What is the IQ, and how can you improve it?

What is the IQ, and how can you improve it?

Many people have heard the term 'IQ' in their lifetime. It is common knowledge that the higher your IQ the better you will do in life, with many millionaires in the media being portrayed as incredibly smart.

But this narrative isn't always correct. There are many questions surrounding IQ and whether or not a high score paves the road to success, or if it just leaves people susceptible to mental illnesses.

So, What Is 'IQ'?

'IQ' is an abbreviated term used to refer to a person's 'Intelligence Quotient', a score derived from a test of intelligence. This score then determined whether you were challenged, average or gifted.

It is important to remember, these scores are only estimates. Because of the intangible nature of intelligence, it is difficult to get an exact measure.

How Is IQ Measured?

As already mentioned, IQ is typically derived from a test.

Previously this score was achieved by taking a person's mental age (determined by their test score) and multiplying it by their actual age in years and months. This sum would result in a fraction, which was then multiplied by 100, to achieve the person's IQ.

In recent years, the formula used to calculate IQ has changed from what it was. A person's IQ is now determined by turning their score into a 'normal distribution' with a mean of 100 and a deviation of 15.

Every few years this test is revised to ensure the mean stays at 100, meaning the average score doesn't vary too much.

What Is The Average IQ Score?

After the formula which calculates a person's IQ was changed, so did the average score.

Over half of the population will score between 85 and 115 points. Scientists try to maintain 100 as the average, not only does it make quantifying the data easier, it also allows for easier comparison of data with previous years.

What Is Considered A High Or Genius IQ?

Despite the average IQ being 85 to 115, a person is not considered to have a superior level of intelligence until they have a score of 130 or higher. According to a study done by Earl Hunt (Human Intelligence 2010/2011), only 5% of people achieve a score over 125 points.

However, many well-known people have, in fact, achieved this 'genius' level IQ score!

  • Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook's founder has an IQ of 152, which is considered highly gifted by many IQ scales.
  • Albert Einstein: Probably one of the most well-known geniuses. Albert Einstein had an IQ score of 160, putting him in the top percentile of the population.
  • Stephen Hawkings: Famous for his work on black holes. Stephen Hawking's IQ is at 160, matching Albert Einstein.
  • Ada Lovelace: Considered to be the first computer programmer, Ada's IQ matches that of both Einstein and Hawkings, at 160.
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie: With an estimated IQ of 180-200, it is no wonder that Marie Curie was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, but went on to win it twice!

These are just a handful of many. Often those with high IQ will not achieve the same renowned status of those listed, with an estimated 32 million people having above-average IQ it is not surprising.

Is IQ Fixed?

The short answer is no. IQ is not fixed, and it can change over time!

There have been many studies done over the years, looking into the effect of time on a person's IQ, and most of them show similar results.

Life experiences and the way a person is schooled can have both positive and negative effects on IQ scores, as well as change the structure of the brain.

For example, cab drivers in London. Scans of their brains show a change in the area in charge of navigation.

Is It Possible To Deliberately Raise IQ Levels?

Research does suggest that it is possible for a person to improve their IQ scores, whether it is to better their reasoning or planning skills, or something else.

Some things which can improve a person's IQ include:

  • Memory games: these can improve reasoning and language skills. Many are still used in research today.
  • Reading: frequent reading can greatly improve cognitive ability, and is shown to increase comprehension abilities in both adults and children.
  • Learning: continued learning can also have a positive effect on IQ levels, whether it is in an institution, self-teaching a language or even an instrument.

Does Having A High IQ Automatically Equal Success?

The most compelling study on this subject is that of Lewis Terman. He began his study in the 1920s, and followed the lives of 1,500 children with an average IQ of 150.

While he was following the lives of these children he found that many had greater academic achievements and higher paying wages.

However, the researchers who continued his study after his death in 1956, found that personality traits also played a big role in how successful Terman's candidates were.

When the most successful were compared to the least successful, it was discovered that the top 100 were more goal-orientated and had higher levels of motivation. While the bottom 100 did not exhibit these characteristics.

So while a higher IQ can certainly help a person achieve success, it isn't a requirement as the characteristics which drive a person account for far more of their achievements. Someone of an average IQ can be just as successful if they have the right personality traits.

Is IQ The Only Measure Of Intelligence?

While IQ is one of the most well-known measures of intelligence, there are actually others as well.

One that many people have heard of is EQ, also known as 'emotional quotient' or 'emotional intelligence'.

EQ refers to a person's ability to regulate and identify their emotions in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Effectively communicating with others
  • Empathise
  • Deal with stress in positive ways
  • And cope with challenges

Many researchers and psychologists have even suggested that a higher EQ has more value than a high IQ.

This is because emotional intelligence is what defines how people manage and regulate their emotions and reactions to the world around them. If they have a low EQ, then they may find themselves with higher levels of stress, easily irritated or angered and struggling with interpersonal relationships.

A good media representation of this is the main character of American TV Drama 'Scorpion'. Throughout the early seasons, the character of 'Walter O'brien' often found himself at odds with anyone of average intelligence because he himself struggled with communication and empathy due to a self-proclaimed low EQ.


Overall, having a high IQ is often compared to other privileges which help a person in life. Having a higher IQ may give you a head start, but it still takes a lot of work, effort and determination to be successful.

And with IQ's fluctuating throughout a person's life, if someone had a score of 135 at seventeen years old, that may have dropped by the time they reach forty. Meaning, unless the tests are taken regularly, they are not necessarily an accurate representation of a person's intellect.