Why IQ Tests Are Not A Good Determinant of Intelligence

It's high time we shift the focus to a better psychometric measure.

It’s no secret that we have been associating intelligence with IQ since the advent of this psychometric test lumping people into specific categories based on a particular score they get by answering a number of questions that are meant to test cognitive, arithmetic, linguistic and creative abilities.

But do IQ tests really work? Do they allow us a glimpse at the holistic picture of what intelligence actually looks like? Or do they simplify the intelligence quotient of a person? In this article, we’ll discuss the limitations of the IQ test and its other, more suitable variants that can keep up to modern times and needs.

What is the IQ?

IQ or intelligence quotient has been defined as ‘…a theoretical construct used by psychologists within standardized tests as a means of describing one’s intelligence level.’ The average IQ score is approximately 100, with 95% of the scores falling between a range of 70 and 130. This score is calculated on two scales; a verbal and performance scale – both designed to test a particular set of abilities.

What do IQ tests measure?

Broadly speaking, IQ tests measure a variety of abilities such as vocabulary, comprehension, arithmetic, digit span, similarities etc on the verbal scale. However, the performance scale looks at a difference set of abilities such as object assembly, picture completion, picture arrangement etc – mainly testing out cognitive abilities that involve some form of spatial movement.

What are the limitations of the IQ test?

An interesting limitation of the IQ test is that it does not take into account the other forms of intelligence that people make use of in daily life. While it assesses logical thinking, memory and arithmetic, it does not measure emotional, kinesthetic, musical intelligence etc – all of which are used by people on a regular basis. Instead, it puts people into restrictive categories that might not cater to their individuality.

A cultural bias is also inherent within all such forms of testing; most of the questions designed cater more to a euro-centric niche. People who do not know the names of the months according to the Roman calendar or are not familiar with the English version of alphabets and numbers are destined to perform poorly on the test. Since it only caters to one specific cultural group, it can be concluded that it’s not only limited in its application but cannot be further generalized to larger populations.

Motivation plays a key role in all testing; people who are more motivated and fresh at the beginning of an IQ test are definitely going to perform better than those who have been sleep-deprived and have no motivation for the test. Like all tests, this extraneous variable of tiredness often limits the validity and reliability of an IQ score.

Children who have gained a formal education are also likely to score higher on the test since it’s highly likely that they encountered similar questions on school tests as those present on an IQ test. This puts other children to a disadvantage simply because they haven’t practiced before in school.

All of this goes to show the limited reliability of IQ tests and how the scores cannot be trusted to give a full understanding of the level of an individual’s intellect.

Here’s to hoping for the advent of a new, better psychometric that actually takes the diversity of culture and intelligence both into account!

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