An IQ test is a popular way to rank and categorize people, especially students, in an attempt to ascertain the overall intelligence of a person in relation to the population as a whole.
What does IQ stand for?
IQ stands for intelligence quotient. IQ tests compare the scores from everyone who took the test to determine the average IQ score. This creates an IQ scale, which ranges from those who scored a number of correct test answers below what is the average IQ score, to those who score a higher number of correct test answers above the average IQ score.
The French government, sometime in the early 1900s, paid for the research efforts of Alfred Binet. The French government wanted a testing procedure developed that would identify students with a need for special assistance in the educational system.
The “IQ tests,” were originally designed to simply inform educators of the students who needed more intensive help in learning. Since the French government had mandatory provisions that all French children must attend school, they felt it was of utmost importance to determine the children needing special help to learn the lessons.
Helping Weaker Students
In the beginning of the IQ tests, there was absolutely no intention to determine the children with the most intelligence. It was quite the opposite. Not to label them as stupid or inferior, but to select the children who would most benefit from having extra help in learning the lessons. The foundation of the initial explorations in IQ tests was not about discovering genius. Instead, it was about helping students having difficulty.
Binet was very clever in the earliest explorations of intelligence testing. He did not focus solely on rote memorization of facts. He focused on the skills of paying attention combined with memory and the ability to use effective problem solving in complex situations.
Binet was the first to determine the analysis of the mental age of children. He did this by comparing how different age groups answered the same questions and who was able to get the correct answer. What Binet proposed is the comparison between children of different physical ages in how they answered his test questions. He thought this would give a mental age of the child.
Early Test Limitations
Binet was very clear to state that his test had limitations and that to ascertain intelligence is complex. Intelligence is not reducible to a single number. He also predicted that cultural influences would have a significant impact on the IQ test scores and these needed consideration.
IQ Tests Come to USA
Binet brought his test to the USA. Collaboration with Stanford University produced the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test in 1916. This test resulted in a single number for the test taker, which became the intelligence quotient or IQ.
The way the score was tabulated was by taking the mental age of the child taking the test (where the child answers at least the average number of questions correctly for a particular age group), multiplying this mental age by 100, and then dividing this number by the child’s actual age.
For example, a child that answered the questions as well as the average thirteen year-old, but was only 7 years-old at the time of taking the test would have an IQ of (13×100)/7 = 185. This test was designed to be comparative between age groups. Many think this number is not necessarily indicative of true intelligence and only the ability for some children to learn more rapidly than others are.
The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test was given to more than two million U.S. soldiers during World War I to determine the best roles for the military recruits.
A New IQ Test Emerges in the Fifties
The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test was used exclusively until the 1950s. In 1955, David Wechsler developed an improved IQ test. For adults, it is called the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), which is now in the fourth revision called WAIS-IV. For children, Wechsler developed two tests for different age groups. They are the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). He published his tests in 1955. They have been used as the standard ever since.
The WAIS testing system differs from the Stanford-Binet system, in that WAIS testing does not compare different age groups. Instead, the WAIS testing system compares only the results within a specific age. The average score has the value of 100. Two-thirds of the tested children achieve scores in the range of 85 to 115.
Exercise Caution in Interpreting IQ Test Results
If the IQ test scores come from the older standard of the Stanford-Binet test, they do not reflect the newer standard of the WAIS system, which has replaced it.
People with Genius IQ Levels
Many people ask, “What is my IQ?” in comparison to those who are considered a genius? The way to determine a “genius” level result in IQ testing is to compare the successful answers to the rest of the test takers.
Under a normal distribution of any test results, there is a common distribution pattern known as the “Bell Curve” developed by Richard J. Herrnstein in 1994. The bell curve shows that most people will fall in the average range for IQ scores. A very small portion will be below average as well as a very small portion will be at the very highest, or “genius” level of the scale. Recently, Forbes refuted this distribution and suggested replacing the Bell Curve with a power law distribution called a long tail.
Nevertheless, under the two different systems, the IQ level considered to be “genius” is:
- Under Stanford-Binet testing, a score over 140 is genius level
- On the Wais scale genius is above 155
Albert Einstein is presumed to have a score of 160 on the Stanford-Binet test. Einstein never actually took an IQ test. In fact, he did terrible is structured scholarly settings. What Einstein had was superior imagination. Without any academic credentials at all, he published papers in research journals, while he was a patent clerk, which made outrageous statements.
He did not publish simple papers. He published complex mathematical formulas that supported his theories. The most famous of his complex mathematical formulas ends with the elegant mathematical solution of E = Mc2. Energy of mass equals the speed of light squared. What made Einstein a genius was not some testing results. It was his mathematical predictions that would prove to be extremely accurate under real life experimental testing for validity.
IQ Testing Controversy
Be aware that not all IQ tests are considered valid for every person. A simple online IQ test is fun to take. Nevertheless, when IQ tests are given in schools as a mental age test, there is significant controversy about the validation of results. This depends mostly on the cultural backgrounds of the students taking the IQ test.
Discrimination based on racial bias has been claimed for certain IQ tests. Some of the claims have merit, because a student who lives in a very different culture than the creators of the IQ test exams does not have the same cultural references.
IQ Sample Questions
IQ Test Labs gives some sample IQ test questions, which include these:
1. Rearrange the following letters to make a word and choose the category in which it fits.
Correct answer: bird (parakeet)
1. Which number should come next in this series?
Correct answer: C
Explanation: The pattern decreases progressively: -1, -2, -3, -4, -5
IQ tests are useful, especially when they identify students who may need more help in learning than others. This is true as long as these students are not labeled as inferior. The use of IQ tests to categorize students in harmful ways and give them derogatory labels is wrong. Inducing negative responses in others is a misdirection of the original intent of the developers of these IQ tests. The newer WAIS system seems to work for most, but not necessarily for all.
Genius levels on IQ tests only represent great test-takers. Real geniuses are not necessarily identified by IQ tests because they have concepts so new and unsupported by previous data, that it would be impossible to test them for competence.