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What Is an IQ Test?

SkillsSoft SkillsArticle

Is an IQ Test Beneficial? Who Should Take an IQ Test?


IQ tests have existed for decades, but a heated debate over their legitimacy continues. Although they are not perfect, they can be beneficial in various situations.


Anyone can take an IQ test, such as those at, if they are curious about their score. However, these tests are most helpful for those who may learn differently from their peers. Individuals who perform far above or below average may require accommodations to best suit their learning needs.


After reading this article, you will better understand the meaning, benefits, and disadvantages of IQ tests.

Table of Contents

  • What Is an IQ test?
  • Who Should Use an IQ test?
  • Why Is an IQ Test Important?
  • What Is an IQ Test Like?
  • How Does an IQ Test Work?
  • How Long Does an IQ Test Take?
  • Things To Note about IQ Tests

What Is an IQ Test?

An IQ test is an assessment designed to measure the cognitive ability and potential of the test taker. IQ stands for intelligence quotient, and it is a numerical value assigned to cognitive ability and potential. 


These tests compare each person to their peers in the following categories:


  • Mathematical skills
  • Language abilities
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Visual-spatial processing
  • Processing speed
  • Reasoning abilities
  • Nonverbal organization
  • Comprehension
  • Working memory
  • Ability to see relationships

Who Should Use an IQ Test?

Those who struggle to function successfully at work or school should discuss the need for an IQ test with a doctor. Often, children and adults struggle because they learn differently from others. The first step in creating a treatment plan is understanding the struggles faced by these individuals. 


Although IQ tests do not cover every area of functioning, they can help psychologists to diagnose and uncover the reasons behind these struggles.


Upon examining an individual’s IQ score, psychologists may order additional testing for learning, developmental, or cognitive differences.


  • Developmental disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyspraxia
  • Gifted or talented

It is important to remember that an IQ test alone cannot diagnose a disorder today as it could in the past. Multiple tests, a review of standardized test scores, and an examination of educational history will factor into the official diagnosis.


Related: What Is a Normal IQ?

quotation marks

After reading this article, you will better understand the meaning, benefits, and disadvantages of IQ tests.

Prenatal IQ Tests

Additionally, pregnant women may consider asking a doctor to administer a prenatal IQ test for their unborn baby. This procedure is most common if the woman is 35 years or older or has used drugs or alcohol while pregnant. 


An IQ test can flag potential struggles. If these appear, families should ensure their child takes an IQ test during early childhood.

Why Is an IQ Test Important?

Although IQ tests are controversial, they can be beneficial when used appropriately. They lead to the diagnosis of learning, developmental, or cognitive disabilities, and these diagnoses help children receive the support they need. 


With this information, schools can place children in supportive class settings or provide an IEP to allow children to reach their potential.


On a larger scale, IQ tests can help entire communities. If schools perform well below the local average, the state may recognize the need for improvement in education or send additional resources. 


Many scientists also believe that examining the IQ scores of large groups of people can help increase the understanding of human psychology and physiology. 


Additionally, the military continues to use similar tests to differentiate capable soldiers from those who may not have the mental capacity to perform well. 

mensa iq test

What Is an IQ Test Like?

Contrary to popular belief, IQ tests are nothing like general knowledge exams students receive in school. Instead, they follow designs set by scientists and psychologists worldwide decades ago. You can expect four categories in most certified IQ tests.

Analogies Questions

Most certified IQ tests include analogies questions. They measure an individual’s ability to find patterns, parallels, and relationships between words and phrases. They do not, however, require extensive knowledge of vocabulary. 

Figures Questions

Figures and numerical reasoning questions are similar. These figures questions revolve around patterns of figures or diagrams. They may also require the test taker to find the missing figure or diagram in a sequence. 

Numerical Reasoning Questions

Numerical reasoning questions are predictable enough that many people practice them before taking the IQ test. They are similar to puzzles and include a series of numbers for the test taker to examine. The individual must determine which number or numbers are missing.


Such questions test the ability to reason and use logic to uncover number sequences. 


Syllogisms are also common parts of certified IQ tests. The test taker must demonstrate their ability to draw logical conclusions and exercise the logical areas of the brain. 


These counter-intuitive tests include statements upon which the individual must base their conclusions. 

How Does an IQ Test Work?

Most IQ tests are standardized, meaning they compare individuals to the norm of people in the same age group. For most tests, the median and mean scores are 100, and most people score between 85 and 115.


The results follow a bell-shaped curve, where most people score near the average, and very few individuals score in the extreme ranges. 


The typical calculations are as follows:


  • 130 and up: Very Superior
  • 120-129: Superior
  • 110-119: High Average
  • 90-109: Average
  • 80-89: Low Average
  • 70-79: Borderline
  • 69 and lower: Intellectual Disability

Related: IQ Scale Explained

How Long Does an IQ Test Take?

Standard tests include 10 to 14 sections. The official IQ tests typically take two to two-and-a-half hours to complete. 


Online, unofficial tests are often shorter versions that last 10 to 45 minutes to complete. 

Things to Note About IQ Tests

Despite decades of use, IQ tests are still controversial. Many educators and doctors argue that IQ tests are supposed to measure intelligence but only measure specific aspects of intelligence. They claim these tests are not expansive enough to measure an individual’s ability.


Most experts agree that IQ tests have certain shortcomings, such as the ability to measure emotional and social intelligence. These factors play significant roles in an individual’s success and should not be overlooked. 


Plus, factors such as access to education, educational background, nutrition, overall health, culture, environment, and medical conditions can easily impact IQ scores. 


Experts also question the reliability of IQ tests because several different tests measure different factors, providing the same individual with different scores.


Finally, taking an IQ test can impact an individual’s self-image. Many people who receive low scores assume they are incompetent, even though IQ tests do not measure all aspects of intelligence. These feelings can lead to low confidence.


On the flip side, those who receive incredibly high scores may have unrealistic expectations for themselves. 


Related: What Is Emotional Intelligence?

woman writing in a notebook with orange pen

Main Takeaways

Certified IQ tests can measure several aspects of intelligence and help psychologists diagnose gifted or struggling students. The four main categories measure different areas of functioning, mostly using puzzles. These tests are not long, but it can be challenging to prepare for them. 


Experts, parents, doctors, and test takers have differing opinions about IQ tests. Although they are intended to help individuals receive the resources they need to succeed, they can also be detrimental to mental health.


IQ tests are complex and can be confusing, so visit us today to read more about them.

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