What Is IQ: How It’s Measured, Is It Important, & More

Discover what IQ is, why and how we measure it, how to improve it, and whether it has a significant impact on your life.

What Is IQ: How It’s Measured, Is It Important, & More main image

IQ is essentially the closest humanity has come to quantifying intelligence. These attempts started in the early 20th century and have occupied the minds of psychologists and the general population ever since. Even a century later, many still wonder what IQ is and how this score affects our daily lives.

We’ve delved deeper into this topic, consulting our IQ experts to learn as much as possible about what IQ is, its purpose, its mechanisms, and how it can be measured. This article is an overview of everything we’ve discovered.

So, let’s take a look.

Wondering if your IQ is above average? Take the test here!

Take the test
Key takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • IQ measures the development of your cognitive abilities, which include pattern recognition, working memory, logical reasoning, and problem-solving skills.
  • IQ is an important concept in psychology, and it shouldn’t be confused with EQ, which measures emotional intelligence.
  • The three most commonly used IQ tests are the Stanford-Binet, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, and Raven’s Progressive Matrices.
  • Genetics, education, and stress are just some of the factors that can affect IQ.
  • IQ is a notable predictor of success, but it’s not the only factor that determines it.

What Is IQ?

The intelligence quotient (IQ) is a number that indicates how developed your cognitive abilities are. This score is calculated from a standardized and professionally administered IQ test, which measures working memory, pattern recognition, problem-solving abilities, and logical reasoning.

To determine what your IQ is, an IQ test compares your performance to your peer group’s. If your score is in the 85–115 range, your intelligence is considered average and at approximately the same level as that of 68% of the population.

However, if your score is higher on the IQ scale (115+), you will fall squarely into the gifted category. The higher you go, the more gifted you are, with scores over 145 being associated with geniuses.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you’ll find scores below 85. These belong to the low IQ category and may indicate the presence of an intellectual or learning disability.

It’s important to note that IQ only represents aspects of general intelligence; it doesn’t take into account different types of intelligence, such as Gardner’s nine intelligences or emotional intelligence. These other types are usually quantified using different tests and methods.

What Is the Difference Between IQ and EQ?

What Is the Difference Between IQ and EQ?

What Is the Difference Between IQ and EQ?

The difference between IQ and EQ is that IQ measures your logical reasoning and general intelligence, whereas EQ quantifies your emotional intelligence and ability to recognize your own and other people’s emotions.

In other words, there’s hardly any similarity between the two concepts. However, they are both used as predictors of success and are equally important in day-to-day life.

How Is IQ Measured?

IQ is measured using standardized IQ tests administered by psychologists trained to interpret them. Currently, there are numerous options to choose from, but the following three tests are used most frequently.

#1. Stanford-Binet

The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was the first IQ test, originally developed by Alfred Binet, who defined what IQ is. The test became popular when it was translated from French to English and adapted by a Stanford University psychologist.

Considering it’s been in use since 1916, Stanford-Binet has undergone many changes and improvements over the years.

For example, its earliest version used a completely different intelligence quotient formula, which relied on mental age to calculate IQ. Simply put, IQ was the result of perceived mental age divided by actual age and then multiplied by 100.

However, new versions of Stanford-Binet no longer rely on the vague concept of mental age. Instead, like other available IQ tests, they compare each test taker to their peer group and determine the score based on their performance.

#2. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is currently the most popular standardized IQ test, used exclusively for measuring intelligence in adults and older adolescents.

To calculate your IQ score, WAIS measures performance in four broad aspects of intelligence along with its core subsets. Those aspects include verbal comprehension, perception, working memory, and processing speed.

Each of these categories yields a specific score, which is then combined with other scores to arrive at the final result—your intelligence quotient.

#3. Raven’s Progressive Matrices

Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) neutralize the effect of culture on the IQ score as much as possible by including only non-verbal tasks. These tasks ask test takers to recognize patterns and use their analytical and deductive skills to find a solution.

A typical RPM task consists of a 3x3 matrix with figures that change from one square to another according to a certain pattern. However, the last square is empty, and the test taker must figure out which figure would correctly complete the sequence.

Thanks to its simple concept, RPM gained immense popularity. Currently, it’s one of the most common types of IQ tests administered online.

What Affects a Person’s IQ?

A person’s IQ is affected by numerous factors, the most important of which are genetics, education, and stress. Below, you will find more information about each factor, as well as how exactly they impact IQ scores.

#1. Genetics

Genetics as part of the answer to what is iq

Genetics as part of the answer to what is iq

Numerous twin and adoption studies have been performed to investigate the effect of genetics on intelligence, and they are all in agreement—genes are the most significant contributor to IQ.

Regardless of how many years the adopted children spent with the new family, their intelligence remained similar to that of their biological parents. The influence of the adoptive family was certainly not negligent, but it couldn’t overpower genetics.

In other words, if your parents have high IQs, it’s very likely that you will too. Of course, it’s not unheard of that a gifted child is born into a family of people with average IQs, either. But in most cases, IQs across a family unit will be fairly consistent.

#2. Education

Kids raising hands to answer a question in the classroom

Kids raising hands to answer a question in the classroom

Studies have shown that education has a beneficial effect on cognitive abilities, boosting IQ by 1 to 5 points for every additional year of schooling. That’s because schools improve both fluid and crystallized intelligence, two essential components of general intelligence.

Fluid intelligence, which refers to reasoning, comprehension, problem-solving skills, and working memory, expands as students take classes such as math, chemistry, physics, and other subjects with tasks and exercises.

On the other hand, crystallized intelligence grows through knowledge that accumulates over the years. That process begins in school, with all the new concepts, theories, and facts students learn throughout their education.

#3. Stress

What is IQ - Stress

What is IQ - Stress

Excess stress is proven to negatively affect physical and mental health, but it turns out its effect doesn’t stop there. In fact, research has shown that early life stress may lead to a lower IQ and decreased academic achievement.

In other words, children who experience high levels of stress before they reach school age may permanently suffer from decreased cognitive function. That decrease is not necessarily major—the difference can be only a few points—but it still affects their ability to maximize their potential.

The Average and the Highest IQ

Due to their design, standard intelligence tests can only measure IQ in the 40–160 range. Even then, IQ tests are flawed and notorious for being less accurate when dealing with very high and very low scores.

Still, although their true value lies in measuring average intelligence, these extremes are usually the most fascinating. In particular, people take particular interest in the upper extreme, always wondering who bears the title of the smartest person in the world.

Below, you will find more details on the person with the highest recorded IQ as well as information on the average IQ score.

#1. What Is the Average IQ?

The average IQ is 100, otherwise known as the 50th percentile. In other words, if you score 100 on an IQ test, you’ll have performed as well as 50% of the age group you’re being compared to.

However, since most people score between 85 and 115 (68% of the population), this range is taken as an average IQ score. Any score above is a high IQ, and any below is a low IQ.

In practice, an average IQ means that your cognitive abilities are developed to the degree expected of a person in your age group. If we consider the outdated concept of mental age, people with average IQs are mentally just as old as they actually are.

#2. What Is the Highest IQ?

Although standardized intelligence tests don’t accurately measure IQs above 160, there are people who claim they’ve received a higher score.

One such example is Marilyn vos Savant, the holder of the Guinness World Record for the highest IQ before the category was officially removed. Allegedly, the American columnist has an IQ of 228.

Vos Savant’s claim to the title of person with the highest IQ in the world has been disputed time and time again. Many of her detractors believe that the test she took wasn’t valid, which is why she scored as high as she did.

In addition, some IQ experts believe other individuals have an even higher IQ than Savant. But in many of these cases, the geniuses in question never officially took an IQ test, so it’s impossible to determine the validity of these claims.

Can You Improve Your IQ Score?

What is IQ and how to improve it?

What is IQ and how to improve it?

Experts aren’t fully in agreement when the question of improving your IQ score is raised. Some believe IQ has very few fluctuations throughout a lifetime, while others think external factors can impact it.

However, even if the second group is correct, you can only improve your IQ score by several points. It’s highly unlikely that a person with an average IQ can become a genius simply by putting in sustained effort.

Still, if you choose to develop your IQ to its full potential, here are a few methods you can try:

  • Take up a new hobby. Trying out a new activity will increase your brain’s flexibility and force you to think in new and often unexpected ways. For the best results, we recommend playing chess or learning to play an instrument.
  • Play brain games. Puzzles, crosswords, and memory games are great for keeping your brain in good shape and developing problem-solving skills.
  • Read books. Reading improves your crystallized intelligence, an important component of general intelligence. Aside from that, it gives you insight into new perspectives, develops your reasoning, and boosts your mental agility.

Take this free test to get accurate results

Discover your IQ score by taking our online IQ test and embark on your self-development journey today!

Start the test now

Is IQ Important?

IQ is considered an important predictor of success, but it’s certainly not the deciding factor. Ultimately, different careers and life paths come with different demands; sometimes, a high IQ isn’t one of them.

However, when a position demands creativity, flexibility of mind, and excellent problem-solving and decision-making skills, individuals with high IQs tend to thrive.

Here are some careers where IQ is an important factor in success:

  • Scientist
  • Doctor
  • Chess grandmaster
  • Engineer
  • University professor
  • IT specialist
  • CEO
  • Financial expert

Still, an above-average IQ score can be a huge plus, even in careers that don’t require high intelligence. Generally speaking, the more developed your cognitive abilities are, the easier your path is, no matter what you choose.

Final Thoughts

Learning more about what IQ is and why it matters can help you understand your score better and gain a deeper insight into your own strengths and weaknesses. And once you are more familiar with the inner workings of your brain, you can work on developing your intelligence to its full potential.

In other words, IQ can be a useful tool, but you shouldn’t let it define you. It represents only one aspect of your personality and tells only a fraction of your story. Whether you have a high or low score, your success and development will be determined only by you, not by what your IQ is.

twitter iconfacebook icontelegram icon