What constitutes a person’s IQ?

The term IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, generally describes a score on a test that rates the subject’s cognitive ability as compared to the general population. IQ tests use a standardized scale with 100 as the median score. On most tests, a score between 90 and 110, or the median plus or minus 10, indicates average intelligence. A score above 130 indicates exceptional intelligence and a score below 70 may indicate mental retardation. Like their predecessors, modern tests do take in to account the age of a child when determining an IQ score. Children are graded relative to the population at their developmental level.

But can you increase your IQ score? There is some evidence that children develop higher intellectual ability if they receive better nurturing and diet as babies, and a higher degree of intellectual stimulation in preschool tends to boost children’s IQ scores for a few years of elementary school but does not permanently increase IQ scores. For the most part, adult IQ scores don’t significantly increase over time. There is evidence that maintaining an intellectually stimulating atmosphere (by learning new skills or solving puzzles, for example) boosts some cognitive ability, similar to the way maintaining an exercise regimen boosts physical ability, but these changes aren’t permanent and do not have much effect on IQ scores.

So your IQ score is relatively stable, no matter what education you acquire. This does not mean that you can’t increase your intelligence. IQ tests are only one imperfect method of measuring certain aspects of intellectual ability. A lot of critics point out that IQ tests don’t measure creativity, social skills, wisdom, acquired abilities or a host of other things we consider to be aspects of intelligence. The value of IQ tests is that they measure general cognitive ability, which has been proven to be a fairly accurate indicator of intellectual potential. There is a high positive correlation between IQ and success in school and the work place, but there are many, many cases where IQ and success do not coincide.

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