From Vox, by Scott Alexander: So you’ve learned you’ve got a “pitifully” low IQ. How worried should you be?
and Scott Aaronson: Also against individual IQ worries
Aaronson as a 4-year-old ‘only’ scored 106 on an IQ test, which as he says himself, seems too low and incommensurate with his academic achievements:
I sometimes get asked what my IQ is. The truth is that, as far as I know, I was given one official IQ test, when I was four years old, and my score was about 106. The tester earnestly explained to my parents that, while I scored off the chart on some subtests, I completely bombed others, and averaging yielded 106. As a representative example of what I got wrong, the tester offered my parents the following:
yeah…it seems way too low.
On the other hand … well, have you actually looked at an IQ test? To anyone with a scientific or mathematical bent, the tests are vaguely horrifying. “Which of these pictures is unlike the others?” “What number comes next in the sequence?” Question after question that could have multiple defensible valid answers, but only one that “counts”—and that, therefore, mostly tests the social skill of reverse-engineering what the test-writer had in mind. As a teacher, I’d be embarrassed to put such questions on an exam.
Pattern recognition tests are designed to avoid such ambiguity, such that the correct choice is the most parsimonious choice and immediately obvious when one finds the underlying pattern.
Does his score mean IQ tests are invalid. Obviously not. In the aggregate, IQ is positively correlated with achievement at the individual (such as income, educational attainment, creative output, etc.) and national level (dollar-adjusted stock market performance, innovation, corruption, real estate prices, etc.), but there are always outliers. But for every physicist who scores ‘only’ 110 on an IQ test, the majority score in the 130’s or so. And for every person with an IQ 100 who becomes a physicist, a coder, or a mathematician, the overwhelming majority of average-IQ people are unsuccessful at STEM.
Skimming the comments, it seems too many people are underestimating the importance of IQ but also overestimating the efficiency of SAT ‘test prep’. Test prep only boosts scores modestly. The reason why some prep companies can boast significant gains is because they use harder practice versions of the real tests, so when the students take the easier official test, they show a large ‘improvement’.
Despite the insistence by some that the SAT favors the rich, the SAT is a better predictor of IQ and college readiness than GPAs, which have become devalued due to grade inflation. Look at it this way: if the SAT were so easy to coach, why do they keep making it easier? Obviously, there are other reasons for the dumbing-down of the SAT, but if getting a top score were as easy as shelling out a few hundred bucks to a coaching company, not only would nearly everyone get a perfect score, but the SAT would cease to have usefulness at identifying exceptional talent (in fact, it would solve the education problem, too, because if spending a few hundreds bucks is all that is needed to make students smart, then there would be no need for the bloated department of education and its multi-billion dollar budget).
At the individual level, despite coaching and dumbing-down, SAT and IQ tests are still among the best predictors of individual intellectual ability. If someone says says the have a high score on either or both of these tests, and assuming they are not lying, such intelligence is manifested in how they write and formulate ideas, whereas high school GPAs are in no way predictive of ability (except basic literacy).