Careers & Education

What does an IQ test measure?

By April Hall
Info Guru,

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An IQ test
Before you run out to take an IQ test, be sure you understand exactly what the test does not measure
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Are you a genius?

Everyone loves the idea of having a high IQ, right? Who wouldn't want to have the bragging rights to having the highest IQ in his or her group of friends? Think of the subsequent benefits of being the 'smartest one' around. Wouldn't it be great to be the one to say, "Well, as the resident genius, my opinion is…" anytime there is a question about who is right about which restaurant is the best, which book to read next for the book club, or even who is right about some historical event?


Before you run out to take an IQ test, however, it is wise to answer the question "what does an IQ test measure?" and be sure you understand exactly what it does not measure.


What an IQ Test Measures


Basically, an IQ test measures a person's performance on several indicators, relative to that of his or her peers. A person taking an IQ test will perform a series of analytical, mathematical, and spatial activities, and the success with those endeavors will result in receiving the IQ score. The test is meant to measure a person's intelligence; however, the debate over the true meaning of intelligence is one that has been going on for over a hundred years. Controversy also exists regarding gender and cultural biases.


How an IQ Test is Scored


The term IQ actually stands for intelligence quotient. To determine a person's IQ, a person's mental age is multiplied by 100 and then divided by the chronological age. The average IQ is said to be 100, so anything above that is considered above average. The range of what is considered developmentally disabled is thought to be anything below 70. Most people who are considered geniuses have IQs above 145.


What an IQ Test Does Not Measure


Now we understand the answer to the question "what does an IQ test measure?" We can next pose another question: "What does an IQ test not measure?" The short answer to this second question is that an IQ does not measure many, many things! An IQ test does not measure creative ability, musical affinity, intrinsic motivation, or spiritual gifts. Because an IQ test can only measure the responses to the questions given, a person who is gifted in areas such as art or music may find that his or her abilities are ignored.


Importance of an IQ Test


Parents of children who have tested low or high on an IQ test may get some answers to the question "What does an IQ test measure?". Nonetheless, they may be confused about where to go from there. If your child receives placement in a gifted course because of a high IQ test, it is OK to feel a bit of pride in that fact.


However, it is vital you understand that an IQ test is not going to determine the path of your child's life! Of much greater importance in whether children succeed in school and professionally is how much parental and community support they receive. People with higher than normal IQs are not necessarily happier, more successful, or healthier than those with lower scores. Instead, it is a nurturing, supportive environment that makes all the difference.


So, although it may be satisfying to share your IQ scores with your friends or accidentally drop your Mensa card when you open your wallet, keep in mind the limits of what an IQ test actually measures.

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