How to do myself justice on the MENSA IQ test?
July 14, 2016 12:17 AM   Subscribe

After very good results on some Internet pop quizzes, including MENSA's own, I am sitting a supervised MENSA entrance exam/ IQ test in Glasgow in about a month. I know it's not possible to increase one's IQ by a huge amount simply by prepping, but do any members here (or anyone else) have tips for passing or at least getting the best score possible? Any recommended books or online resources? On one hand it's not a big deal but on the other hand it might be a fun learning challenge just to see what my IQ really is. I am putting this question in the "Work" category here because meeting other people at MENSA gatherings, if it turned out I was bright enough to get in, would be hugely inspiring for me. Also it wouldn't hurt to have it on my CV, it might intrigue someone, despite the old adage "no one likes a smart ass" :)

I was doing one of those little Facebook pop quizzes, this one was a 50 question multiple choice test for vocabulary, I always think they give generous results to get the most shares, but it said "★★★ Top 0.16%
You are Shakespeare! You can even create new words that will expand the English dictionary." (It estimated my vocabulary as 29,800 words, which is plausible because I do read a lot of books as a hobby. Intrigued but skeptical, I went to the MENSA site and got 100% (18/18) on their slightly more robust version of a pop quiz. So now I am really intrigued and it's worth it to me to spend £24.95 to get a supervised IQ test, it's happening on 13th August in Glasgow for me and I know it takes 2 1/2 hours.

I have heard you can't change your IQ much by prepping for test, I've heard it mostly tests maths and not other abilities, I've heard it's too difficult to pass and I'll never get in ... and yet, I think it would do my self-esteem good to know I have the potential to think things through on my own rather than blindly accept what others tell me, and although I have a good education and MENSA membership doesn't substitute for that, it might intrigue a fellow member or some other potential employer who saw it on my CV. Years ago there was some intelligence-type testing in my workplace and I'm sure someone said my IQ was just a notch below a fighter pilot's, so anything I could do to squeeze out those extras 2 or 3 marks that could make all the difference would be hugely helpful for me, so I'm all ears if anyone has advice.
posted by AuroraSky to Work & Money (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If your question is how to game an IQ test, the answer is the same as any other standardized test: practice. Find out what the testing conditions will be and what the source of the questions is, and then drill yourself, timed, on similar questions under the same conditions, as much as possible, between now and the test date.

If the answer is whether being a member of MENSA is going to do anything for you, the answer is probably no. I do hiring, and I would not just be unimpressed by someone who listed MENSA on a resume; I'd be actively turned off by it. MENSA is a social club, not a work credential. And it's a very controversial one, especially given the fact that membership is limited to people who score well on standardized tests known to be culturally biased against the poor and people of color. I would be less likely to hire a MENSA member who listed it on his resume.

If you want to know what your educational strengths and weaknesses are, get some real psychoeducational testing from a licensed, credentialed professional. If you want to game the test, google "how to score higher on MENSA IQ test" and you'll get lots of tips, but mostly advice to practice. But if you want to impress people, I don't believe this will help. And I would do some serious introspection about why your self-esteem is so tied up in whether you are scoring well on internet quizzes.

(BTW, the Facebook vocabulary quiz you reference has at least two typos in it and two questions for which there is no right answer.)
posted by decathecting at 12:40 AM on July 14, 2016 [70 favorites]

Best answer: I took the Mensa test when I was a child, maybe 25 years ago? Whilst the home version pre-test was all maths and words and knowledge, the actual entrance test was all non-verbal reasoning. So, five boxes, pick the odd one out, or next in a sequence, or similar.

Because it costs money to be a member, my friends used to like to say that I had failed the Mensa test by being joining... However, I used to enjoy the zines, back when they were all homemade and photocopied. Never went to any meetups, though, and stopped paying the fees around sixteen.

Tests are fun!
posted by fizban at 12:48 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: I have heard you can't change your IQ much by prepping for test

Prepping for the test will not change your actual IQ or intelligence, just change what the test reports your IQ to be and every test is slightly different in their scoring there is no definitive IQ - the 2 tests you'll be given require a score of over 148 on one and 132 on the other. When I did it I got 155 on one and 135 on the culture fair.

You can however significantly improve your score with the correct preparation (thus proving how stupid IQ tests really are). If I were to take the CF test again, I would get a much better score because over the years I've gotten better at recognizing the patterns in the visual puzzles. That hasn't made me more intelligent, just better at taking IQ tests because there are only so many variations they can come up with to test you on and once you know what they are an how to recognize them, you'll always be able to answer that type of question. The culture fair is entirely visual puzzles - I sucked at them when I took it and still got a score in the top 2% ;) There are tons of examples online though, just practice if you want to game the test, practice, practice and practice some more.

(Also Facebook quizzes are almost always rigged - I did some tests with a one a while ago and I could get up to half of the questions wrong and it still told me I got 100%)

Also agree with decathetcting, being in MENSA is kinda lame and not well regarded amongst even people who are smart enough to be members. I did the test when I was 18 because I wanted something to put on my university applications but in the end didn't end up joining because it was not as prestigious as I thought it would be when I started the application process.
posted by missmagenta at 1:22 AM on July 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

face it like any rigorous test experience. read everything maybe even twice before you start, try to parse out the "difficult" from the "easy". make sure you are self-aware enough of when you are wasting too much valuable time on one questions and should move on. find out the rules for wrong answers vs. no answer, maybe it's beneficial to not answer and a penalty for a wrong answer.
posted by alchemist at 1:53 AM on July 14, 2016

I have regretted the very few instances of disclosing my actual iq score to people because it is such a culturally loaded label that colours how they treat you. I wish I didn't know what it was myself past a general band, and I would not and have not disclosed scores to my children for those reasons.

You can practice and slightly game it through familiarity, and spatial and pattern matching practice puzzles help, but overall, please reconsider this carefully.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:57 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah yeah you have got me thinking decathecting, I do know that vocabulary test for example are very biased towards richer families with lots of books, my Dad was from a blue-collar background (printer) but he never skimped on having books in the house for his own learning and us kids were always welcome to read any of them, not just "kid's books". I think maybe you are right, it would look wrong to put a MENSA exam as if it was an educational credential, but it's the access to network in real life and "get my geek on" by learning from bright people might be both inspiring and humbling. Marty Nemko the careers advisor and blogger recommends MENSA meetings as being really good value for money compared to other types of short vacations, I am sure I read him writing persuasively about that. But maybe in America he's a controversial figure because he believes in more funding for the brightest students when he donates to charity himself, rather than levelling the playing field.

I would think and then think again before putting it on my CV except as a social hobby, I know #notall Americans love to ask Europeans "if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" and some hirers might be put off by seeing it on a CV. Then again I really did have the IQ of a 13 year old when 9 years old, I really did get a test result at near fighter-pilot level when tested at work in my twenties, and showing I had a good brain (in some ways only!) might intrigue an employer into thinking I wasn't just another person struggling with a mental health diagnosis (I have type 1 bipolar which messed up my career good and proper, though it's in remission now and I think I've "served my time") who would be dead weight to carry in their organisation. Lots to think about but I am going to sit the test whether the end result is humbling or not, I know from reading Brian Tracy people with less than stellar intellects can run rings round the brighter ones if they work hard and have a sense of urgency. I haven't worked since 2005 due to being a caregiver in a relationship now ended recently, so I need some little gimmick to get attention otherwise I just look like a waster who was playing x-box for 10 years (I don't play any video games but without something on my CV, I can't write "read educational books for 10 years while being a caregiver"). So yes you do have a point about my self-esteem being low but I don't tie mine to my IQ, most of it is the same genetic heritage that gave me my Irish green eyes and unfortunate genetic predisposition towards bipolar disorder).

Anyway no more threadsitting I promise, I just felt I needed to explain why I want to sit the exam!
posted by AuroraSky at 2:11 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: Hey there. As the fifth child and second class gender, I did quite a few IQ tests myself. (I also did the FB vocab one and apparently I'm in 0.01% of the population, but this means people sometimes don't understand me because I channel Jane Austen (like picking up an accent after a weekend in a book). My IQ tests improved after i started animating complex designs in PowerPoint because I can now recognise patterns and shapes reflected or rotated without even thinking about it (I totally flogged a couple of mature mates with PhDs on a long trest that was pattern heavy). Another habit that I think improved my puzzle conceptualisation is doing sudokus. There are (and there are guides to this but I've not read them carefully) a number of different logic steps depending on the information available. If this set of circumstances, then that spproach, but if the other set of circumstances, etc.

So anyway, getting better scores on IQ tests didn't actually improve my self esteem. I learned along the way that the very intelligent people I respected and admired all invariable thought people who had Mensa membership were prats. And then, when I started telling my brothers that I had beaten their IQ scores, it didn't give me the boost I'd expected. In fact, when one (dear to me) brother said genuinely, "I always knew you were smarter than me," I was rather upset. My brother admired me and could compliment genuinely, and I had actively been working toward competing with him and beating him. It was a lesson that has always stuck with me, and it has many facets to it, like 'Which is of more value - "intelligence" or kindness?'

But the years and years of feeling intellectually inadequate have paid off in different ways, and the internet is a huge resource. If i come across a word I don't know, i will not only look up the meaning, but the etymology as well - which is fascinating. This sort of amateur research works really well with Trivia game shows and you can get caught up in a wonderful exploration of history, science, psychology and language if you start exploring something like "pica".

Another habit I have with pattern matching skills is to try to find something personal but unique to everyone (ok, everyone is too much). The more things you know about, the easier is to ask someone sensible questions about their passion, instead of asking bland stuff. It helps in jokes (well, my jokes). And in terms of my work (which is really diverse) it gives me skills in identifying problems others might not see, helps me to create unique designs that are both interesting and communicate a lot of information, and the ability to find solutions to technical problems because of my research skills.

So, in short, learn everything about everything, skip the IQ tests, value your compassion and work ethic more than a score that arguably doesn't measure anything other than your ability to take a test, and to impress your bosses, tell them "I don't know (honesty) but I'll find out (agency, proactiveness, useful!) And tell you the answer by Wednesday (responsible, collegial, time management, useful! Reliable! Self starter!)
posted by b33j at 2:16 AM on July 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Lastly, intelligence is nothing without practical application. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you won't look for more work when you've finished yours, or keep to an inefficient process because that's the way it's alway been done, then that intelligence is about as useful as a fart in a box. This is why super smart people often aren't rich, they spend a lot of time thinking, and not so much doing and at that point, your whole view of intelligence being valuable falls apart. It's unfortunate that a lot of very smart people use their intelligence to unnecessarily correct spelling errors on the internet for personal ego boosting. It does not translate into actual value to other people. And as proud as you are of your test results, you're a tiny fish in the metafilter pond (as I am of course). The community here is filled with world class linguistic experts, scientists including entymologists, climate science, geologists, info tech specialists, TED talk presenters, book authors, television presenters. You don't need to use your test results to impress the community, because the community is impressed by expertise, compassion, humour, action, investigative skills.
posted by b33j at 2:26 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: no threadsitting but fantastic answer b33j, I have paid my £24.95 so I'm going to sit the test, and then not mention it except as a social thing. The world is full of educated derelicts, and only persistence counts in the end, someone famous said (words to the effect of). I will sit the test and then follow your great advice b33j which is more valuable than any test results. Thank you.

OK not a peep more!
posted by AuroraSky at 2:33 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think in the answers here, you are probably picking up on a lot of American disdain for MENSA-- at some time during the last few decades it has become a really mocked subculture. Not without reason! Most of us have met the stereotypical blowhard MENSA member (actually, "prat" is a really good word for them). If you are planning on mentioning it socially, I would practice reading a room really well, because at your average American social event, you would likely notice that it made people nod, smile, and back away slowly; unless it made you into a target of jokes and teasing. It may be very different in other places, but here it would have pretty much exactly the opposite effect you are hoping for, either socially or professionally.

That doesn't mean I'm advising you against taking the test now that you've already paid for it. As I read through this discussion and think about my own strong gut reactions to MENSA, I'm realizing that there are probably some classist underpinnings to the MENSA disdain. So, sure, take the exam! You might find you really enjoy the people you meet through MENSA. But if you end up in a room full of people comparing test scores from when they were 11 and trying to one-up each other, smile, nod, back slowly away, and find yourself a D&D game, a book club, a writing group, a cosplay group, a maker group, or any of a hundred other places where you can meet people getting their geek on. I think that's where you're more likely to find the mental and social engagement you're craving.
posted by instamatic at 2:49 AM on July 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The link you posted contains multiple pieces of advice that I would not only disagree with, but also would say could actively harm you in your job search. Also, the person writing the article apparently works for MENSA in some capacity (referring to publishing in their newsletter), so of course he's going to say it's a valuable credential that you should put on your resume: he's invested in believing that's true. Note that he cites no examples or sources or data that would suggest that what he's telling you is true, nor does he cite any personal experience as a hiring manager or interviewing other hiring managers. I have been on hiring committees my last several jobs. I was trained in how to hire by someone from the UK who had been doing hiring in the UK for more than two decades. That article has a few pieces of good advice (read up on the company you're applying to, ask real questions at the interview) interspersed with a lot of terrible advice, like trying to circumvent the hiring process and sending employers materials they didn't ask for in lieu of the ones they did ask for. Do what you like, but please read some other sources to determine whether this person is giving out good advice. I do not believe that he is.

There is literally no reason you should ever tell anyone your IQ unless the person you are talking to is a medical or mental health professional who is attempting to diagnose or treat some condition you have for which your IQ may be a relevant factor. Not at work, and certainly not in a social situation. It comes off as bragging. But maybe more importantly, it comes off as clueless bragging, as trying to show off something about yourself that is not a characteristic other people care about, because no one else cares what score you got on a meaningless standardized test. It is not an interesting fact about you. It does not showcase your intelligence. It does not show people that you are smarter than your experience or presentation might suggest. If you're worried that you might not appear smart when you actually are, I think the thing to focus on is figuring out how to improve the way you present yourself. For example, continuing to respond sort of defensively to every comment after insisting that you're not going to, does not make a great impression of your level of confidence in yourself or of your ability to read social situations. That's what I'd focus on if you're hoping to improve your professional or social success.
posted by decathecting at 3:29 AM on July 14, 2016 [36 favorites]

Best answer: I have to agree with decathecting. They are being quite harsh, but they are experienced in hiring and you should listen to what they have to say.

My first impression on reading this question and your subsequent input was to wince a bit. It feels like you're being a bit disingenuous as to your motives- you say you're doing it for fun and personal curiosity, but you're also insisting that MENSA membership can be beneficial to job applications. I get the feeling you're very anxious about your hireability and are clinging to this as a talisman of sorts: if I can have a incontestable number showing how smart I am, that will ward off doubt as to my suitability for employers. You're also hoping it will bring you an automatic networking scene and acceptance from what you hope is a like-minded group. Gently, you're likely to be let down when you learn your score (even if it's mindbogglingly high!) and your life doesn't seem all that different afterwards.

As decathecting has said, it's likely to do the opposite of what you hope. Feel free to do the test, obviously, but I think it would be more useful and ultimately better for your mental health to put your focus on concrete steps you can take towards improving your employability. Such as applying for a bunch of jobs and adjusting your applications based on feedback you get on those, or having a third party help you craft your CV to demonstrate your strengths.
posted by mymbleth at 4:08 AM on July 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

You get hired by having relevant skills and experience, and being able to demonstrate accomplishments, not by being a MENSA member or even being "highly intelligent" in the abstract in the way IQ tests purport to measure (side note: they don't).

If you like the people socially, great. Otherwise, find a different way to meet people you share interests with, such as activity based clubs.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:41 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey there buddy, feel free to disregard this if it doesn't wrk for you, cause it's not answering the initial question at all, but perhaps the mods will give me some mercy here.

In your follow ups, I'm picking up a lot of anxiety, even fear about re-entering the workforce, and also a generalised fear of people judging you. I don't think Mensa is going to help that, unless it's some kind of internal badge of honour you can carry with you. But I do totally understand it - I'm very employable these days and I still have worries when job searching, I can imagine you feel very nervous about the job search. But there's some good news.

Regarding the first anxiety: employers really care about three things, usually in this order: 1) Attitude, 2) Experience, 3) Skills. They don't care about smarts hardly at all. Good news: it doesn't matter if you've been sitting around scratching your butt for the last ten years, you can still nail the first one with a good attitude. The next two may not be as strong for you, but hey that's okay everybody has to start somewhere, this just means you're not necessarily gonna land into a senior role. I work with people hiring entry level staff every day - and I often end up training those staff once hired- and I can tell you the variance in skillset and experience is huge. There are people with no work history, there are people with a work history of ten years and everything in between. But what clinches the deal for the hiring managers is attitude, first and foremost. They can teach you, if you are willing to learn. If you aren't though, it doesn't matter how smart or experienced you are. Bear this in mind when you start putting yourself out there.

Regarding the broader feelings of being judged socially, here's a little secret: People don't really care that much about you. What they do care about is how much you care about them. If you can show a genuine curiosity and delight in someone else's life, they won't give a crap how smart you are. You could be dumb as a bag of rocks and they will like you, even love you because they feel appreciated and listened to. And you don't even need to be smart to practice this skill.

So let me be clear: You are not a time waster. You are not a fool and you are not perceived as one. You are empathetic, caring individual with great experience in looking after someone with special needs, with a demonstrated track record of dedication, caring, determination and focus. You are an auto-didact with a love of learning, quick comprehension and willingness to put into practice what you learn. You are an asset to any organisation that hires you, with fierce loyalty and pride in making a difference. You are a good conversationalist with a keen interest in others.

They don't teach you any of that shit in mensa.
posted by smoke at 4:52 AM on July 14, 2016 [38 favorites]

Best answer: You are over-valuing IQ entirely. I read at a high school level in the3rd grade, and have consistently tested at an IQ of 142 since childhood. It's useless. That and $2.75 will get you on the subway, like everyone else. It doesn't mean you have any skills, are at all employable, can focus on a long term task, can work in a team, can provide leadership or anything else employers or just people in a social situation look for and value in other people. It just means you're really good at taking tests.

The only thing putting MENSA or your IQ on a CV demonstrates is that you do not understand what employers are looking for. By all means, take the test if you want access to the ONLY social situation where it is OK to ever mention your IQ. But if you do, remember the first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:55 AM on July 14, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: On IQ:
Literally the only thing you can use a high IQ score for is as a method to self-deprecatingly claim IQ tests are worthless.
i.e. "IQ tests are terrible, culturally loaded, meaningless tests pretending to be something they're not, I mean, I did one and it said my IQ was 220, so that just goes to show...."
(Or as DarlinBri just said, if you want to have a conversation with a Mensa member)

On employment / CVs:
If I had two CVs to hire from and one said Mensa member and the other said years as caregiver for special needs guess which one I'm going to hire? (And I'd be hiring for highly technical, analytical role)

If you genuinely like doing puzzles, and hanging out with people doing puzzles then sure join them, and if you put that on your CV you could do so I guess, but right down the bottom in the "other interests" section and qualify it heavily.

* the answer is, not the Mensa member. And oh man, if you put your IQ on your CV... that's in the bin straight away.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:24 AM on July 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'm wondering who thinks fighter pilots are all that bright. I'd hazard a guess, someone without a particularly high iq. Think about it-it's reflexes and practice. Question the intelligence of the person who gave you that reference point. I think they're a dill.

And yeah, Mensa. Nah. I once toyed with the idea of joining. Simply because as I was driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge one day I saw a car with a Mensa bumper sticker on it. Placed upside down. Twenty years later I still think it's the funniest visual joke I've ever seen. But never bothered chasing up that membership. I'm confident in my intelligence. Not necessarily in my wisdom or maturity though.

But mentioning Mensa is the fedora of CVs. Just don't do it. You will ALWAYS get eye rolls from the very people you hope to impress.
posted by taff at 5:31 AM on July 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think bragging about tossing Mensa resumes might be the real fedora here...

If I saw Mensa on a resume, I wouldn't mind, especially if the resume was about someone trying to transition from entry-level work or disabled/disadvantaged I'd understand what they were trying to say. I'd suggest including in a list of other clubs/hobbies. Have fun with the actual test!
posted by michaelh at 5:41 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: check your MeMail!
posted by easily confused at 5:45 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: That's my actual advice, sorry. You'll do better if you are just enjoying it, like you enjoyed those other tests.
posted by michaelh at 5:46 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: Given the general reputation/stereotype of Mensa blowhards, and my general feeling that people who join Mensa tend to be on the more anxious/insecure side, I would be extremely worried that being around them might make you more anxious about your intelligence (which is, as others have pointed out, completely separate from your IQ score or Mensa membership). So if you do pursue it (which is fine!), just stay tuned into your own emotional intelligence about whether the club is helping you gain confidence or instead increasing your anxiety and insecurity.

I suspect that spending your energy working on a more formal volunteer basis might help you get the skills you need, or at least document more formally your work ethic, than spending a bunch of time working on trivia.
posted by lazuli at 5:50 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Often times it seems like when people insist really strongly about something, it's because it's something they are not, or that they actually worry about a lot. "I am a good listener!" often comes from a person talking your ear off, for example.

So that is how MENSA membership gets read sometimes, as an assertion about something that is either self-evidently true or not, but is not proven by the membership. You can tell when talking with someone if they are "smart" in the IQ/standardized testing kind of way, it does not take an organizational membership to know that.

But as a hobby and a social activity, by all means go for it. I used to kind of enjoy the standardized tests in school (because I was good at them and liked the challenge of figuring out each test's strategy) so I can see how continuing that as an adult hobby could be fun, and I am sure that at least in the US there are a lot of adults who kind of miss the social atmosphere of the pull-out "gifted and talented" classes they tested into as a kid, or the atmosphere in the high school math club. If Mensa offers that, then more power to them.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So here's my concern for you. There is a certain type of very smart person who thinks the world owes them a great job for being very smart ... but who don't actually DO anything to acquire the skills necessary to do those jobs. They are so overimpressed with their own intellect, and feel so entitled to things because of it, that they never actually develop their intellect into a useful tool. I think that a big gap on your resume and then Mensa membership to show you're smart actually signals to employers that you may be in that group of people who are super-smart but entitled and lazy and unwilling to acquire skills, and it hurts them rather than helps them. I think you are better off listing your education -- which you had to work for! -- and talking about being a caregiver than getting a Mensa membership and putting it on your resume.

If Mensa is one of many line items on a resume with jobs and degrees and achievements, well, whatever, it's not that different from Toastmasters. But if it's the ONLY or the MAIN thing on a resume, I think that does raise some serious red flags. I think an employer would be more intrigued by volunteer work, or membership in a local naturalist society or some other subject-matter-specific club that provides a unique point of reference and shows your intellect and passion via a specific involvement/interest.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:15 AM on July 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Fair enough I will most definitely leave it off my resume/ CV, I don't think of myself as a "the world owes me a living person" but anything that even hints at that signal doesn't belong on a resume. My first give was mixing 50kg bags of potassium chloride and 25kg bags to make reduced-sodium salt, and I'm not afraid of hard work again in fact I look forward to it. My ex-fiancee, the person I was a caregiver too, wasn't learning disabled she had chronic fatigue and anxiety disorder and I reluctantly ended my relationship specifically so I could attempt to find work again before I was out of the labour force so long that I would be effectively unemployable. I think MENSA might be fun socially but I'm not counting any chickens, I haven't even passed the exam yet. I am very active in a mental health support group, and felt honoured to become an assistant organiser recently, but I think that is another thing which would raise more red flags than benefits of course. I tried a community gardening project recently and have an interview at the start of August about possible volunteering opportunities at the wellness project where I regularly attend mindfulness classes etc. I don't think I need any more answers about passing the MENSA test, but if anyone has comments expanding on Eyebrows' one about improving employability (the wellness project venue has a Toastmasters group and I am genuinely considering joining, but the annual fees seem a bit steep). I will close the thread in an hour as I clearly can't resist threadsitting, I mean no harm I am just finding the comments really interesting, thanks everyone for trying to steer me right about the realities of the world of work.
posted by AuroraSky at 6:31 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: Then again I really did have the IQ of a 13 year old when 9 years old

There's no such thing. You might have sat another sort of test that said you were performing academically at a 13yo's level? The tests are adjusted for age and a tested 9yo should get roughly the same score at 13 -- the number can fluctuate somewhat over a lifetime (this was not always the prevailing belief) but there is no "7yo whose IQ was at a 5yo's level." Performance at a 5yo level in expectations for reading, maths, etc, yes, but not IQ.

I was tested fairly incessantly as a child and young teen; there was not much fluctuation if any -- maybe two points. Even at points where I had taken the same test so many times that I recognised the questions -- I remember one in particular where I was quite convinced that the official answer was incorrect (I still agree with my assessment) and I stubbornly refused to agree with the 'correct' answer, explaining to the psychologist what my reasoning was and making sure she scored it as a 'mistake,' so stupid (I thought) was the inescapable process (the test is not accurate past a certain point, though this did not discourage any interested parties from trying to make it behave otherwise).

As for the results and the advantages granted to me over my lifetime by testing high: "That and $2.75 will get you on the subway" sums it up as well as anything else.

Of possible interest: Mensa does not have the market for high-IQ societies wrapped up -- they are the most accepting (Wikipedia says 1 in 50 are eligible) out of a number of them.
posted by kmennie at 7:28 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I was teaching freshman composition, I asked students to fill out a postcard with general information and anything about themselves they wanted to add. Over the years, two students told me that they had "borderline genius" IQs. One of them I barely remember - he was just not very impressive. The other I remember well because he was one of the few students who failed my class - he just did not want to put in the work. In fact, I found him so personally annoying that I asked other teachers to read his papers to make sure I was grading him fairly (I vividly remember him disparaging his developmentally disabled uncle in one paper, citing that uncle's low IQ). The reason I would not consider a job applicant who put Mensa membership on a resume is that I would think that person overvalued a test and didn't understand all of the problems with IQ tests in general. There are many types of intelligence, and IQ tests measure only one. Frankly, I would have a hard time respecting a person who thought Mensa membership was important. If it were a choice between that person and someone who volunteered at the humane society, I would choose the humane society volunteer every time.

I have met many wonderful, brilliant people in my life in grad school and in various organizations I've belonged to. Smart people who don't define themselves primarily in terms of their intellect are all over the place. I would expect such people to be much more interesting than Mensa members. I bet you have a lot going for you that's unrelated to your IQ. I would suggest cultivating those aspects of yourself.
posted by FencingGal at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are dying to put a test score on your resume to show how smart you are, the GRE general is the one to use. Having a high GRE score says "I considered graduate school and am thiiiis much smarter than the other people considering grad school". Also it's easier to make an argument that it has something to do with your career credentials since it's part of the grad school admissions process which is sort of like a job application.

It's still not something I'd recommend on a resume, but having seen GRE scores on resumes in the past I thought it was a silly thing to put on the resume but not a tone-deaf, unprofessional thing like an IQ would be. If you need a high test score on there to boost your confidence I think that's your only option. Of course it's more expensive.
posted by town of cats at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are several separate issues at play here.

First, "I think it would do my self-esteem good to know I have the potential to think things through on my own". Yes, absolutely. No offense, but you sound like you're somewhat surprised to found out that you're as smart as you are. Taking the test and doing well will probably reinforce that belief, so I think it's totally worth it from a self-esteem perspective.

Second, "meeting other people at MENSA gatherings... would be hugely inspiring for me". Nope, probably not. Other people upthread have explained this already, so I won't belabor the point, but people at MENSA meetings are probably not going to inspire you as much as you think. Inspiring people are people who are actually out doing things. For example, of my two most inspiring friends, one is a high school dropout, and one is a college dropout. Both own their own businesses, one is a board member of the local chapter of the ALS Foundation, and both are fathers who are very active in their children's activities. Neither is particularly stupid, but I have much smarter friends. The reason I like spending time with these two guys is because they make me think about things I could be doing - businesses I could start, places I could volunteer, projects I could work on. My best advice to you is to find people like this. Join organizations/meetups for your interests, attend lectures or concerts, take classes on something you'd like to learn. You'll meet inspiring people, and you'll have something to talk to them about other than your IQ (or, more likely, *their* IQ).

Finally, "I do read a lot of books as a hobby". This is the most important thing to me. Having a high IQ is pretty meaningless if you just watch soap operas and play Candy Crush all day long. I know people like that, and they don't impress me as being smart. You read books; that's good. Are you reading Dickens, or Danielle Steele? Are you any good at chess or sudoku? Do you read music? How many foreign languages do you speak? Can you dance? Are you familiar with the broad outlines of intellectual and cultural history? There are endlessly more questions like that, but that's how I judge whether or not someone is smart. Actually using your intelligence is what matters.

As for advice on the test itself, just practice and take it easy. There are any number of online IQ tests. Take a couple to get the general feel of what it's like, and then relax. Don't approach the test as a measure of your self-worth; just think of it as a fun thing to do.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2016

As for the GRE, it doesn't look bad on a resume, but don't expect anyone to be impressed, either. I scored in the 98th percentile of the verbal GRE. town of cats might be the first person to care. :)
posted by kevinbelt at 10:04 AM on July 14, 2016

So, first off, IQ tests are pure rubbish to begin with. The first test that started this trend was a school readiness test to determine which country bumpkin French kids who had no known birth date were at a point where kindergarten was a good fit for them.

Second, I know from talking to a cousin who was a Mensa member that my old SAT scores would likely qualify me as a member. The Mensa site says they accept a long list of tests. If you have ever taken any kind of college entrance exam or similar, I would just go talk to them about submitting that. Find out if you have a qualifying score on file somewhere.

When I was in the high school gifted program, we specifically did test prep for the SAT. One of the things we studied was Latin and Greek root words so we could take educated guesses at what unfamiliar fancy words meant.

Tests can be gamed and are merely a tool. In the gifted community, it is well understood that proper assessment requires a qualified professional for whom various tests are merely tools.

My cousin encouraged me to join because he thought it would qualify me for a small ($100) scholarship and I was taking classes at the time. This was many years ago. His stories about Mensa sounded like wild parties where clothing was optional. I never got around to joining.

If you want to join, that's totally cool. But prepare to be disappointed. Because you seem to have a lot of wide eyed ideas about how if you can just come up with some credential showing how smart you are, life will be so much more awesome. I have a boatload of smartypants credentials. That alone does not fix anything, though actual knowledge is tremendously useful and credentials of the right sort can help you at least get an interview. There can be a thousand other things that cause it to fail to become a job, much less a career. Yes, you do need an interview to get in the door. Getting in the door is a necessary but insufficient condition for doing great things.

posted by Michele in California at 10:22 AM on July 14, 2016

Well as someone who consistently tested in the 99th percentile even when she was two grades ahead of her age, won All The Awards (spelling bees, math, literature, music, chemistry, physics), learned a dozen languages of differing families, and officially tested with an IQ of 145 at age 12 which had our teachers hyperventilating, I can officially tell you: nah. Don't go there. Btw, it's generally accepted that IQ can't be reliably tested beyond 145. It's hard to find that online because people who like to talk about themselves and who took unreliable tests saying that they're geniuses are more likely to say "I'm a genius" then they are to say "the test is unreliable." For instance, I know the vocabulary test you're referencing. It's not a good one. There are always 3 clearly wrong answers for simple questions, and every single one of my friends on Facebook has gotten that score. So either it's a sham or they don't know how to calculate percentiles.

Being smart is nice, yes. It opens doors. But just because a door is open doesn't mean that you're able to handle everything it opens onto. I am extremely grateful for my music teachers: they taught me discipline, hard work, and humility. I do also like that I'm smart and most of my friends will go "ask fraula, she'll know" for everything from interest rates to future subjunctive conjugations in French, but my smarts are not what got me hired, nor what friends appreciate the most about me. My constructive attitude, discipline and hard work are what got me hired. My smarts help being independent – give me a problem and I know I'll figure it out – but that's also discipline and confidence.

If you really want to do the test, then go for it. But I too recommend not putting it on a CV. Use it instead as a secret that can help boost your confidence, if indeed it does. We all need our own confidence boosters.

Count me too among those who have yet to meet a self-proclaimed MENSA member who was able to listen to another person without behaving like a prat. I live in Europe, so. Indeed, knowing my IQ has mainly been good for taking MENSA members down a peg or three and the schadenfreude of their flustered visages. Note that I don't tell them my IQ. I just listen to them and catch them in fallacious thinking. Which you can do with anyone, it's quite rude, except with people bragging about how superior their intellect is.

It is a bit of a catch-22 when you're woman, this however is true, because smarts are so rarely recognized for us. But. The way to deal with that is not to put an I'm Smart stamp on things. I have several of those stamps and never use them (err except with self-important prats, in which case the pleasure is wholly my own and not shared). I'm even pretty sure this is the first time I've mentioned online how much stuff I won growing up. It was indecent, I kept telling teachers to rethink their awards.

You can do yourself justice by appreciating your well-roundedness, work ethic, communication skills, and being trustworthy. And: listening. Always listen. 99% of what we learn is something that was taught to us, whether actively or passively (if you "self-taught" from books, someone wrote those books). Which means someone already knew it, we just needed to listen.
posted by fraula at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, I don't care about your GRE score. But if it is going to bolster YOUR confidence to have a score on your resume, make it your GRE general, not your IQ. That's all I'm saying. I don't think it will help your job prospects, even if you got a perfect score, but I don't think it will hurt, and I think an IQ score could.
posted by town of cats at 8:49 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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