Performance 6 min read

What IQ Stands For And What It Actually Measures?

by Mindvalley December 10, 2018

For centuries, scientists have been trying to identify and measure what factors make some people more successful in life than the others? Today it’s widely accepted that one of major predictors of a person’s success is their intelligence or IQ.

But what is IQ exactly? How should we decipher what IQ stands for? And what do IQ tests actually measure?

We’re going to break down how IQ works and what standardized tests are actually measuring.

What Is IQ Short For?

IQ stands for for intelligence quotient. It was first coined by William Stern back in 1912. Stern was a German psychologist interested in the field of human intelligence.

Before Stern, there was no standardized measure of cognitive ability. But Stern believed in a form of generalized intelligence that could be accurately measured under the right circumstances.

It was from Stern’s theory of generalized intelligence that the first IQ tests were born. But what do these tests actually measure?

What Do IQ Tests Measure?

It’s not how smart you are, but how are you smart.

— Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program

It’s a common misconception that IQ tests measure intelligence. Or rather, that they’re the most accurate measure of intelligence.

So, what is intelligence, anyway? There are many competing theories on the different types of intelligence we possess. And IQ tests measure very specific forms of intelligence.  

Two of the most common forms of intelligence tests are the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) test and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) test. 

Different IQ tests have different types of questions. The ones taken during job applications are different from the ones students take when enrolling in university.

However, they all have one thing in common: they are standardized. An IQ test can, therefore, measure the capacity of a three specific types of intelligence.

what do iq tests measure

1. Verbal Intelligence

As the name implies, verbal intelligence is the intelligence of language. It helps us identify patterns between words and to use language to communicate more effectively.

Those with verbal or linguistic intelligence enjoy reading and writing. They are skilled with word puzzles and have the ability to quickly learn new languages.

2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

Logical/Mathematical intelligence comes from the capacity to form logical relationships and use deductive reasoning. Individuals with this form of intelligence are rational, objective, strategic, organized, and analytical.

3. Spatial Intelligence

According to an American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, spatial intelligence is the intelligence of visual thinking. With the help of spatial intelligence, we’re able to manipulate three dimensional objects in our minds eye.


Those with spatial intelligence are excellent navigators. They are keen to notice fine details and pick up on subtle patterns with ease.

What Is The IQ Of An Average Person?

The average person has an IQ score between 85 and 115. Only a little more than 2% of the population scores higher than 130 or below 70.

How Is IQ Calculated?

Your intelligence quotient is calculated by two important factors: the number of correct answers you provide on the test, and the length of time it takes you to arrive at those answers.

That’s right: an IQ test measures not only whether your answer is correct, but how long it took you to answer the question.

The median score on a standardized IQ test is 100. When assembled together, the scores follow a bell curve, which peaks in the middle where the greatest concentration of similar scores are.

Scores then range up or down by 15 IQ points, which is called a standard deviation.

iq tests

What Is An IQ level?

We know that IQ stands for intelligence quotient. But what is an intelligence quotient and how do IQ levels work?

An IQ level is the range of the score a person can have. If you possess an IQ of 125 points, you likely have an above average intellect. If you fall within the upper 2% of highly gifted individuals, you’re eligible to join the genius’ club – Mensa society.

And while understanding what IQ stands for and how the intelligence quotient works is important, it’s also important to keep something else in mind:

There are many new theories that have begun to emerge in the field of human intelligence. It’s become widely acknowledged that the standardized IQ test is limited in their capacity.

The IQ test can measure only a few forms of intelligence. But today, there are scientists who suggest we actually posses up to nine different types of intelligence.

The bottom line is: everyone possesses their own special gifts and abilities. Don’t judge yourself or another on how well you score on an IQ test. Your brain is an incredible machine, and capable of learning and developing more than you realize!

Do you have trouble remembering names?

Maybe you struggle to remember important dates or even basic facts and figures you need for a presentation?

If you do, don’t worry - it’s a common problem.

But what’s also common is the myth that some people are just born with good or photographic memory, while the rest of us just have to struggle.

The truth is, memory is just like a muscle - you can train it to be stronger.

Whether you’re a working professional looking to learn new skills, a student cramming for exams, or even just a senior who’s looking to stay sharp - there are techniques you can do to actively and permanently improve your memory.

If You’d Like To Tap Into This Secret Power You Didn’t Know You Have…Then Join Jim Kwik, Peak Performance Expert And Memory Guru, In This FREE Masterclass

From it, you’ll also learn:

The biggest lie we’ve all been told about our brainsthat’s holding us back from our potential. Contrary to conventional wisdom, your memory actually isn’t fixed. Once you realize how much control you have, you’ll begin to discover what you’re truly capable of.

10 powerful mental hacks you can apply to unlock your inner super learner. Small tweaks in these areas could make the difference between being someone who’s forgetful, to someone who has near-perfect memory.

A powerful memorization technique you can use in any situation. You’ll be able to deliver a speech without having to use your notes, and even remember your entire grocery list without having to write it down!

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What do you think of standardized IQ tests? Share with us in the comments below!

by Mindvalley
Mindvalley is creating a global school that delivers transformational education for all ages. Powered by community. Fueled by fun. We are dedicated to ensuring that humans live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives by plugging in the gaps that conventional education failed to teach us. We do this by organising real-world events around the world and producing world-class quality programmes in several areas of transformation, including mind, body, and performance.

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