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All You Ever Wanted To Know About IQ Tests

The belief that IQ tests are the most reliable means of scientifically testing the intelligence and smartness of a person has always been surrounded by controversial opinions, sparking heated debates. Some have even questioned the so-called scientific basis of the popular IQ tests. Many feel that the outcome of such tests is biased and does not reflect the true intelligence of a person that makes him successful in life. A person may score genius grade in the test, but in real life may be a total failure. How it all Started? Back in 1905, the French psychologist Alfred Binet decided that he wanted to pinpoint in advance the "slower" students from the rest of the class, so that they could be provided extra attention in school.

Along with a colleague Theodore Simon, Binet created a scale to measure the intelligence of the students, the Binet-Simon (B-S) Intelligence Scale. They revised the B-S scale in 1908 and once again in 1911, just before Binet's death. In 1912, a German psychologist, William Stern, gave it a new name - 'Intelligenz-Quotient", the English equivalent being Intelligence Quotient or IQ.

Lewis Terman, a professor from Stanford University, revised it one more time in 1916. And lo & behold, the IQ test was officially ready for mass implementation! How it Works? The way it works is pretty simple. The mental prowess is tested for a number of skills, such as logical reasoning skill, pattern recognition skill, cognitive skill, mathematical computational skill, three-dimensional visualization skill, language fluency, general knowledge, etc. Scores are given for each of these skill categories and based on them an overall score is assigned that indicates the IQ of the person. This IQ score is supposed to indicate a person's general intelligence. The score graph (score versus number of people) of IQ tests conducted in large populations is a bell-shaped curve, indicating that most people in general population have an average score around 100.

At both the extremes on the score line there is a steep decline in the curve, implying that very few people fall in the genius category or in the imbecile category. Sounds great, right? No. The controversies started simultaneously with these studies and umpteen questions were being thrown open for debate.

The Controversies The controversial issues were: What exactly does an IQ test measure? What exactly is general intelligence? Is the test racially biased? Is it a measure of one's acquired genetic intelligence or is it a measure of cultivated intelligence? Do you have to be a part of some elite family to fair well in these tests? And what about the improvement in scores that comes with familiarity with the tests and practice? Does it mean the person has suddenly become a genius after taking the tests a couple of times? Another issue about the validity and the effectiveness of these tests was that they cover only the left-brain-controlled skills, and no skills characteristic of right part of the brain, like emotional intelligence, so very important to for achieving success in life. A low IQ person can accomplish great things in life through grit, determination; courage and love instead of through ability as defined by IQ tests (remember Tom Hanks in the movie Forest Gump?). These tests also do not reflect on the creative skills or the body intelligence of a person.

In the End So what types of people score high on IQ tests? Are they justifiably intelligent people? Does race play a role? One study showed that blacks scored poorly until the 1950s, before education took off in a big way. The IQ test scores of some famous personalities were: Einstein, 160; Mozart, 165; Leonardo Da Vinci, an incredible 220! There is no set recipe on how to score high, but training your senses to be receptive to things happening around you and maintaining your physical and emotional health go a long way in increasing your IQ. Summary: In the eyes of the common man the IQ tests are the perfect way to measure scientifically how clever a person is. But the reality is that many controversial opinions exist on these tests, and the debate will continue till a better measure of intelligence is formulated.

Brooke Hayles
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