How smart is an IQ test?
Here's a hint: Believing Internet tests is dumb.
Monday, August 30, 2004
By Amy Satkofsky, New Jersey Express-Times

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These tests can be hard to resist. So this reporter took the time to carefully answer the questions of an IQ test on, a social networking Web site with a variety of quizzes and tests. The score? 127 -- supposedly above average.

A second whirl through the test, where this reporter didn't even read the questions and randomly clicked on answers, scored 100 points, or average. How can that be?

Simply put, IQ tests on the Internet are not the real deal. They are for entertainment purposes only and the disclaimers in small print explain this.

Standard tests accepted by high intelligence societies, such as Mensa, are Stanford-Binet, Cattell, Wechsler Adult and Children Scales, and Otis-Lennon and Otis-Gamma tests. These tests are copyrighted and legitimate versions aren't -- or at least shouldn't be -- found on the Web.

While Mensa says online and entertainment IQ tests may give a person an idea of what his or her IQ is, the tests are no substitute for a supervised intelligence test.

Legitimate, supervised tests measure the ability to think and reason, not how much an individual knows. IQ, or intelligence quotient, tells an individual what his score is on a particular test, compared to other people's scores on the same test. Mensa points out that an IQ score is meaningless without the name of the IQ test. For example, entrance into the high-IQ society requires at least 148 on the Cattell test or 130 on the Otis-Lennon test.

Some experts say Andy Warhol's IQ was 86. The German writer Goethe's IQ is estimated at 210. No one knows which tests the scores are from, but both men are considered geniuses, despite the score difference.

"IQ tests do not tell you much about how you will do in life," explains Stephen Lange, a school and family psychologist who has worked with schools in New Jersey and also has a private practice in downtown Easton. "They do predict school achievement in a clear way."

To fully understand IQ scores, he says it's necessary to look at the history of the tests. IQ testing is a creature of late 19th century. At that time, France asked psychologist Alfred Binet to design a test that would determine which students were benefiting from school, Lange says.

"This was a double-edged sword," he says. "On one hand, the tests had the potential to bar students from public education. But on the other hand it found the students that might not have benefited from public education anyway. It set apart students who could not learn effectively in a public setting."

In the early 1900s, United States clinical psychologist Arnold Gesell designed a similar test to Binet's to determine which students in the United States might not benefit from public education because of low IQ. By 1916, American psychologist Lewis Terman published a revision of the Binet test that is still known today as the Stanford-Binet. Later the U.S. Army measured the ability to think in order to determine the best jobs for soldiers.

In recent decades, something called the Wechsler scale has been used. It borrows from the Binet and Army tests and takes age into account. So, in theory, IQ score stays the same as an individual ages. The first test can be given when a child is 2 and people can continue to take tests that correlate with age throughout childhood and adulthood.

"The Wechsler scale is the test parents are most likely to encounter with their school-age children," Lange says.

Many school districts offer that test, although several Pennsylvania schools, including those in the Easton Area School District, use the Otis-Lennon tests.

Kathryn Forsythe, director of the New Jersey Department of Education, says it's up to individual schools in the Garden State to determine which tests are administered to students, and when those tests are given.

All of the tests administered today typically measure general ability, known in the psychology community as "g," which consists of verbal and non-verbal skills, Lange says. Included in verbal subtests are information, similarities, arithmetic, vocabulary, comprehension and digit span. Included in non-verbal subtests are picture completion, coding, picture arrangement, block design, object assembly, symbol search and mazes.

Sample questions that might be found on a Wechsler IQ test include:

1. What would be the next number in this series: 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 17?

2. Emily is 4. Her big sister, Amy, is three times as old as Emily. How old will Amy be when she is twice as old as Emily?

3. What would be the next group of letters in this series: aaaa, bdzb, cgac, djzd?

The answers appear at the end of this story.

Properly used, IQ tests can provide insight to academic performance, Lange says, but today's school administrators typically recognize IQ is just a number. It cannot be used to quantify an individual's talents and abilities -- and intelligence testing has become controversial because of that.

Some people argue the tests measure just a narrow set of mental capabilities. Others argue scores are misinterpreted and misused, treated as fixed trait such as height or a measurement of someone's potential. And others believe IQ tests are culturally biased.

For all of these reasons, some experts have sought to go beyond traditional IQ tests. American psychologist Howard Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences.

Gardner identified these areas of intelligence and proposed a model person for each:

Linguistics: T.S. Eliot.

Logic: Albert Einstein.

Spatial intelligence: Pablo Picasso.

Music: Igor Stravinsky.

Bodily intelligence: Martha Graham.

Interpersonal intelligence: Sigmund Freud.

Intrapersonal intelligence: Mohandas Gandhi.

Naturalist intelligence: Charles Darwin.

Many educators and agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Education, embraced Gardner's theory, because it suggests a wider goal than traditional IQ.

Gardner's IQ tests measure verbal and mathematical skills in addition to musical, mechanical, physical and even social skills, according to the American Psychological Association.

"It's rare somebody only does one type of testing or evaluation anymore," Lange says. "You need to look at personality and behavioral measures. You need to look at special abilities like art, music and dance."

In the 1990s, other experts introduced the concept of "emotional intelligence" -- the ability to perceive, understand, express and regulate feelings.

When it comes to children and adults, there is no one cookie-cutter way of determining success in life, Lange says.

The bottom line?

Don't rely too heavily on IQ test scores, whether they're from the Internet or not.

The answers to the questions above are as follows:
1) 23;
2) 16;
3) The next group of letters would be "emae."