How IQ Tests Work (& Don’t Work)
I first noticed a problem with IQ tests after we adopted our three oldest children. They were older when they came into our house, so the school wanted them tested. I was dismayed by the results. (They were not good.) As I looked at the methods used, I noticed a problem. Many of the questions relied on the children being aware of things that you could not take for granted my children would know. My children had been neglected, and did not have a history of paying attention in school. (One of my children, age 10, did not know how to untie his shoes. School had taught him how to tie a shoe, but no one taught him to pull the laces just so. My eight year old did not yet know all of her letter sounds.) Children who have been neglected will likely have lower scores, not because they are that ‘slow,’ but because they have not yet learned.
Through the years we also tested our other children. Different children have different issues with testing. Some are meticulous. They will have difficulty if any test is timed. We had to tell one child to simply put a mark in the circle, go on, then color them in later. He was spending so much time filling in the circles on the test ‘perfectly’ that he never finished!
Other children get stuck on problems they don’t know. If the test has more difficult questions early, they will do worse. Some cannot think once their confidence is broken. A tough question early can skew the rest of the test results.
Still others do not like to sit still. They are highly energetic. If the tests are broken up into sections, with adequate breaks they do better than if they have to sit still and stay on task for long periods of time. Since exceptionally bright children often jump from one topic to another and then back again in their minds, long tests are not good for them. They will test lower than they should if they are made to sit too long.
We also noticed that the IQ tests were not necessarily written by people with high IQs. There were questions that had more than one answer, if you really thought outside the box. Since IQ tends to measure problem solving and lateral thinking skills in the upper ranges, this is also a problem. What we found was the children who truly had great problem solving skills were not the ones who finished the fasted, but the ones who engaged the tester to explain why certain questions were wrong and could not be answered. (I have an uncle who only missed two questions on his SAT. He still maintains that one of them was their error!)
So what does IQ mean? IQ tells you how well you can problem solve. It means you can think outside the box. People with extremely high IQs do not think like an average person. They typically have trouble fitting in, and doing menial, repetitive tasks. You may want them for research, but not for repetitive, detailed things like editing, cleaning or laser eye surgery. You also don’t want them in jobs that require knowing what the average person likes such as advertising, marketing or public relations. (Unless you want to be known as avant-garde or cutting edge, or just odd.)
Different thinking styles lend themselves to excellence in different areas. An incredible artist who is a friend of mine is not good at anything even vaguely administrative. I cannot stand cleaning and housework, yet give me something to research and I will forget to eat. I have a son who has volunteered to continue doing yard work after the rest of the family stopped for the day who cannot stand schoolwork. Everyone is different. Unfortunately, if put in the wrong situations for too long these people are often labeled rebellious or lazy. (I know a brilliant man who ended up stuck in a menial job for various reasons. Due to not being able to fit in he became an alcoholic. Such a waste.)
In raising a wide variety of children (thanks to adoption) we have noticed that high IQ is not that best thing for all jobs. It has its drawbacks. One of my sons is very charismatic, but has an average IQ. He is excelling in his hotel career, being promoted three times in his two months of work. Another of my sons has an incredibly high IQ. He can build anything, and enjoys doing ‘science’ for fun. (Currently he is processing rough gems he mined, and wants to finish them himself.) We laughed at the prospect of him filling in for my son in his hotel job. My gem-cleaning son frequently rubs people the wrong way, even though deep inside he loves people deeply. He just feels the need to be very ‘exact’ when talking, and needs to correct people over minor points. People don’t like this. We often find ourselves telling him, ‘One step too far,’ indicating that the conversation was good, up until that specific point.