In general, IQ tests are deemed necessary only when a child underperforms in school. However, recruiters are now using these tests to determine the suitability of candidates for a job profile. The test is also used to identify genius and child prodigies.

A strange anomaly about IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests is that the person who first developed them – Alfred Binet a French psychologist – did not believe they were accurate. Today, however, they are widely used to quantify human intelligence and a number of them are freely available online. Here’s the how and why …

What is an IQ test?

You might have heard of development milestones. The term is generally used to describe the various stages of growth in babies. It is believed that intelligence develops most rapidly up to age 5. But the brain – and intellect – continues to grow beyond that too.

IQ tests help discover whether an individual is performing at his or her full potential according to his age.

An IQ test is a test is comprised of questions that are designed to put a numeric value to intelligence. There are different sets of questions for different capabilities such as reading, comprehension, writing, verbal ability, numeric ability, and so on.

In general 100 is considered an average score and anything below 80 or 75 is considered below average. With that said, these tests are subjective and incumbent upon several factors including the type of test administered and the environment in which it is administered.

Types and Uses of IQ Tests

As mentioned above, there is a separate set of questions for each capability. The question sets used are incumbent upon the purpose of taking the test. For instance, if you are taking the test as a candidate for the post of a coder, you may only be given the reasoning, problem-solving, logic, and numerical ability test.

Age is an important component in the tests although there is some debate about this – with one school of thought claiming that IQ remains constant through life and therefore age does not affect scores and another believing that age does matter.

Given the highly subjective nature of IQ tests, many experts have devised their own models for testing. That said, some of the more commonly used tests include:

  • Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
  • Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test
  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  • Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children
  • Cognitive Assessment System

Of these, the Wechsler and Woodcock-Johnson tests are considered the most reliable followed by Stanford-Binet and Kaufman Assessment Battery. However, as mentioned earlier, the purpose of the test may be a detriment in deciding which test to use as may price.

Here are some of the reasons why an IQ test is important:

  • Assessing the learning ability of a child
  • As a starting point for determining the career path of a student
  • Diagnosis of learning disability
  • To identify a genius
  • To join a High-IQ society like Mensa
  • To assess specific capabilities in prospective job candidates
  • To understand the learning style of a child – or adult.

These are the most commonly cited reasons though there may be other reasons too.

How IQ test is calculated

Human intelligence is a complex process and highly subjective. As such it is hard to quantify it. How for instance would you measure creativity? How would you measure emotions?

With that caveat, IQ tests are designed to quantify mental acuity or sharpness. Most tests measure acuity against a baseline. Age is also an important factor. Binet – the originator of IQ tests – measured IQ as a percentage of mental age over. biological age. Here’s a simplified version of the Binet formula:


If your mental age turns out to be the same as your biological age, you would score 100 which is considered the average in most tests.

Newer and different formulae have evolved over the years though most tests still consider age an important factor and use 100 as a benchmark.

Why IQ test is important

Or you may ask why get an IQ test? Well, here’s an interesting story that will shed some light on this.

In the early twentieth century, the French government passed a law making it mandatory for every French child to be educated in schools but realized that every child is different. The government approached Alfred Binet – a psychologist – to help determine which students may potentially find it hard to attend school and learn.

Binet and his colleague Simon began compiling a list of questions designed to assess areas not taught in schools such as problem-solving, attention, and memory. When the tests were administered, Binet and Simon realized that while some young children could answer difficult and complex questions while some older ones struggled with basic questions. Working with averages, the two psychologists proposed the idea of mental age.

They developed the Binet-Simon intelligence scale later evolved to the Binet-Stanford intelligence test and is in use even today.

In particular, children who are underperformers in academics may be facing learning difficulties such as dyslexia or maybe on the autism spectrum. IQ tests are useful in identifying such children early so that they may get timely help with intervention.

How IQ test is done

Before we answer that, let’s talk about who does IQ tests. IQ tests are administered by licensed psychologists. Indeed, the tests are only sold to licensed psychologists. The complete battery of tests comprises several parts that measure various capabilities. Some of the most common capabilities that IQ tests measure include:

  • Reading
  • Comprehension
  • Writing
  • Numerical ability
  • Reasoning and Logic
  • Sequencing
  • Spatial (Abstract thinking)
  • Verbal (Language and vocabulary)
  • Memory

Depending upon the purpose of the test and which test is used, some of these capabilities may be bundled into a single test. Similarly, the tests may measure a few other capabilities such as motor skills and emotional quotient.

As we mentioned earlier, age is often considered an important factor and hence IQ tests for kids are different from IQ tests for adults. There may also be specialized IQ tests such as IQ tests for teens, IQ tests for 12 years old, and so on.

IQ tests are administered in a controlled environment. Prerequisites include a relaxed and stress-free environment and a relaxed and stress-free candidate. If you are taking the full battery of tests, the time required can extend an entire day.

So if you are going for an IQ test, you should go prepared for a long haul – which means pack a snack, a bottle of water, and reschedule all appointments.

A point of distinction worth mention here is that while you may take an IQ test for a specific purpose it is advisable to take the full battery of tests if you suspect your child suffers from learning disabilities or is on the Autism spectrum.

If you are taking the test for a specific purpose such as the Mensa IQ test for High IQ individuals or a job candidate test for the pharmaceutical industry, the duration may be shorter although the Mensa IQ test is fairly detailed. Many online IQ tests give you a decent assessment of intelligence – and some practice. Some of these are free while others are paid.

IQ tests are administered for varied reasons. In general, awareness about IQ testing and why IQ test is important is low. That said, the new generation is appreciating the need for IQ testing. If you are one of them and want to know more, do ask in the comments or on our FB Community. Meanwhile, stay tuned – BYN is right here bringing you facts and information about education and career.

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