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What is the IQ test ?

IQ test which is also known as ‘Intelligence Quotient’ test, comes in various forms. It was first used in France to diagnose students with learning disabilities so they receive what nowadays is called special education. At the present time, an IQ test is not only used to identify those with mental disabilities but also to identify those who are intellectually gifted.

How is my IQ Test score calculated? 

An IQ Test score is calculated based on a norm group with an average score of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. The standard deviation of 15 means, 68% of individuals have scored between 85 and 115 on the IQ test. This means the average score will always be 100 and 95% of individuals will score between 70 and 130.

IQ Distribution

Why take an IQ test ?

The purpose of taking an IQ test is to measure intelligence, to measure one’s reasoning and problem solving abilities; and to analyze one’s mathematical understanding, language abilities as well as short term memory and information processing speed.

High IQ Test scores:

Based on the bell curve, an IQ test score of 100 is considered the average and typically a score above 100 is associated with high intelligence. IQ test scores ranging from 130 and above are considered to be in the extreme intelligence category while those with an IQ higher than 140  are considered gifted.

Low IQ scores :

Those who score below 85 are considered to be associated with low intelligence. A score below 70, is usually considered mentally handicap and may indicate an underlying learning disability.

Note : A high IQ test score doesn’t mean that someone is particularly smart, but it means that the person has “potential”.

Below are some of the most important points related to high and low IQ individuals:

High IQ individuals:

  • Curious
  • Observant
  • High self control 
  • High working memory
  • Highly adaptable 
  • Perfectionism 
  • Focus and concentration
  • Great attention to detail 
  • High reasoning abilities 
  • Broad mindedness

Low IQ individuals:

  • Lack of creativity 
  • Prone to emotional outbursts 
  • Learning deficiencies 
  • Self care difficulties
  • Adaptation difficulties 

Bell Curve representation of the IQ scores as well as a bar chart representation. The average IQ is always 100.

Bell Curve % Classification

Bar Chart % Classification

Theories of IQ

The IQ schools of thought can be divided into two:

General intelligence: This school of thought, also denoted as the g factor, was hypothesised by a British scientist, Charles Spearman. He was certain there is a general factor that oversees all cognitive abilities.

The concept believes that different constituents thought to be related to intelligence are actually connected; hence they cannot be parted. He noted that people who performed exceptionally in one facet of intelligence will doubtlessly do well in the other as cohorts of this proponent are convinced that a fundamental intelligence (g factor) impacts performance in all cognitive tasks.

For example, a basketball player doesn’t mean he/she will be skilled at baseball. However, because this person is athletic and fit, such person might perform better in physical tasks than an individual who is less coordinated or doesn’t exercise.

Fluid intelligence and Crystallised intelligence: Developed by Raymond Cattel who was one of the students of Charles Spearman, he projected that general intelligence is a combination of perhaps 100 abilities functioning collectively in various ways in different people so as to bring out their different forms of intelligence. He split up the general intelligence into Fluid and Crystallised intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve problems in a novel circumstance. It correlates with a number of important skills such as comprehension, problem solving and learning. It motivates the ability to think and act quickly and encode short-term memories. It is embedded in psychological competence; hence it is autonomous of learning and integration, meaning that it is the source of intelligence that individual uses when there is no prior information, experiences or explicit training. It is the ability to come up with problem-solving strategies. It is said to be sited in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, though it peaks around age 20 before it gradually declines.

Crystallised Intelligence is the ability to solve problem with the help of prior knowledge or familiarity. It is revealed in tests of knowledge, general information, use of language and a wide variety of learnt abilities. It increases with age since experience is acquired as we grow older.

Multiple Intelligence: Developed by Scientist Howard Gardner to address some seeming shortcomings in popular IQ conception, he accepted that there are numerous forms of intelligence autonomous of one another. For example, a scientist can possess high logical intelligence, but might not be able to sing or play music. He differentiates nine sections of multiple intelligence which are:

Spatial Intelligence: ability to reason abstractly.

Logical Intelligence: ability to draw inference which could be rooted in verbal or numerical questions.

Musical Intelligence: ability to sing or/and play a musical instrument, evaluate and compose music.

Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence: ability to move the body in a synchronised way. Examples include dance, gymnastics and sports.

Interpersonal Intelligence: ability to comprehend and interpret verbal and non-verbal communications of others.

Intrapersonal Intelligence: ability to reflect on your own actions and understand them.

Existential Intelligence: ability to define your own view with respect to present forms of human existence, such as death and the meaning of life.

Naturalist Intelligence: ability to identify and classify objects in the natural world.

IQ Tests Types

There are a lot of IQ tests; some are free while a token sum will be demanded to take some. A reliable IQ test should give a consistent result, and test takers should score roughly the same score when written. There are a lot of free IQ tests on the internet which most results shouldn’t be taken seriously, but can be used as a form of practice.

What IQ Tests Measure

IQ tests are standardised, which means it must follow a precise outline in its administration and scoring. All IQ tests should measure the following intelligence aspects:

Verbal Intelligence: Ability to comprehend, use and pick up language. Quick comprehension of texts and large vocabulary are indicators of high verbal intelligence.

Numerical Intelligence: Calculations are conventionally the most commonly used method of intelligence. This aspect assesses pure and logical calculation ability as well as ability to think scientifically and to solve puzzles.

Spatial Intelligence: The ability to resolve abstract problems defines spatial intelligence. It involves mentally rotating objects or determining order in shapes.

Logical Intelligence: It assesses the ability to draw precise conclusion from a given question, which could be verbal or numerical.

Visual IQ Test

It is the ability to mentally manipulate 3-Dimensional objects.  It is also called Spatial Reasoning. This category of intelligence refers to the ability to think of an object in three dimensions and draw a correct decision about such object with restricted information. Individuals with high spatial ability can imagine what an object will look like when rotated, which can be applied to practical problem-solving situations or when making specific decisions.


The IQ score says a lot about a person, though the statement is not scientifically proven; some characteristics have been observed among individuals within each IQ scale. Not all characteristics mentioned will be present in an individual, but each person will tick three or more of the mentioned features.

Very gifted: is quick in understanding, thinks and talks fast, is curious, intrinsically motivated and likes solving problems – perfectionists.

Gifted: is an early reader, sensitive towards others’ feelings and curious; he/she possesses a high expectation of self and others, has large vocabulary repository, diversity of interest, is creative and inventive.

Above average: are highly adaptive, admit when they don’t know something, curious, open-minded, high self-control, sympathetic towards others, study a lot, very funny and prefer being alone.

Average: individuals are adaptive, very playful, easily make friends, extroverted, funny, creative and artistic.

Below average: are prone to emotional outburst, spend above their means, are highly dependent for basic needs, think they know it all, are always blaming others and self-centered.

Cognitively impaired: are conscientious, aggressive, close-minded and unable to receive criticisms. For them, there is difficulty learning new concept, though they argue with no end.

Race and IQ Score

Some scientists back the claim that some races have a higher IQ compared to people of the same age of other race, though several researches have shown that genetics plays a role in determining intelligence, but environmental factors also play a significant role. Dynamics that have been linked to the differences are socioeconomic status, testing bias, health and nutrition alongside minority status.

In a reaction to this, the American Psychology Association (APA) formed a special task force led by Psychologist Ulric Neisser to investigate the claim. The team found no genetic explanation for the test score differences between Black and Whites.

Nationality and IQ Score

Studies of National Cognitive Ability suggest that there are differences in IQ scores among different nations with average for different countries estimated. According to the research conducted by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhgnaan, Hong Kong had the highest average IQ of 108 while Equatorial Guinea had the lowest of 59. Average IQ for the UK is 100, Italy 102, the USA 98 and Nigeria 84.

Sex Differences and IQ Scores

There have been several urgings with regards to this statement over the years with some researchers backing the claim while others conflicting, as they believe there is no significant difference between the IQ for both sexes. Though there might be difference of performance in certain aspects of the IQ test as women are believed to perform better in the verbal and spatial reasoning, some have considered this disparity to be influenced by culture, experience and education.

The Flynn Effect

The author of the book “The Bell Curve”, James R. Flynn came up with the idea that there is a propensity for IQ to change over time. This is the Flynn Effect. This was noticed when there was an apparent increase in the intelligence of the general population evidenced by a steady increase in IQI scores, technology, increased access to education, more exposure, test bias, better health and nutrition, and were assumed to be the contributing factors.

Determinants of IQ

There have been a lot of arguments on what determines a person’s IQ. However, the two prominent factors are Genetics and Environment.

Genetics: Several proponents have maintained that genetics is the only factor that determines IQ level, but researches have shown it only contributes 55% to an individual’s intelligence. It has also been confirmed that genetics of intelligence is governed by a complex interaction between different genes and not controlled by a single gene.

Environment: Examples of environment are culture, education, peers, nutritional status, socio-economic background and so on. The remaining 45% of intelligence is said to be contributed by these factors.

It is vital to note the genes are conveyed based on the interaction between genetics and environment.