Personal Finance

Are you intelligent for career and life?

Intelligence quotient test
A child takes an Intelligence quotient test. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

We all agree that highly intelligent people will pass well in school and take the most challenging courses at the university. This generally prepares them for better jobs that pay well for a start. A brainy star is the pride of every parent, clan, school or employer. But what is intelligence and how is it measured?

Intelligence, according to psychologist Gottfriedson, is a very general mental capability that among other things involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.

The measure of intelligence is called intelligence quotient (IQ). The higher the IQ the more intelligent a person is. The opposite is also true. This is established by the taking of IQ tests.

An average person scores around 100. Two-thirds of the world scores somewhere between 85 and 115. 2.5 percent of all people fall below 70 and 2.5 percent above 130. Einstein is believed to have had an IQ of around 160, which is more than ever encountered in testing.

Many people who have sat some IQ tests involving arithmetic, vocabulary, logic and matching patterns wonder how such questions can be conclusive about their overall intelligence.


Sound IQ tests undergo rigorous review in the academy and among psychologists and test developers, question by question. They come with norms established across age, race, gender and countries, among others.


Genes: The first determinant of IQ is the gene pool of the parent and grandparents.

This suggests that as soon as a man and a woman have a child, inheritance determines a large part of that child’s intelligence is determined by inheritance.

Environment: Second, the environment in early life. If it is a cognitively (mentally) stimulating environment then the IQ of the child will be higher and if it lacks stimulation, then the child may not develop highly.

I once observed one of the most stimulating parents I know, a cerebral giant, engage his child. A spider was climbing the transparent windowpane of their house. From his couch, he called his little daughter and made sure she did not go very near the window and asked her: “Is the spider inside or outside the house?” She observed keenly and replied that it was outside. “How do you know?”, he pursued? “Because the thing at the back cannot be seen …” He did not let her finish and praised her for her problem-solving ability and continued lying on the couch.

Brain care: Can a person increase his IQ beyond what nature and the environment gave him earlier in life? My answer is ‘no’ but there is a more complex one. To keep the brain at its full capacity, it has to be correctly fed, stimulated and protected from harmful substances, physical damage and infection. With good care of our brains, each person will be able to operate at a higher level for career and life.


IQ testing falls within a branch of psychology called psychometrics. A psychometric test is one that assesses differences between people, which includes IQ.

Many organisations nowadays want an independent evaluation of an employment candidate’s during the interview process. Can one hack an IQ test? My answer is no. It is not possible to show a higher IQ than one’s own.

However, it is possible to show lower based on circumstances at the point and environment of testing. To reflect one’s full IQ, here are helpful general guidelines:

Take the test seriously:

Approach it with the same focus as an examination.

Be relaxed:

Get adequate sleep the night before Avoid alcohol or intoxicating drugs Give yourself time to get to the centre and adjust to the testing environment.

Watch the clock if the test is timed to be able to attempt as many questions as possible.

Do not give random answers, guesses or try to give a better or worse impression of yourself.

Many psychometric tests are designed to detect and report such test-taking behaviour.

If a question proves difficult, leave it and proceed to the next one.

Alert the administrator to any disruption such as noise or heat.

Read and follow instructions; if anything is not clear, ask.

Good test administrators are trained to be helpful. Establish a good rapport with them.

We have found that IQ is determined early in life. We can help children develop it early. Beyond that, we can provide an environment in which we operate at full potential within our capacity.

The writer is Psychologist, Coach and Organisational Consultant.