In order to test for giftedness, you need to know what you are testing for. Is it high IQ? Is it creativity? Is it imagination and out-of-the-box thinking? Is it academic ability in school? Is it talent in a particular area such as music, dance, art, sports, math, or language? Depending on who is doing the testing, and why, the traits of most interest might be quite different. So the questions being asked or the test being used may vary widely depending on context.
Characteristics of giftedness are defined differently by leading organizations and professional experts. For example, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has indicated these common characteristics of children who are considered gifted.
Additionally, ten core attributes of giftedness or outstanding talent (including motivation, interests, communication skills, problem-solving ability, memory, inquiry, insight, reasoning, imagination/creativity, and humor) may be seen in students regardless of socio-economic status, culture, or race. These traits, aptitudes, and behaviors (TABs) were identified by Dr. Mary Frasier at the University of Georgia. She designed the Frasier Talent Assessment Profile, a comprehensive assessment system with multiple indicators that is more effective in assessing the gifts and talents of low-income and minority children than the tests previously used.
Characteristics of creativity identified by Dr. E. Paul Torrance may also be indicative of giftedness or outstanding talent. His career was spent refining a series of creativity assessments including the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) which is especially useful in multicultural settings. The characteristics of creativity as defined by Torrance include: fluency, flexibility, originality, abstractness of thought, elaboration, and resistance to closure.
Dr. Joseph F. Renzulli (Director of The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut) has also developed a model for identifying gifted students. Renzulli's "three ring" model considers three factors important for the development of gifted behavior: Above average ability, creativity, and task commitment. He developed the Renzulli Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students. In its third edition, the Renzulli Scales are the nation's most popular tool for identifying gifted children and are supported by 40 years of research. They are designed to obtain teacher estimates of a student's characteristics in the following areas: Learning, Creativity, Motivation, Leadership, Artistic, Musical, Dramatics, Communication (Precision), Communication (Expressiveness), Planning, Mathematics, Reading, Technology and Science.
Some International Viewpoints
Dr. Janet Saenz (President ot AMEXPAS - the Mexican Association for Gifted) is an Associate Professor at the University of Tlaxcala. She has developed a number of questionnaires (available in English and various indigenous languages by emailing her at email@example.com) that are aimed at identifying giftedness and talents in under-served rural parts of Mexico. Here is a link to her presentation on this topic at the CA Assoc. for the Gifted conference in 2015.
Willem Kuipers is a Dutch mathematical engineer who developed the concept of Xi (Extra Intelligence and Extra Intense) and wrote a book about it. He defines the 5 typical character traits as: 1) Intellectually able; 2) Incurably inquisitive; 3) Needs autonomy; 4) Excessive zeal in pursuit of interests; 5) Contrast between emotional and intellectual self-confidence. People with Xi are different in three fundamental ways: quantitatively, qualitatively, and motivationally. They lead more intense lives, think in more complex ways, and are more driven. They can absorb, analyze, and synthesize information from a wide range of domains extremely rapidly and even simultaneously. Kuipers makes an interesting distinction between the label "gifted" (applied as the result of being observed, measured and evaluated by someone from the outside - like having your photograph taken) and Xi, which is an awareness and acceptance of your own experiences from the inside (like creating your own self-portrait),
Kelly Dean Schwartz (University of Calgary, Canada) says: “The identification of ‘gifted’ is more complex than most of us think it is, Traditionally it’s defined as children who achieve cognitive intelligence scores in the upper 95th percentile. In the areas of verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed, they score in the very high ranges. These fluid abilities are generally reflected in above average and even higher academic abilities.” That intelligence is more than just language ability and perceptual reasoning. The definition of giftedness has been expanded to include above average ability in the visual arts, athletics, music or in a specific academic field such as science, for example. You don’t have to be gifted in all areas to be identified as gifted. “It has become a much wider definition. At the same time, however, at the practical level, schools typically look for that high IQ.”
For more on international gifted programs and how the USA stacks up, check out the 2015 book titled "Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students " published by Harvard Education Press - available to purchase on its website or Amazon.
Although screening for giftedness is often done by public elementary schools in order to identify students for special educational services, many adults have never gone through such testing. Plenty of parents are surprised in mid-life when they are informed that their child is gifted and they come to realize that they are also gifted...but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it! Understanding your own gifted nature can help shine a light on your own upbringing, your parenting, your relationships, and your experiences in the workplace. If you are an adult who is exploring your own giftedness for the first time, or if you grew up with a narrow view of it as being defined only as a high IQ or exceptional academic achievement, then here are some resources to help you in your journey of self-exploration.
According to an elaborate survey on public views toward the education of gifted children done by the Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA), there’s widespread complacency about GATE in its present form. Read the full report here. See this article by Chester Finn that highlights the survey results.
The article by Finn states that this "...may have something to do with its formlessness. Gifted education in the U.S. has two abiding problems. One is how to define and identify “gifted” students—every state with a definition or mandate has a different one, ranging from exceptionally high scores on some test to a version of “everyone is gifted in some way.” The other quandary is what, exactly, to do for those who get identified, i.e., how to “serve” them, with the dizzying array of current offerings ranging from a bit of after-school supplementation to entirely separate schools. In short, there’s no agreement on who’s gifted, what exactly “gifted education” is, or how it should be done.
Finn continues: "Unstated in this report, and apparently unasked in the survey, is the problem of leadership in the realm of gifted education. Just about every other element, faction and interest group within American K–12 education musters large, strongly-led, and well-funded advocacy organizations—often membership-based, often supported by philanthropy—that agitate, advocate, hire lobbyists, contribute to election campaigns, and generally make noise on behalf of their cause and in opposition to laws, regulations, policies, and practices that they believe would harm it. Most also have champions and defenders occupying elective offices, usually at both state and national levels. Gifted education, by comparison, is limp, struggling, and low visibility. Formless. Leaderless. Those aren’t problems that any survey can solve or really even do much to illuminate. But they’re clear and present problems for gifted education. "