Five Ruf Levels of the Gifted

Here’s an overview of the various levels of giftedness and milestones that are common—but not necessary—to each Level.  Here, also, are the numbers at each Level of Giftedness that you are likely to find in an average elementary classroom of 28 children. 


It is the overall “feel” of where the child fits that tells you the Level.

Level One

These children show interest in many things before they are even 2 years old – like colors, saying the numbers in order, and playing simple puzzles. Most of them are good talkers by age 3, and by 4, many print letters and numbers, recognize simple signs, their name, and know most of alphabet.

By the time they are 6 years old, many read beginner books and type at the computer, and most read chapter books by age 7. It is not unusual to find six to eight Level One children in an average classroom, children who are nearly always a few steps ahead of what the teacher is teaching the whole class.


Level Two

These bright children love looking at books and being read to, even turning pages without ripping them, by 15 months. Some shout out the name of familiar stores as you drive past. 


They’ll sit for what seems like hours as you read advanced level books, especially fiction and fantasy, to them, but they require a bit less of your time by age 6, because most of them read for pleasure and information on their own by then. 


Level Two children can find only one or two others in their classroom who are as advanced as they are, which starts to make it hard to find good friends.


Level Three

They know what adults are telling or asking them by six months. You say a toy, pet, or another person, and they will look for it. By the time they are barely 12 months old, they can get family members to do what they want before they are actually talking. By 2 years, many like 35+ piece puzzles, memorize favorite books, and know the entire alphabet – in or out of order! 


By 3 years old, they talk constantly, and skip count, count backwards, and do simple adding and subtracting because they like to. They love to print letters and numbers, too. They ask you to teach them to read before 5 years, and many figure out how to multiply, divide, and do some fractions soon thereafter. 


Most of these children are a full two to five years beyond grade level by age 6 and find school too slow. There are one or two Level Three children in every 100 in the average school. They are rarely in the same elementary class and can feel very, very lonely.


Level Four

Level Four babies love books, someone to read them, and pay attention very, very early. They have extensive, complex speaking while still in their toddler years, and their vocabularies are huge!

Most of them read easy readers before kindergarten, and then read for information and pleasure soon thereafter, with comprehension for youth and adult level books while only in the early years of school. There are about one per 200 children in the average school. Without special arrangements, they can feel very different from their typical classmates.


Level Five

Level Fives have talents in every possible area. Everything is sooner and more intense than others Levels. They have favorite TV shows when barely out of infancy, pick out letters and numbers by before they can talk, and enjoy shape sorters earlier than most children. They print letters, numbers, words, and their names in their early toddler years, and often use anything that is available to form these shapes and figures.

They show ability with 35+ piece puzzles, often before they actually speak and interest in complex mazes while still only toddlers. Musical, dramatic, and artistic aptitudes usually start showing by 18 months. Most speak with adult-level complexity shortly after they speak at all!

They understand math concepts and basic math functions well before they start formal schooling. They can play card and board games ages 12 and up when they are still in preschool. They have high interest in pure facts, almanacs, and dictionaries by age 3½. They read six or more years beyond grade level with comprehension by six years and usually hit 12th grade level by age 7 or 8.

Once you have a sense of your children’s abilities, you can provide them with more activities and experiences that build on these strengths and take advantage of their talents.

Once you have a good estimate of how smart or advanced your children are, you can begin your search for appropriate environments. Choosing the right school for your children might be the most important decision you ever make for their healthy intellectual and emotional growth.

Although this article certainly gives you a chance to make a good estimate yourself – we know that! – the Ruf Estimates™ Kids IQ Test (Online Assessment) not only verifies it for you based on your detailed input, it includes up to 12 pages of Feedback specific to your child’s profile.


You not only need more than an IQ score or IQ score estimate, you need to know what it means and how to use it to find the best possible educational environment and support for your child.

Author’s note: Deborah Ruf, Ph.D., Minneapolis, is an international authority and specialist in gifted assessment, test interpretation, and guidance for the gifted.


Having been a parent, teacher and administrator in elementary through graduate education, she writes and speaks about school issues and social and emotional adjustment of gifted children. She developed the Ruf Estimates of Levels of Gifted™, which is delineated in her book, 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options (formerly titled Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind, 2005, as well as in the new online assessment at TalentIgniter.

(Read more here – Talentigniter – Ruf Estimates Kids I.Q. )

Published with permission of Dr. D. Ruf