Just what do IQ tests measure anyway?

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Just what do IQ tests measure anyway?

What was Albert Einstein’s intelligence quotient?
a. 180
b. 210
c. 250
d. unknown
The answer is D. Albert Einstein never took an IQ test. In fact, the IQ scores of many famous intellectuals are often based on presumptions. The first standardized test for intelligence didn’t exist before 1905.
Even though no one really knows what Einstein’s IQ was, he still shows up as a popular symbol of intelligence for local advertising. It’s not that his genius is in doubt, but his scientific achievements aren’t the focus of these commercials. Instead, he is portrayed merely as a historical figure who was born with an exceptional brain.
There are countless organizations in Korea that promise parents they can boost their children’s IQ or creative abilities. But what does having a high IQ really mean?
Oh Jeong-hwan, a 28-year-old pro-gamer is an official member of Mensa Korea, whose members have scored in the top 2 percent on IQ tests. The only qualification for membership is a high IQ.
Mr. Oh’s test score when he first joined the group in December 2001 was 157, way above the average, which usually ranges from 100 to 120. Mr. Oh joined the group with the hope of “learning life lessons” from people who are considered exceptionally smart and competing with them.
Whether it’s board games, a simple quiz or Nintendo, Mr. Oh says before he joined the group, he had never met people who utterly immersed themselves into what they were doing.
“My friends always scolded me,” he says. “People asked why I should be so serious when we are playing for fun. They told me I ruin the mood. But people at Mensa are just like me.”
Jeong Chang-ik, a 32-year-old producer at Deep Pictures, a computer graphics production company for films, shares a similar sentiment. He joined Mensa in 1996. When he was first tested, his IQ was 148.
“But nothing has changed much,” says Mr. Jeong, who recently returned to college as a junior to study animation. “I was crazy about films since I was in middle school. I wasn’t interested in studying anything else. So I quit college in 1997 and decided to work for movie productions.”
Intelligence is an indispensable social qualification for the contemporary working environment. And many would agree that our society favors those with high IQs.
“Sure, things work out more conveniently,” he says. “But you need more than that.”
Mr. Jeong said he has faced some disastrous failures despite his high IQ. As soon as he dropped out of college, he began directing an independent film.
“I had the perfect script all planned in my head,” he said. “I was very confident that the film would be a hit.”
But his movie turned out to be a miserable failure. His first movie became his last.
“You can’t solve everything with a high IQ alone,” Mr. Oh said.
The tests used to measure IQ vary. Here is a typical question used in IQ tests in local secondary schools:
Find a word that does not relate to each other:
a. hammer
b. nail
c. gimlet
d. needle
e. thumbtack
Students are expected to answer about 150 of these questions in less than an hour.
For all the tests’ popularity, it’s questionable whether it’s possible to measure a person’s intelligence through these tests. The JoongAng Ilbo conducted IQ tests with the help of Korea Guidance, an organization specializing in intelligence tests. The results were all over the place.
There was a student who received the lowest score on the first IQ test and jumped up to the highest in the next test. There were those who earned the highest score in an IQ test but got the lowest in a Raven’s test, which attempts to measure the person’s creativity. Mensa Korea uses a Raven’s test for its potential members.
Out of 20 students who participated, almost half of them had drastically different scores in repeated testings. There were two people whose scores jumped up and down more than 10 levels.
“You can get better scores on any test if you study hard,” says Kim Seong-ju, a researcher at Korea Guidance.
“There is a tendency to do better in each test if you try several times. So with children who attend private institutes that promise to boost their IQ, it’s difficult to tell whether students have merely learned skills to get better scores on IQ tests or whether their IQ level has indeed improved.”
Fatigue and lack of sleep were major setbacks to doing well on IQ tests, too. A 33-year-old office worker’s score dropped significantly on his second test because he had trouble concentrating due to work-related stress.
In the end, experts found no relation between doing well on the Raven’s test, which measures the right brain, and doing well on the typical school IQ test, which measures the left brain.
“If you are trained in problem-solving at school, you should be able to get a high IQ score due to active development of your left brain,” says Ms. Kim. “In those cases, you won’t get a high score on a Raven’s test, which is based on skills for creative solutions.”
Some companies use the Raven’s test to find employees who can handle problem solving well, says Ms. Kim. “Schools should also start paying equal attention to the development of students’ creative problem-solving process.”

Common questions on IQ

Q. Are people born with a certain level of intelligence or is it acquired?
A. The dominant view holds that intelligence levels shift around until a person reaches adolescence. Human mental faculties are almost completed by then, but brain cells, which existed separately until this point, start to find their network.

I’ve seen friends who are discouraged after scoring 120 on their IQ tests.
That’s a wrong conception. The score is high enough. The standard of IQ evaluations Koreans use is way too high. Anywhere between 90 and 110 is considered average. The result might fluctuate depending on research institutes, but people with more than a 120 IQ score make up 15 percent of the population.

What do IQ tests measure?
It’s uncertain. The first standardized intelligence test was introduced in 1905, and over the years the tests have changed.
It’s still difficult to say that IQ is the same as individual brain faculty. There is no guarantee that a scientist with an exceptional IQ can suggest brilliant corporate strategies as a company CEO can. It’s also not true that everyone with a high IQ is a good scientist.

If you want to join Mensa

Mensa was founded in England in 1946 by an English barrister named Roland Berrill and a scientist named Lance Ware. The group was originally formed to create a society for bright people sharing common interests.
According to Mensa’s official Web site, the group serves three purposes: to identify and foster human intelligence, to encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members. There are more than 1 million members of Mensa in 100 countries.
Mensa Korea was established in 1996. (Its Web site is at www.mensakorea.org.) So far, there are about 2,000 members, from teenagers to those in their 40s, with jobs ranging from a taxi driver to a teacher. But a majority of people work in the IT industry.
Membership lasts for life once the person is admitted and includes participation in Mensa groups in other countries.
Those who want to join the group must be over 14 and have an IQ score in the top 2 percent of the population. Scores usually exceed 140 in Korea.
IQ tests take place in Bundang, Gyeonggi province, every last Saturday of the month at 2 p.m.

by Kwon Hyuk-joo, Lee Kyung-hee
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