What does the Stanford-Binet Test Measure

The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales are designed to measure five factors of cognitive ability. These five factors include fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing and working memory. Both verbal and nonverbal responses are measured. Each of the five factors is given a weight and the combined score is often reduced to a ratio known commonly as the intelligence quotient, or IQ. Theoretically then the Stanford-Binet test measures a person’s ability to learn. 

Fluid Reasoning

Fluid reasoning is the ability to solve (usually abstract) problems in which no prior knowledge is required. The nonverbal aspect of fluid reasoning is tested with object series matrices. Generally speaking, a test subject is shown a series that illustrates a pattern and is asked to complete the pattern. Verbal absurdities and verbal analogies are used to test a person’s verbal fluid reasoning. Verbal absurdities are simply statements that are silly or impossible. Upon hearing these statements, test takers are asked to explain why they are silly or impossible. Analogies reveal the relationship between concepts. For example, a person might be asked a classification question in the guise of the analogy “an apple is to fruit as celery is to __________.” (vegetable). 


Knowledge is defined as someone’s accumulated stock of general information that has been committed to long-term memory. The nonverbal sub-tests from this factor are tested with procedural knowledge and visual absurdities. Similar to verbal absurdities, visual absurdities are pictures that contain silly or impossible scenarios that the examinee is asked to explain. Nonverbal procedural knowledge is tested using gestures. For example, a young test subject might be asked to explain basic human needs, like eating, using gestures. The verbal sub-test includes vocabulary questions, which may be administered using toys or flash cards.

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative reasoning measures a person’s numeracy. Depending on a test subject’s level, questions in this section can include basic counting, addition and subtraction. At higher levels, measurement, geometry and word problems are included. Math concepts are presented in both verbal and nonverbal formats. 

Visual-spatial Processing

Visual-spatial processing involves the recognition of both patterns and spatial relationships and the ability to recognize the whole from its constituent parts. The nonverbal portion of this sub-test usually includes assembling puzzles and patterns. A test subject is often provided a form board, or frame, and a number (the quantity determined by the test subject’s age and ability) of different shaped pieces that can be assembled to fill the frame. The verbal portion includes questions about direction and tests a subject’s ability to identify spatial relationships in pictures. 

Working Memory

Working memory is defined as the multiple processes that capture, sort and transform information in a person’s short-term memory. Nonverbal working memory is assessed using delayed response and block span techniques. For example, like the game Concentration, a test subject might be asked to recall a previously presented picture. Block span simply involves tapping out a sequence on a series of blocks and asking the test subject to repeat the sequence. Verbal working memory is tested using last word and sentence recall exercises.