This past Thursday, I joined in on a conversation with a few coworkers about intelligence and standardized tests.  We began on the topic of IQ tests.  I’ve never taken an IQ test so I didn’t have too much to offer on the topic.  I did, however, enjoy listening to the conversation.  Sitting there listening in silence, the following thoughts raced through my mind:

1) Why are intelligence tests divided up into neatly separated sections for math (reasoning) and verbal?  I can’t remember many times in my life (outside of taking a test) where I had to use only one of those skills without the other.

2) The notion that one test is suppose to accurately assess the intelligence for every living person is ridiculous.  Intelligence is a truly multifaceted characteristic that I have seen manifested in many different ways.

3) How can a test you take as a child accurately predict your intelligence for your whole life?  I don’t feel I that became “intelligent” until I was 19, during my freshman year of college.

4) Why are most tests timed and tightly restricted to only a few hours?  When I rush through thinking about something, I never make the best decisions.  Never in my working career have I ever been under similarly intense time pressure.

5) I’ve never scored particularly high on any standardized test, but I was able to improve my SAT score by roughly 300 points by studying and taking practice tests.  If the test is supposed to assess my underlying intelligence, why should it make a difference if I study or not?  I certainly became no smarter by drilling through practice tests.

6) IQ and SAT scores carry weight and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.  Nothing fuels a fire of inadequacy like low standardized test scores.

7) At least half of success comes from execution, discipline and dedication.  I’d love to see a standardized test that can assess someone’s ability to execute on an idea and carry it through to completion.

For all these reasons (and more), standardized tests are a rotten way to assess intelligence.  Why do we rely on them so heavily in our educational system?  It’s true that for schools and universities standardized tests are the easiest way to assess intelligence, but like many other things – the easiest way is not nearly the best.

What are your thoughts?

Standardized Tests
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