5. Giving Definitions Superior To Use. Procedure

The words for this year are balloon, tiger, football, and soldier. Ask simply: "What is a balloon?" etc. If it appears that any of the words are not familiar to the child, substitution may be made from the following: automobile, battle-ship, potato, store. Make no comments on the responses until all the words have been given. In case of silence or hesitation in answering, the question may be repeated with a little encouragement; but supplementary questions are never in order. Ordinarily there is no difficulty in securing a response to the definition test of this year. The trouble comes in scoring the response.


The test is passed if two of the four words are defined in terms superior to use. "Superior to use" includes chiefly: (a) definitions which describe the object or tell something of its nature (form, size, color, appearance, etc.); (b) definitions which give the substance or the materials or parts composing it; and (c) those which tell what class the object belongs to or what relation it bears to other classes of objects.

(a) Balloon. Satisfactory: - "A balloon is a means of traveling through the air." "It is a kind of airship, made of cloth and filled with air so it can go up." "It is big and made of cloth. It has gas in it and carries people up in a basket that's fastened on to the bottom."

Unsatisfactory: - "To go up in the air." "What you go up in." "When you go up." "They go up in it." "It's full of gas."

(b) Tiger. Satisfactory: - "It is a wild animal of the cat family." "It is an animal that's a cousin to the lion." "It is an animal that lives in the jungle." "It is a wild animal." "It looks like a big cat."

Unsatisfactory: - "To eat you up." "To kill people." "To travel in the circus." "What eats people." "It is a tiger," etc. "You run from it."

(c) Football. Satisfactory: - "It is a leather bag filled with air and made for kicking." "It is a ball you kick."

"It is a thing you play with." "It is made of leather and is stuffed with air."

Unsatisfactory: - "To kick." "To play with." "What they play with." "Boys play with it." "It's filled with air."

(d) Soldier. Satisfactory: - "A man who goes to war." "A brave man." "A man that walks up and down and carries a gun."

Unsatisfactory: - "To shoot." "To go to war." "It is a soldier." "A soldier that marches." "He fights." "He shoots."

6. Vocabulary: Twenty Definitions. Procedure

Use the list of words given in the record booklet. Say to the child: "/ want to find out how many words you know. Listen; and when I say a word you tell me what it means." If the child can read, give him a printed copy of the word list and let him look at each word as you pronounce it.

The words are arranged approximately (though not exactly) in the order of their difficulty, and it is best to begin with the easier words and proceed to the harder. With children under 9 or 10 years, begin with the first. Apparently normal children of 10 years may safely be credited with the first 10 words without being asked to define them. Apparently normal children of 12 may begin with word 16, and 15-year-olds with word 21. Except with subjects of almost adult intelligence there is no need to give the last 10 or 15 words, as these are almost never correctly defined by school children. A safe rule to follow is to continue until 8 or 10 successive words have been missed and to score the remainder minus without giving them.

The formula is as follows: "What is an orange?" "What is a bonfire?" "Roar; what does roar mean?" "Gown; what is a gown?" "What does tap mean?" "What does scorch mean?" "What is a puddle?" etc.

Some children at first show a little hesitation about answering, thinking that a strictly formal definition is expected. In such cases a little encouragement is necessary; as: "You know what a bonfire is. You have seen a bonfire. Now, what is a bonfire?" If the child still hesitates, say: "Just tell me in your own words; say it any way you please. All I want is to find out whether you know what a bonfire is." Do not torture the child, however, by undue insistence. If he persists in his refusal to define a word which he would ordinarily be expected to know, it is better to pass on to the next one and to return to the troublesome word later. Above all, avoid helping the child by illustrating the use of a word in a sentence. Adhere strictly to the formula given above. If the definition as given does not make it clear whether the child has the correct idea, say: "Explain," or, "I don't understand; explain what you mean."

Encourage the child frequently by saying: "That's fine. You are doing beautifully. You know lots of words," etc. Never tell the child his definition is not correct, and never ask for a different definition.

Avoid saying anything which would suggest a model form of definition, as the type of definition which the child spontaneously chooses throws interesting light on the degree of maturity of the apperceptive processes. Record all definitions verbatim if possible, or at least those which are exceptionally good, poor, or doubtful.


Credit a response in full if it gives one correct meaning for the word, regardless of whether that meaning is the most common one, and regardless of whether it is the original or a derived meaning. Occasionally half credit may be given, but this should be avoided as far as possible.

To find the entire vocabulary, multiply the number of words known by 180. (This list is made up of 100 words selected by rule from a dictionary containing 18,000 words.) Thus, the child who defines 20 words correctly has a vocabulary of 20X180 = 3600 words; 50 correct definitions would mean a vocabulary of 9000 words, etc. The following are the standards for different years, as determined by the vocabulary reached by 60 to 65% of the subjects of the various mental levels:

Table 17

8 years............

20 words.

......vocabulary 3,600

10 years............

30 words.

......vocabulary 5,400

12 years............

40 words.

......vocabulary 7,200

14 years...

50 words

......vocabulary 9,000

Average adult...

65 words

......vocabulary 11,700

Superior adult.......

75 words

,......vocabulary 13,500

Although the form of the definition is significant, it is not taken into consideration in scoring. The test is intended to explore the range of ideas rather than the evolution of thought forms. When it is evident that the child has one fairly correct meaning for a word, he is given full credit for it, however poorly the definition may have been stated.

An idea of the degree of leniency to be exercised may be had from the following examples of definitions, which are mostly of low grade, but acceptable unless otherwise indicated: 1. Orange. "An orange is to eat." "It is yellow and grows on a tree." 2. Bonfire. "You burn it outdoors." "You burn some leaves or things." "It's a big fire." 3. Roar. "A lion roars." "You holler loud." 4. Gown. "To sleep in." "It's a nightie." "It's a nice gown that ladies wear." 26. Noticeable. "You notice a thing." 29. Civil. "Civil War." (Failure unless explained.) "It means to be nice." 30. Treasury. Give half credit for definitions like "Valuables," "Lots of money." etc.; i.e., if the word is confused with treasure. 32. Ramble. "To go about fast." 73. Harpy. "A kind of bird." 80. Exaltation. "You feel good." 85. Retroactive. "Acting backward." 92. Theosophy. "A religion."

Alternative Test 1: Naming Six Coins

Procedure is exactly as in VI, 5 (naming four coins). The dollar should be shown before the half-dollar.


All six coins must be correctly named. If a response is changed the rule is to count the second answer and ignore the first.

Alternative Test 2: Writing From Dictation. Procedure

Give the child pen, ink, and paper, place him in a comfortable position for writing, and say: "I want you to write something for me as nicely as you can. Write these words: 'See the little boy.' Be sure to write it all: 'See the little boy.' "

Do not dictate the words separately, but give the sentence as a whole. Further repetition of the sentence is not permissible, as ability to remember what has been dictated is a part of the test. Copy, of course, must not be shown.


Passed if the sentence is written legibly enough to be easily recognized, and if no word has been omitted. Ordinary mistakes of spelling are disregarded. The rule is that the mistake in spelling must not mutilate the word beyond easy recognition.