Interpreting IQ scores

We’ve already gone through The Usage of IQ Tests and The Types of IQ Tests out there. Now, in this article, we’ll be going through how IQ scores can be interpreted.

Though we’ve already gone through the concepts of intelligence and IQ in What is Intelligence? And What About IQ?, we’ll first recap a little on the latter. IQ is a measurement of intelligence, and IQ tests have been around for more than 100 years, in just as many forms.

Today, they’re often used in schools and by employers, and many of us even end up taking free IQ tests online. And though receiving a score of big numbers sure looks and feels great, it often confuses us as to what said score truly means. How exactly should we be interpreting IQ scores?

The Basics Behind IQ Scores

One key factor to remember with regards to IQ scores is how it can never exist in isolation. A legitimate IQ score always represents how your results compare to those of other people your age

IQ scores are distributed on a bell-curve (in other words, it follows a normal distribution), where the very peak is representative of the average score (100). Lower scores will be represented on one slope of the bell, and higher score will be represented on the other.

There’s no real upper limit to an IQ score, and claims of extremely high numbers are often illegitimate. However, out of the many who have been claimed to be geniuses, one case tends to be referred to as a reasonably reliable case study: Terence Tao, who has been reported to have an IQ of 220-230; he attended high school at the age of seven, earned a bachelor’s by the age of 16, and had gained a doctorate by the time he was 21.

IQ scores are often illustrative of the following aspects: language, reasoning abilities, processing speed, visual-spatial processing, memory recall, and mathematics. However, one must also recognize that IQ scores are not based off intellectual capacity alone, but are also affected by one’s nutrition, health conditions, access to education, culture, and overall environment.

The Typical IQ Test Score Range

Though this tends to differ slightly from test to test, below is a quick look at what a typical IQ test score range looks like, and what each value implies.
Scores of 69 and below: Low intelligence
Scores 70-79: Borderline intelligence
Scores 80-89: Low-average intelligence
Scores 90-109: Average intelligence
Scores 111-119: Above-average intelligence
Scores 10-129: Gifted
Scores of 130 and above: Very gifted

The American Psychiatric Association has also developed further ranges for very low IQ scores, namely, to reflect levels of disabilities for proper diagnosis, treatment, and other necessitated arrangements. These ranges are displayed below.
Scores of 19 and below: Profound mental retardation
Scores 20-35: Severe mental retardation
Scores 35-50: Moderate retardation
Scores 50-70: Mild mental retardation

Do note, also, that many IQ tests—such as most Culture-Fair Intelligence Tests and the Classical Intelligence Test—do not return you a specific IQ score, but instead a range in which your IQ score may lie within. This is to account for possible errors in measurements and slight variability in testing environments.

And now that you’re familiar with how to interpret your IQ score, be sure to check out the Variance in IQ Scores of Different Groups, as well as the relationship between High Giftedness and Personality. Alternatively, you can also click here for a full list of related topics.