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March 6, 2012

WJIII: Sound Administration


One question that comes up often at Woodcock-Johnson III (WJIII) trainings is the use of sound equipment.  For those unfamiliar with the WJIII, both the cognitive and the achievement batteries have tests that rely on the use of audio recordings.  The questions about this topic range from “am I required to use the audio recording” to “what kind of equipment should I use” and a few random questions about the particulars of administering specific tests with the audio recordings.

Are they Required?

If you’re administering the Auditory Attention test then the answer is an unconditional yes.  The Auditory Attention test measures the ability to discriminate speech sounds that are distorted from an increasingly cacophonous background noise.  It should be obvious that reproducing this test without the auditory equipment is impossible.  Having the time and inspiration to embark on such an endeavor speaks volumes about your dedication to accommodating examinees, and to your lack of judgment.

For other tests the use of the audio recording is recommended. But what if you’ve got an examinee that, for whatever reason, precludes the use of the headphones?  First of all, the reason should be due to an issue that the examinee has with the auditory equipment. It shouldn’t be because you forgot the equipment, the tape is ruined, you can’t find an outlet, etc.  So assuming it’s a legitimate reason a couple of caveats are in order.  You should have a lot of experience with the test before attempting to administer it.  The cadence and timing of the audio recording should be burned into your synapses. If you’re unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the more difficult items then please do everyone a favor and don’t administer them.  In all cases, when you deviate from the standard administration you should document that fact in the report.  In addition, if the score is “on the bubble” (difficult to discern whether it’s problematic) then give another test that measures the same construct that is normed for examiner administration (versus audio recording).  It’s not wise to make inferences on data you’re not confident is valid.

Tape versus CD

The WJIII initially came with taped versions of the audio recordings.  If you have those then using the counter on the tape player is essential to a brisk administration. With the counter you’ll be able to queue up the tape to the correct test and item number instead of attempting to guesstimate and then playing the tape to “see” where you’ve landed. Even better is to use the audio CD’s which tend to be more durable and benefit from having tracks of audio that coincide with the starting point of the tests. I strongly recommend using the CD’s for reasons of fidelity, brisk administration, and ease of use.


The administration manual states that you should be using “good quality” audio equipment since that’s what was used when the test was normed.  The use of headphones (for the examinee) is also recommended. When using headphones it can be a challenge at times to know when the audio recording is prompting the examinee to respond.  This is important because you should be facilitating a response by looking at your record form when the item is presented and then looking up at the examinee when the response is anticipated.  This nonverbal behavior is surprisingly important for some younger children.  Not following this rather nuanced administration tip might be the source of measurement error with some examinees.  To assure that you’re able to engage in this nonverbal dance I would recommend purchasing a splitter at your local electronics store.  The use of a single earbud for the examiner will allow you to hear the recording and hear the examinee’s respond.


The WJIII cognitive and achievement tests have specific instructions for the use of the audio recording.  It’s important that your administration of those tests is done efficiently and as close to the method used when the test was normed.  Read the directions for the individual tests for specific instructions on accommodating students with the auditory recording.  For example all tests except Auditory Attention allow for the audio to be paused if the student isn’t responding quickly enough.  And the Sound Blending test allows for items 1-16 to be administered orally if the audio recording is problematic for the examinee.  Finally, do yourself a favor and get the CD’s if you don’t already have them.