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CELF-4: Question About the Following Directions Subtest


(via Tanya Coyle, M.Sc., S-LP(C), Reg. CASLPO)

“I have a question about the Following Directions subtest of the CELF-4.  Last year I was reassessing a student and during the FD subtest my gut told me he was doing MUCH better than the year before and had made great improvements.  I also felt that he was probably age appropriate or possibly mildly delayed, based on his performance.  When I scored him and checked the norms, he came out as only a SS of 4 and I was shocked that he could have done that poorly.  I rarely look up age equivalents, since they are problematic, but checked and his score described him as 8:2.  He was 9:0 with a raw score of 41.  This did not follow, as performing similarly to an 8 year-old didn’t seem all that bad for a just-turned 9 year-old (certainly not severely delayed).

I did some more checking and have concerns about the ‘age leap’ norms for Following Directions just at the 9 year-old level.  I realize that you are suddenly giving a 23 point credit to 9 year-olds that the 8 year-olds don’t get, but even if my student had made an error on 9 of the 23 items a week before I had tested him, when he was still 8:11, he would have come out as a SS of 7; a rather large difference from a SS of 4!  The difference between low average-mild and severely delayed is rather stark.  I did give him the first part, for goal writing purposes, and he made errors on 4 of the first 23 items.

I am wondering if there is a normative data mistake or problem in the jump from 5-8 and 9-21 for FD? Is there an explanation for what happened with my student?”

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD

Dr. Wiig’s Answer:

You are indeed correct when you noted that there is a large bump in scores at age 9. The same raw score at age 8 would result in a standard score of 9-10 and at age 9 the same raw score is a standard score of 4. To perform in the average range at age 8, the student would have had to receive a raw score 46 or higher (5-7 additional raw score points.) When you look at the raw score means in Table 6.12 in the Examiner’s Manual, you’ll see that there was a big jump in the mean performance for the children in the standardization sample on the this subtest between ages 5:0 and 5:6 (6 standard score points), 6:0 and 6:6 (5 standard score points), 6:6 to 7:0 (5 standard scores points) and ages 8 and 9 (a 7 point jump). Improvement in these skills levels off after that. The norms for age 9 include children from 9 years, 0 months, 0 days to 9 years 11 months, 30 days. When you test a student who is at the very bottom of an age range, you are comparing that child to children who are mostly older than he or she is, and there is obviously a great deal of growth that occurs at this pivotal age.

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