How smart are you?

...And do Free IQ Tests Really Tell you anything?

Our minds are amazing. And not all are equal. Schools, Employers and Societies have developed a myriad of tests such as the IQ test, the ACT, the SAT, the LSAT, the ASVAB and the GRE (to name a few) to try to categorize yours and mine intelligence.

Of course, the more curious among us would like to know – for our own benefit – just how our minds stack up against the billion other minds covering this planet. The good new is, you are smarter than you probably think you are. The bad news is that all of these test, are just that – tests. They may help identify areas of weakness or get you into the school of your choice, but in the end, they have limitations and are not infallible.

I want to take a few moments and look at the IQ test and how it applies to you. We'll start by looking at the principles and history of the intelligence quotient score and how it relates to your brain. And then we'll take a quick moment to look at the effectiveness of the many free IQ tests available on the internet.

History of the IQ Test– in the late 1800s, several researchers were intrigued with the thought of testing and comparing levels of human intelligence. It was until around 1904, however, that the French developed a working system. As part of the new compulsory attendance of their school system, they wanted to develop a method to determine between children that were smarter and those that faced more challenges in learning. They commissioned Alfred Binet (along with Theophile Simon) to determine a testing system. Thus the intelligence quotient test was born. This intelligence test focused on the subject's ability to follow commands, solve problems and copy and arrange patterns. The actual calculation of the Intelligence Quotient is often attributed to Willhelm Stern in Germany, sometime around 1912.

Intelligence testing in the United States was furthered by psychologist H. H. Goddard who translated the Binet-Simon test for use in his American school. Also in America, the IQ test (created primarily by Lewis Terman and Arthur Otis) received wide usage by the US military during World War I to determine the quality of their draftees.

In the 1960's the IQ test became more commercialized with more companies developing it for wide use in schools. The IQ Test, however has significant roots in eugenics, and by this time its social discrimination was becoming more widely noted.

This discrimination centered primarily around a major controversy in thought. First of all, Alfred Binet did not feel that the IQ score was a static number, but one that fluctuated, and could even be changed throughout one's life due to growth or effort. Other psychologists, such as H.H. Goddard and Lewis Terman, felt it was a static number, and those who tested lower should receive a lower status in society. These belief's held some of their roots in these doctor's support of eugenics where they felt some persons in society should be sterilized to prevent them from procreating.

Calculating the IQ score– When Binet originally developed the IQ test, he was focused on the subject of mental age. According to this thought, you could be 3 years old, but have the mind and reasoning skills of, say, someone 5 years old. Or vice versa. He created a standard based on typical results, and thereby created the Intelligence Quotient. (The principle of an IQ was further developed by Willhelm Stern to create an actual score)

In the case of our intelligent 3 -year-old above, we would calculate his IQ as:


(mental age)/(physical age) x 100 = IQ


5yrs/3yrs x 100 = 167

Once again, based on his research, Binet did not feel that this was a set number, but one that could be improved by teaching. He also felt that one should not use the IQ test as a means of ascribing worth, as it could lead to negative labels that inhibit the student's development.

A normal IQ score is between 90 and 130. Those with 135 or above are invited to join Mensa. (Which, I believe, is a Sudoku club. But I've never really been invited. So it might be a chess club)

Einstein's IQ vs a “Normal Person” – Einstein was already nearing the peak of his work as intelligence research was in its infancy. So, he never had the privilege of being subjected to an IQ test. His IQ has been estimated to be above 160.

Which creates excellent marketing for annoying pop-up banners from IQ test sites offering to provide you with your IQ score. There are many free IQ tests online. And while many of them can be challenging and fun, the number they provide is not nearly important as to how you rank compared to other testers. Furthermore, since these tests are not proctored, they can not be interpreted as your true IQ score.

However, since many of these tests include questions identical to what you would find in a true Binet-Simons IQ test, you could find them to be quite beneficial for learning purposes. (Besides, after you've scared all of the other players out of the online chess game with your mad mathematical skills, what else is there to do online?)

Taking a Real IQ test – There are many different variations of the Binet-Simons IQ test on the market today. Basically, a real IQ test must be properly supervised and is often administered by a psychologist. If you are looking to join Mensa, you either need to score in the 98th percentile of those taking the intelligence test you choose. They also have a “Mensa test” that can be administered.

If you are interested in an IQ challenge, stop by the website where you can take their “Mensa Workout”.

You may not get invited to join Mensa. Only the top 2% ever do. But you will probably find out that you are smarter than you think.