangle in a circle. One of the purposes of this subtest is to examine the child's fine motor control -- in other words, his or her pencil-wielding dexterity.

The key to acing the test isn't spending money on fancy tutors but spending time with your kids. "What parents should do is take their children to museums, expose them to culture, read to them, talk to them," suggests Dr. Alan Kaufman, a psychologist at the Yale University School of Medicine's Child Study Center and an expert on children's IQ tests. The time for intensive hands-on parenting doesn't start a month before your child takes the ERB but shortly after your epidural wears off. "Infants one day old are absorbing from the environment everything they see and hear," Kaufman says. "The moment they're born, their mind is like a sponge."


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