You Don't Have To Be A Rocket Scientist To Pass An IQ Quiz

By Brian Fong

Q. Can you really tell anything about someone's intelligence by having them take an IQ quiz?

A. The answer to this question requires a bit of background information, so let me put my professor hat on and tell you a story.

An IQ quiz measures a person's Intelligence Quotient (IQ). IQ is calculated using this formula: IQ = 100 MA/CA where MA = Mental Age and CA = Chronological Age.

The IQ test was originated back in 1905 by French psychologist Alfred Binet and his physician research partner Dr. Theodore Simon. These two guys came up with the "Binet Simon Test". This test's purpose was to measure the intelligence of retarded children.

The test was based upon several observations:

1. Children grow more mentally capable as they grow older

2. Some children perform at higher grade and age levels than their actual grade and age level. While other children are just the opposite.

The mental age (MA) portion of the formula is the age level that the child is found to perform at. For example, a 6-year-old who performed at the level of an 8-year-old, is assigned a MA of 8 and, of course, a CA of 6. Conversely, an 8-year-old, who performed at the level of a 6-year-old, is given a CA of 8 and a MA of 6. With me so far? If you are then you've already passed my IQ test because I'm starting to get confused and I'm the one who is writing this article!

3. Binet and Simpson also discovered that these gaps between MA and CA grew wider as the children aged. Our child who had a MA of 8 when he was 6, was found to have a MA of 12 by the time that he reached age 8. Conversely, the child who had a MA of 6 when he was 9, had a MA of 8 when he reached 12.

4. They also noticed that although the MA/CA gap widened as the children grew older, the ratio of MA:CA remained constant. This constant ratio was called the "Intelligence Quotient".

The IQ quiz, or IQ test, was developed as a way of determining the MA:CA ratio of any person at any age.

So, what (if anything) can be deduced about a person based upon the results of an IQ quiz?

According to an article "The General Intelligence Factor", Scientific American Presents "Exploring Intelligence", pg. 24, 1999, author Linda Gottfredson writes:

"Adults in the bottom 5% of the IQ distribution (below 75) are very difficult to train and are not competitive for any occupation on the basis of ability. Serious problems in training low-IQ military recruits during World War II led Congress to ban enlistment from the lowest 10% (below 80) of the population, and no civilian occupation in modern economies routinely recruits its workers from that below-80 range."

"Current military enlistment standards exclude any individual whose IQ is below about 85." "Persons of average IQ (between 90 and 100) are not competitive for most professional and executive-level work but are easily trained for the bulk of jobs in the American economy. By contrast, individuals in the top 5 percent of the adult population can essentially train themselves, and few occupations are beyond their reach mentally." "People with IQs between 75 and 90 are 88 times more likely to drop out of high school, seven times more likely to be jailed, and five times more likely as adults to live in poverty than people with IQs between 110 and 125. The 75-to-90 IQ woman is eight times more likely to become a chronic welfare recipient, and four times as likely to bear an illegitimate child than the 110-to-125-IQ woman."

Wow, those are some pretty dramatic conclusions that are based solely upon IQ as determined by an IQ quiz. If you believe what Ms. Gottfredson writes, then the answer to your question of "Can you really tell anything about someone's intelligence by having them take an IQ quiz?" is: It would appear so. Like any quiz, however, don't feel too bad if you "fail" an IQ Quiz. Some people just suck at taking tests!

Brian Fong

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