While some commonalities exist across giftedness, one size does not fit all.  Gifted learners exhibit different characteristics, traits, and ways to express their giftedness.  Various issues must be considered for identification:

  • Giftedness is dynamic, not static. Identification needs to occur over time, with multiple opportunities to exhibit gifts.  One test at a specific point in time should not dictate whether someone is identified as gifted.  Read NAGC's position statement, "The Role of Assessments in Identifying Gifted Individuals."
  • Giftedness is represented through all racial, ethnic, income levels, and exceptionality groups.   Underrepresentation is widely spread.  It’s estimated that African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students are underrepresented by at least 50% in programs for the gifted.1  Learn more about identification in diverse gifted populations and read NAGC's position statement, "Identifying and Serving Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students."
  • Giftedness may be exhibited within a specific interest or category—and even a specific interest within that category.   Professionals must seek ways to gather examples across various domains and contexts.  See "Multiple Identification Procedures" below.
  • Early identification in school improves the likelihood that gifts will be developed into talents.

Identification Process

Typically, identification policies and procedures are determined at the district level. Because no two gifted children are alike is important to collect information on both the child's performance and potential through  a combination of objective (quantifiably measured) and subjective (personally observed) identification instruments in order to identify gifted and talented students.

Districts typically follow a systematic, multi-phased process for identifiying gifted students to find students who need services beyond the general education program:  1) Nomination or identification phase; 2) Screening or selection phase; 3) Placement phase.  In the nomination and screening phase, various identification tools should be used to eliminate bias.

Sample Identification Instruments 2



Tests & Assessments.  Individual intelligence and achievement tests are often used to assess giftedness.

However, relying on IQ or performance results alone may overlook certain gifted populations.    

Nominations: Self, Peer, Teacher, Administrator, Parent. Nominations help cast a wide net for identifying as many students as possible who might qualify for gifted services. Often, gifted characteristic checklists, inventory, and nomination forms are completed by students, parents, teachers, and administrators to provide an informal perspective.

Student Cumulative Records.  Grades, state and standardized tests are sometimes used as data points during the gifted identification process.

Teacher Observations & Ratings: Learning & Motivation Scales. Teachers may make observations and use rating scales or checklists for students who exhibit a certain trait or characteristic during instruction.   Sample rating scales include Scales for Rating Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (Renzulli & Smith, 1977), Purdue Academic Rating Scales (PARS), Whitmore or Rimm Underachievement Scales, and Cultural Characteristics Scales.


Portfolios & Performances.  Portfolios or work that is collected over time should include student reflections of their products and/or performances.  Portfolios may be developed for both academic (language arts, math) and creative (speech, arts, music) pursuits.


Student Educational Profiles.  While many forms may be used to identify gifted children, an academic or artistic case study approach can offer a more comprehensive process.   Case studies may include data, observations, and growth demonstrated in various settings.

1 U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. (2014).  Civil Rights Data Collection: Data Snapshot (College and Career Readiness)

2 Purcell, J. & Eckert, R. (2006). Designing services and programs for high-ability learners. National Association for Gifted Children:  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

Information & Publications