Interpreting Intelligence Test Scores in Forensic Mental Health Assessments: Conceptual and Psychometric Considerations for “Intelligent” Testing

  • James Andretta Bridgetown Psychological LLC
  • Ryan J. McGill College of William & Mary


The assessment and interpretation of intelligence tests and intelligence test scores are featured in many forensic mental health assessments (FMHA).  Given the role these instruments play in adjudicating legal decisions for individuals (i.e., Atkins cases), it is critical that the scores possess adequate reliability and validity. Unfortunately, a growing body of empirical literature has raised significant psychometric and conceptual concerns about the integrity and clinical utility of IQ test part- and subtest-level scores. Apprehension has also been raised about the use of cognitive profile analysis interpretive methods such as the popular “Intelligent Testing” (IT) framework, which emphasize primary interpretation of IQ test part- and subtest-level scores. Given the popularity of IT and other related profile analysis methods in clinical practice, concerns raised in the present review will be useful for psychologists and legal professionals tasked with evaluating the accuracy of expert witness testimony and FMHA reports featuring the interpretation of cognitive test scores. Implications and recommendations for advancing evidence-based assessment in the field of forensic psychology are discussed.