Mental age test: What types of tests to use? Who are they aimed at?

Mental age test: What types of tests to use?  Who are they aimed at?

What are intelligence quotient assessments used for? When and how are these tests carried out? Psychologist Cédric Daudon helps us take stock.

Mental age tests are very straightforward and standardized around the world. These brain maturity tests are carried out in most countries around the world to assess the intelligence quotient, that is to say the cognitive abilities of an individual. There are several types of tests depending on age and one can be performed at almost any time in life. Indeed, “we can begin to assess cognitive efficiency in children from 2 and a half years old”reports cognitive psychologist Cédric Daudon (

The main tests for studying mental age

It is to Alfred Binet, a French psychologist (assisted by the French psychiatrist Théodore Simon) that we owe the development of the first tests of intellectual development, thanks to the development, at the beginning of the 20th century, of a metric scale of intelligence. Its objective: to measure the development of children’s intelligence according to age. It is on this basis that the IQ tests that are used today in all countries of the world were developed.

  • From 2 and a half to 6 years: the WPPSI-IV

In young children, mental age is assessed using the WPPSI-IV (Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence / fourth edition), test developed by the American psychologist David Wechsler.

  • From 6 years to adolescence: Nepsy-II or WISCV

From 6 or 7 years old, we move on to Nepsy-II or to the WISC-V (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), considered the international reference for measuring intelligence in children and adolescents.

  • In adolescents and adults: WAIS-IV

Finally, to test the mental age of an adolescent or adult, we perform an IQ examination entitled WAIS-IV (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale).

Why take a mental age test?

The aim is to verify, in relation to a given age, how the person is capable of reasoning in terms of their executive functions. (mathematics, logico-deductive or even visual-spatial) and to ensure that their memories (working memory, short-term memory, etc.) work well. Indeed, basically, these tests were developed to assess the good neurological development of a person (child, young person, adult or elderly person). And, if the result obtained is low, to be able to remedy it.

The causes of a mental age score below the norm may vary. “There may have been a problem in the correct fetal development during pregnancy, whenchildbirth or during the child’s first years, underlines the psychologist. In adults, a mental age test may be performed following a accident (car accident, stroke, etc.) likely to have had an impact on the person’s neurological functions. And according to him, it is therefore possible to remedy this through cognitive remediation, that is to say by strengthening the damaged cognitive function. Finally, among seniors, the presence of a neurodegenerative disease may require the performance of a test to evaluate neurological efficiency, in other words, how it functions and how it deteriorates and if we can work on it, strengthen it (do change mental age) with the help of a neuropsychologist.

Today, a mental age assessment can also be carried out on children, adolescents and adults likely to be high potential. If, at the end of the assessment, the person turns out to be high potential (IQ above the norm), this can help to explain some of the other particularities which can characterize HPI (ultra-sensitivity, difficulty socializing, making friends, aggression, academic failure, boredom in class, etc.). However, consider the psychologist, “carrying out an assessment, when we suspect high potential, is carried out on a case-by-case basis, because once the diagnosis has been made, we will have to remain vigilant”. The child or young person (in the case of a teenager) will not necessarily skip a class, will not necessarily go to a specialized establishment, the confirmation of being HPI (also known as “zebra”) will not necessarily be the key to fulfillment and success in life. On the other hand, he concedes, “knowledge will help nourish the child, because he generally has a great thirst for knowledge and needs to be constantly stimulated”. More intellectual nourishment therefore, but the little zebras must also try to manage, balance this need to know and learn to be bored.

How are these efficiency tests carried out?

It consists of several mini-tests, called sub-tests, including problems, more or less complicated, to be solved within a given time. And, according to the results obtained, we obtain an intelligence quotient which we compare to the norm (between 85 and 115). Beyond this score, we will talk about higher intelligence (HPI). To learn more about how these tests work, you can consult the book The practice of mental age tests by Raymond Buyse and Ovide Decroly. A digital reissue of the Librairie Félix Alcan (Child Psychology Library).

Good in his body, good in his head!

What about IQ tests available online?

“Free or paid, online quizzes are not reliable“, warns the psychologist. In short, if you prefer, these quizzes only have one play value. This is the case of those that can be found on TikTok, such as color tests or personality tests which offer to reveal your real age (chronological age) and which nevertheless accumulate numerous views among users of the app. The IQ test must be supervised by a psychologist or psychiatrist, or even a neuropsychologist, as part of an assessment. including an initial discussion with the parents/child called the history meeting. This lasts a total of between 4 hours and 6 hours, spread over 3 sessions on average and ending with a debriefing of the report drawn up and the scores obtained. These are tests which also have a cost, count between 250 and 300 euros in the provinces and up to 800 euros in Paris. At the end of the assessment, the specialist may suggest follow-up for remediation, refer the patient to a speech therapist, an occupational therapist or suggest traditional follow-up with a psychologist specializing in CBT or another.