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Elements of an IQ Test

by Maggie McCormick, studioD

The "intelligence quotient," or IQ test, is meant to measure a person's intelligence. According to Discovery, the Stanford-Binet, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children are the most popular "IQ tests," and the questions take the person's age into consideration -- children receive easier questions than adults. Though the actual questions are an understandably well-kept secret, you can learn about the types of things that the tests look for. While an IQ test can give insight into a person's brain, a higher IQ doesn't necessarily correlate with lifetime success, nor does a lower IQ doom a person to failure.

Verbal Skills

IQ tests measure a person's verbal skills. Tests might include showing a picture and asking the person what it is, or having the person choose a particular card from a set. With a young child, the tester might ask the child to follow a command, such as place an object "on" or "underneath" something else, but questions for adults will be more difficult. IQ tests also measure a person's comprehension of social awareness. Those who score well in these areas generally have a high IQ, according to PsychCentral.

Reasoning Skills

Tests also look at a person's reasoning abilities. For example, the person being tested might have to put a series of pictures into a logical order or specify what happens next. During the "similarities" section, she will have to describe how two articles are similar to each other.

Math and Memory

The person being tested may be asked some simple arithmetic questions in the form of a word problem. There's also a "digit span" section that tests how many numbers the person can memorize and repeat. For example, the tester might start off with a four-digit number, then move on to a six- or 10-digit number if the person seems to excel in that area.

Spatial Skills

IQ tests also look at an individual's spatial understanding. This includes copying patterns in blocks, copying drawings and putting puzzles together. The actual tests in these areas may seem fairly simple, but are usually timed. The faster a person can complete the tests, the higher the IQ. A person who has a slower processing speed may have a depressed IQ score that doesn't reflect his true intellectual capability.

Age Appropriate

IQ tests are differentiated by age. A 4-year-old will not take the same test as a 10-year-old. A good psychologist will also try to match the right test to the right child, recognizing, for example, that a child showing signs of attention deficit problems might react better to one test more than the other.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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