But intelligence is what precisely? Opinions differ. Economic success, for example, does not necessarily depend on being good at doing exams, an accepted indicator of IQ. A favourite person mentioned in this context is Richard Branson, an extraordinarily successful individual who left school at 16. And did not Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates drop out of Harvard too? Then, of course, there is the increasing importance of Emotional Intelligence, or EQ for short, as a counterargument that IQ can’t be a sole predictor of success. But the two Qs are linked, as even emotional intelligence presupposes IQ. So why the opposition to IQ tests?
What then is IQ and are IQ tests a good way to measure it?
Researchers describe IQ as a defined set of skills that include the ability to reason, learn, plan, and solve problems and they find that people who are good at one of these skills tend to be good at all of them. “Students taking IQ tests and who, for example, do well on the vocabulary test will very likely also do well on the reaction speed test and problem solving”, says Stuart Ritchie, a lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at King’s College London and author of the book: ‘Intelligence: All that matters’. He is a staunch defender of the IQ test, precisely because it does look at IQ alone and as such is an unbiased measuring tool that evens the playing field. Russell Warne, in his book: ‘In the Know; Debunking 35 Myths about Human Intelligence’ also counters the critics of IQ tests and is adamant that the IQ test as we know it is the most solid test of human intelligence ever invented.
Efficient brain power and IQ
The brains of people with a high IQ have neurons that conduct signals faster. They make more rapid connections, creating better neuroplasticity. It is plausible that a good or high IQ is present because of a more efficient brain. So, can an IQ test capture this brain ‘efficiency’ and does it predict exam results? IQ test performance accounts for about 65% of the variance in students’ school exam scores, with the other 35% made up by motivation and physical and mental health. Research found, for example, that GCSE scores are highly correlated to being successful at university and that most of the successful Oxbridge applicants, for example, had perfect previous GCSE scores and equally that most of the successful applicants to Ivy League colleges in the US have perfect SAT scores, further underlining the causality between IQ and test- and school exam results.