It’s not unusual these days for people to pretend to have high IQs because they feel smart and they know that the IQ scale is a method of gauging human intelligence. However, the concept of intelligence is abstract, and IQ scales vary based on the test you’re taking. In general, people can’t be expected to perform at their best for every test, so it is best not to read too much into scores.
IQ is short for Intelligence Quotient, and it’s a score taken from a variety of tests to estimate a person's intelligence. Depending on where you live, your age, and your linguistic abilities, your IQ can be assessed in a variety of ways, but it’s usually done through a written test. The psychologist, school, high IQ society or person testing you may have methods of their own. But the test will usually look at spatial recognition, perception, short-term memory, analytical skills, mathematical abilities, and your ability to think outside the box.
IQ tests are standardized tests. This means they are conceived in such a way that the most common score is 100 and a majority of people will score very close to 100. But there are several types of accepted IQ tests for English speakers, each with a scale of its own. For instance, there’s the Wechsler Scale, popular in the USA, which comes in two varieties, one for adults and one for children. The adult test is conceived so that two-thirds of adults score 15 points below or above 100, and anyone with a score above 130 is said to be in the top 2% - Mensa material. In Europe, high IQ societies like Mensa use the Stanford-Binet test. There’s also the Culture Fair (Cattell) test, which is conceived in such a way that heritage, language, and background don’t affect the results.
Having a high IQ score doesn’t open as many doors for you as you might think. Employers don’t gasp in awe at the sight of Mensa members applying for a job. But discovering that you’re gifted can grant you entry into high-IQ societies. These are organizations that bring bright people together and try to promote support and services for bright young talent. They also try to fund research and raise awareness of the needs people with high IQs have before they reach adulthood.
Depending on the type of test, you may find a score of 70 or less to indicate low IQ. It used to be that low scores indicated cognitive impairment, and they were used in court to absolve people of their crimes. Nowadays, IQ scores aren’t enough to determine an intellectual disability. There’s also the Flynn Effect to consider. This refers to an IQ gain across generations. The Flnn Effect means that people will score higher on fluid intelligence (problem-solving skills) than the generation before them, possibly due to better access to education.
An average IQ is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, your thought processes may not be as fast or as effective as those of someone who is gifted. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy your life any less. Also, bear in mind that your scores may improve or decline over your lifetime, and there’s no reason not to try again if you feel you could have done better.
The IQ scale is a fantastic way to spot potential in people. You don’t need to be an erudite to score highly. You simply need to be able to readily identify patterns, to think ahead, to spot peculiarities, and to perform very well under pressure. There are people with excellent IQ scores who can do all these things but are otherwise unremarkable. IQ doesn’t measure creativity or emotional intelligence (EQ), for instance, which are some of the most sought-after qualities of people who excel in their field.
An IQ test may sound easy, but you shouldn’t rush into it. Unfortunately, some high-IQ societies will only allow you to take their test once or twice. Luckily, they usually provide some workout tests for you to try at home, and they’re very similar to the real thing. You’ll find IQ test apps developed by high-IQ societies and psychologists. There are countless books with examples of tests, some written by the very people who developed current test versions. There are also various websites that offer samples and solutions for free. You should only book and sit an IQ test when you’ve practiced, and you feel ready.
Depending on the organizer, the location, and your age, your test may be written or oral. Older children and adults usually take written exams. You’ll only have a few minutes to complete your test, so you shouldn’t dwell on questions where you're sure you don’t know the answer. Some organizations give two tests, a standard one and a Culture Fair test - for people whose first language isn’t English. If your second language is English, you may want to focus on the Culture Fair one, because it’s designed not to trip you up on language. Shapes, series, and patterns are just some of the things you’re likely to have on your test paper.
Most high IQ organizations don’t carry out IQ tests for babies and young children because they require a very different approach. Parents who would like their bright children tested must see an educational psychologist. Another option is to join an NGO for gifted children that carry out these tests regularly. These organizations also offer free information to help parents recognize the signs of high learning potential early, as well as ways to cope with the effects of asynchronous development on the child and the family.
IQ scores change throughout life and rise from one generation to the next. But there's a high rate of heritability to them. Because an IQ isn't set in stone, the scale is different from one test to the next, and not everyone performs well under pressure, not everyone takes their IQ score seriously. And for some of those who do, a high IQ score is more of a responsibility than a privilege. If nothing else, finding your IQ score can help put things into perspective and help you understand why you see things differently.