What are classic IQ tests and why are they Important?

The development of classic IQ tests was based on an understanding of the difference between knowledge and intelligence in early 20th century. The psychological studies had revealed that equating intelligence to knowledge is not true. Here I want to help you understand what classic IQ tests are comprised of.

“Can my IQ play any role in my life”, you may ask. In this article I shall also try to explain the role that you intelligence can play a role in your life besides your knowledge and degrees.

How can you measure Intelligence?

The mistake many people make is to confuse intelligence with having a good memory. The latter tends to equate to being smart. As an example, knowing the Periodic table from top to bottom does not mean you are intelligent. It does, however, mean you are certainly smart. However, being able to work out how to transfer one beaker of water to another beaker without touching either requires intelligence.


Because it is unlikely you have never carried out this exercise before. However, you should have sufficient experience in chemistry to know that when boiled, water evaporates in the form of steam. If you collect that steam and cool it, it will condense back in to water. That water can then be directed in to the other beaker. IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient, and this chemistry example shows you how intelligence allows you to apply knowledge to anticipate an outcome or result.

Traditional IQ tests were first developed by Sir Francis Galton in 1915. They were then further developed by Binet and Symon. The idea behind the early traditional IQ tests was to create a system where age became relevant. The desire was to measure the IQ of someone aged fourteen using the same questions you would use to measure the IQ of someone aged 40.

class iq tests

The classic IQ test is based on how well you do compared to other people of the same age as you. This then means that although you may answer fewer questions correctly as someone aged 40. Your IQ can still be higher than theirs. The traditional IQ test is based on your ability to apply knowledge and understanding already gained.

In simple terms, consider someone aged 14 who answers fewer questions correctly in a traditional IQ test than someone aged 40. Who do you think has the higher IQ? Well that answer will depend on what the average number of correct answers given for people in each age range is. It may be that the 14-year-old answers five more questions than the average student usually manages. The 40-year-old man answers five questions less than the average for 40-year-old people. 

That should tell you that the 14-year-old student has a higher IQ than the 40-year-old person. This is because they answered more questions than their peers did by comparison. The fact the student answered fewer questions than the 40-year-old man is irrelevant.

What classic IQ tests measure?

In the more traditional style of IQ test, there are six individual topics which are usually covered.

Initially there is Logical Reasoning.  This is basically a series of questions asking you to work out a potential result or outcome of a situation. The next part of the test can include Language Ability. This isn’t about whether you can speak French, German or Chinese, no! This is about the English language and that you are able to deduce answers based on your knowledge and understanding of the English language.

Math, or maths skills will often form an important part of a traditional IQ test. This won’t be in the form of equations or algebraic questions. It will be more straightforward skills including an ability to recognize mathematical sequences. Problem solving is also a key part of traditional IQ tests. Once again, solving a problem doesn’t involve factual knowledge but understanding. You need to know how how to adapt your thought processes to solve a problem.

Spatial relations skills will also be examined in a traditional IQ test. These skills relate to your ability to recognize spaces between objects. Additionally it can include such things as where your set in a classroom is. Spatial relations skills need to be good if you are to excel at ball games. Often a lack of spatial skills can be misinterpreted as having a lack of coordination.

Finally there are questions covering knowledge that you have retained during your life. This isn’t necessarily fact-based knowledge but more experience-based knowledge. Much of the content in a traditional IQ test relates to using past experiences. This experience is used to calculate likely solutions to questions.

There are two interesting facts you may not know about classic IQ tests. Firstly, there is no time limit. A test usually takes an hour to complete but that is just a guide. Secondly, you are allowed to use a calculator when doing the test!

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