IQ Scores and What They Mean

Intelligence Quotients or IQ’s have long been used as a kind of intellectual yardstick to measure the performance, the abilities, and especially the potential, of both children and adults. In more recent times, however, educators and psychologists have expressed some concern that too much importance was being given to IQ scores. Some children and young adults were being needlessly limited in their career opportunities because of a test score that seemed to be irrelevant to their interests and abilities. IQ tests and scores certainly have their uses, but they cannot account for all aspects of intellectual worth and potential.

IQ tests are designed to measure certain aspects of intelligence, and they do this very well. The ability to think logically, solve mathematical problems, and explore possibilities of selection and choice is an important part of overall intelligence. Academically-inclined individuals tend to do well in these areas. Analogy tests are frequently used to measure this kind of intelligence, and they form an integral component of the IQ tests used in post-secondary educational institutions. The problem is that this kind of test cannot measure other aspects of intelligence that are equally important.

Societies need individuals with vision, creativity, and determination. They also need citizens who can work in partnership with their fellow workers to achieve common goals. It is not unusual to find young workers who have achieved high academic scores but are unable to succeed socially, and the question arises as to which is more important for the common good. No one can argue that high academic achievers in science and mathematics are not contributing to the advancement of knowledge, but life skills are equally important, and, though these may be difficult to measure, some form of social or emotional IQ test would be very useful.

Some psychologists have attempted to respond to this need by identifying different kinds of intelligence. Howard Gardner, for example, suggests that while verbal, logical, and spatial skills indicate some aspects of intelligence, musical and athletic ability are indicative of intelligence as well. Perhaps more importantly, he suggests, social and emotional awareness are aspects of intelligence that make the greatest contribution to societal cohesion. Educators of today recognize these differences in intelligence and ability, and they seek appropriate applications for them in the range of opportunities offered to their students.

Some psychologists believe it is important to distinguish between intelligence as such and the skills that are usually associated with each form. Robert Sternberg, for example, suggests that there are really only three major categories of intellectual ability, and all other skills, aptitudes, and talents are merely subsidiaries of these. He identifies these categories as academic, creative, and emotional intelligence. Again, the problem is that IQ tests can only measure academic intelligence. There is a need to find ways of assessing the other kinds as well in order to identify realistic career goals and life opportunities for children and adults who excel in these areas.

The scores obtained on IQ tests must be kept in proper perspective. These tests are limited in their scope and usefulness in that they can measure only the academic aspect of intelligence. Regardless of the IQ score, no individual should feel limited in his or her potential for success, and those who consider themselves to be non-academic should take pride in their highly intellectual creative and emotional abilities.