We’re all familiar with bumper stickers displayed by proud parents, boasting their child’s honor-roll status or other achievements. But what about this not-so-humblebrag: “My child has the highest IQ possible”?
It’s a claim that the parents of Lydia Sebastian, a 12-year old girl from Essex, England, can rightly tout; Lydia recently received a perfect score of 162 on Mensa’s Cattell III B test — the highest score possible.
Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are said to have each scored 160, but there’s in fact no physical proof of this — or that they ever even took a Mensa test.
“The 160 score attributed to Einstein and Hawking is a bit of an urban myth — there is no evidence Einstein ever took a test, and if Hawking has he has certainly never revealed the results,” Ann Clarkson, communications manager at British Mensa, told TODAY.com. “The 160 score is an estimate only — and prompts an entirely different debate about the difference between IQ and genius.”
Still, Lydia’s score is very impressive, especially considering that “the average score on all IQ tests is 100," according to Clarkson. But she’s hardly the first to achieve a perfect score.
“On that particular test, a score between 156 and 162 is in the top one percent of the population, so one in 100 children will achieve within that range,” Clarkson said.
Think you’ve got what it takes? Try these sample questions.
So what exactly does having an incredibly high IQ mean? It may come as a relief to many that it has nothing to do with math — a common misconception.
In fact, logic is more important than math. “There are many Mensa members who will tell you they are hopeless at math,” Clarkson said. “There is actually little real math involved in IQ tests — where numbers are present, the test is asking you to identify patterns and sequences, not do complex calculations or apply mathematical formulas.”
The IQ tests also involve verbal reasoning, visual skills and spatial awareness. But it’s not the sort of test you can prepare for in order to do well.
“An IQ test assesses cognitive aptitude rather than learned knowledge, so it cannot be [studied] for in the traditional way,” said Clarkson. “Practicing IQ-style puzzles before a test can help the candidate feel more prepared and more relaxed and improve performance slightly, but there is no evidence that intensive practice can significantly improve IQ.”
Having a very high IQ indicates that you have strong cognitive agility, can make quick connections, spot patterns and deftly apply logic. These were all traits that Lydia was already exhibiting, which is why it was suggested that she take the test.
“Children do not tend to take the test unless they have already been identified as very bright,” said Clarkson.
Being very bright doesn’t necessarily mean doing well in school. In fact, exceptionally intelligent kids might not do well in school because of boredom.
“Very bright children can get bored, are often labeled weird or nerdy because they have interests that other children don’t, and they can switch off from education completely,” said Clarkson.
Parents may be tempted to get their kids’ IQ tested, but bear in mind that in the U.S., Mensa doesn’t offer the tests to children under the age of 14.