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Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children

Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children








The Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) is a standardized test that assesses intelligence and achievement in children aged two years, six months to 12 years, 6 months. The edition published in 1983 by Kaufman and Kaufman was revised in 2002 to expand its age range (to cover children ages three to eighteen) and enhance its usefulness. In addition, new subtests were added and existing subtests updated.


The K-ABC was developed to evaluate preschoolers, minority groups, and children with learning disabilities. It is used to provide educational planning and placement, neurological assessment, and research. The assessment is to be administered in a school or clinical setting and is intended for use with English speaking, bilingual, or nonverbal children. There is also a Spanish edition that is to be used with children whose primary language is Spanish.


The K-ABC is especially useful in providing information about nonverbal intellectual abilities. However, it has been criticized for not focusing on measures of verbal intelligence in the Mental Processing Composite score, which measures intelligence. Additionally, the separation of intelligence and achievement scores has been questioned by researchers who claim the two terms are misleading. For example, many subtests in the achievement composite are in fact measures of intelligence rather than achievement (knowledge acquired through school and/or home environment). The K-ABC should be used with caution as the primary instrument for identifying the intellectual abilities of children.

Administration and interpretation of results (as with all psychometric testing) requires a competent examiner who is trained in psychology and individual intellectual assessment—preferably a psychologist.


Administration of the K-ABC takes between 35 and 85 minutes. The older the child, the longer the test generally takes to administer. It is comprised of four global test scores that include:

  • sequential processing scales
  • simultaneous processing scales
  • achievement scales
  • mental processing composite

There is an additional nonverbal scale that allows applicable subtests to be administered through gestures to hearing impaired, speech/language impaired, or children who do not speak English.

The test consists of 16 subtests—10 mental processing subtests and six achievement subtests. Not all subtests are administered to each age group, and only three subtests are administered to all age groups. Children ages two years, 6 months are given seven subtests, and the number of subtests given increase with the child’s age. For any one child, a maximum of 13 subtests are administered. Children from age seven years to 12 years, 6 months are given 13 subtests.

The sequential processing scale primarily measures short-term memory and consists of subtests that measure problem-solving skills where the emphasis is on following a sequence or order. The child solves tasks by arranging items in serial or sequential order including reproducing hand taps on a table, recalling numbers that were presented. It also contains a subtest that measures a child’s ability to recall objects in correct order as presented by the examiner.

The simultaneous processing scale examines problem-solving skills that involve several processes at once. The seven subtests comprising this scale are facial recognition, identification of objects or scenes in a partially completed picture, reproduction of a presented design by using rubber triangles, selecting a picture that completes or is similar to another picture, memory for location of pictures presented on a page, and arrangement of pictures in meaningful order.

The achievement scales measures achievement and focuses on applied skills and facts that were learned through the school or home environment. The subtests are expressive vocabulary; ability to name fictional characters, famous persons, and well known places; mathematical skills; ability to solve riddle; reading and decoding skills; and reading and comprehension skills.

The sequential and simultaneous processing scales are combined to comprise the mental processing composite. This composite measures intelligence on the KABC and concentrates on the child’s ability to solve unfamiliar problems simultaneously and sequentially. The simultaneous processing scales have a greater impact on the mental processing composite score than do the sequential processing scales. The mental processing composite score is considered the global estimate of a child’s level of intellectual functioning.


The K-ABC is a standardized test, which means that a large sample of children in the two years, six months to 12 years, six months age range was administered the exam as a means of developing test norms. Children in the sample were representative of the population of the United States based on age, gender, race or ethnic group, geographic region, community size, parental education, educational placement (normal versus special classes), etc. From this sample, norms were established.

Based on these norms, the global scales on the KABC each have a mean or average score of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. For this test, as with most measures of intelligence, a score of 100 is in the normal or average range. The standard deviation indicates how far above or below the norm a child’s score is. For example, a score of 85 is one standard deviation below the norm score of 100.

Test scores provide an estimate of the level at which a child is functioning based on a combination of many different subtests or measures of skills. A trained psychologist is needed to evaluate and interpret the results, determine strengths and weaknesses, and make overall recommendations based on the findings and behavioral observations.

See alsoIntelligence tests; Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery.


Psychometric testing —Pertaining to testing and measurement of mental or psychological abilities. Psychometric tests convert an individual’s psychological traits and attributes into a numerical estimation or evaluation.



Sattler, Jerome. Assessment of Children. 3rd Edition. San Diego, CA: Jerome Sattler, Publisher Inc. 1992.


Cahan, S. and A. Noyman. “The Kaufman Ability Battery for Children Mental Processing Scale: A Valid Measure of ‘Pure’ Intelligence?” Educational and Psychological Measurement 61, no. 5 (2001): 827–840.


The American Psychological Association. 750 First St., NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. (202) 336-5500. <>.

The National Association of School Psychologists. 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301) 657-0270. <>.

Jenifer P. Marom, Ph.D.

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