Welcome back to our deep dive into IQ and its various components.  Previously we examined Verbal Comprehension and Visual Spatial and what they both have to do with one’s overall intelligence.  Understanding these domains gives us a good insight into an individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, which can set a student up for success down the road.

In today’s post we will look at Fluid Reasoning.  As a reminder, I am using the WISC-V for my basis of these posts.  The WISC-V is administered to younger students (ages 6-16).  The WAIS-IV is a similar assessment that is used to test adults.  The WAIS-IV does not contain the Fluid Reasoning subtest.  However, the information here does pertain to adults in that Fluid Reasoning is a life-long cognitive skill.

What is Fluid Reasoning?

As I describe in my reports, Fluid Reasoning measures:

the ability to detect the underlying conceptual relationship among visual objects and use reasoning to identify and apply rules.

Students who have strong fluid reasoning typically are able to think abstractly, process information quickly, and see “the forest for the trees.”  The easiest way to think about it is being able solve a Rubik’s cube.  Not only must one understand the visual patterns, but one must also be able to manipulate these patterns and see how they connect.

How is it Calculated?

The Fluid Reasoning index score is calculated using two primary subtests:  Matrix Reasoning and Figure Weights.  The WISC-V offers two additional subtests as well:  Picture Concepts and Arithmetic.  Unless there are special circumstances, however, I typically only administer the two primary.

The Matrix Reasoning subtest shows the examinee a series of patterns.  The examinee must then determine from a list which object or picture logically fits the pattern.  For instance, the pattern might show a red circle, followed by a green square, followed by a yellow triangle.  The examinee would then select an object from a list of objects that logically comes next.  The patterns increase in complexity as the subtest progresses.

The Figure Weights subtest shows two or three balance scales with objects placed on each scale to make them balance.  One side of one scale is left blank.  The examinee must select an item from a list of objects that can be placed in the blank to balance that particular scale.  These items also become increasingly complex as the subtest progresses.

Once these two subtests are completed and scored, the score is converted into a standard score that can then be interpreted.  Similar to the other index scores on the WISC-V, the Fluid Reasoning index score can be interpreted with the following:

  • 130 or above: Very Superior
  • 120-129: Superior
  • 110-119: High Average
  • 90-109: Average
  • 80-89: Low Average
  • 70-79: Borderline
  • Below 70: Extremely Low

Most students fall in the 80-120 range, with 100 being exactly 50th percentile of test takers.

What Does the Score Tell Us?

Fluid Reasoning gives us insight into how an individual sees patterns, as well as how efficiently one can recognize the next step in a pattern.  This cognitive skill is highly correlated with left-brain thinkers.  The left brain is typically associated with logic and analytics, and having the ability to see pattern falls directly into this area of thinking.

Additionally, fluid reasoning typically involves information that is unfamiliar to the individual.  Part of fluid reasoning involves the ability to see novel information and make sense out of it.  Patterns are usually not automatically recognizable.  However, those with strong fluid reasoning are able to process the novel information quickly and determine how they fit together.  Along these lines, individuals with strong fluid reasoning are able to make informed decisions quickly.

Before I decided to pursue my PhD in Educational Psychology, I briefly considered going to law school.  I vividly remember going to a test-prep company during the end of my senior year in college with a deposit in hand for their LSAT test prep class.  As I approached the front door I had a change of heart right then and there and turned around and went home.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Despite not going to law school, however, I did do a little LSAT test prep leading up to my fateful decision.  The LSAT is a perfect example of a test that emphasizes fluid reasoning.  And for good reason.  A career in law requires one to put many pieces of a puzzle together in a logical and analytical way so as to make the best case possible.  Individuals with strong fluid reasoning gravitate towards such professions.  Law, forensics, stock analyst, and architects are all occupations that involve fluid reasoning.

With only two more components of the IQ to go, we will jump into Working Memory next time.