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What are ways to gauge one's own intelligence?

  1. Apr 25, 2012 #1
    I'm a freshmen Physics major interested in knowing whether I should continue on with my major. I've read enough to know that with an IQ of 120, basically anything is achievable given enough work. I am confident that I posses the drive to carry on with the major but I don't want to get half-way into it just to realize that I won't be able to handle the next half. I'm doing well in calculus and physics for the most part but lack something in non-science classes. My main problem is that I'm not the most articulate person in the world, but I sometimes have creative highs where I'm able to get my points across. They are few and far apart, though. I hope this doesn't indicate how smart I am. I'm afraid it might.

    Below are some IQ tests for those interested(most of you probably won't be). I've done two so far and intend to do a few more.

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2012 #2
    I'm not sure what an IQ test will teach you about articulation. Maybe you should start reading more books for pleasure, taking writing classes, writing more often, etc.
  4. Apr 25, 2012 #3
    More importantly, who cares? You'll find out in less than 3 years if you can handle undergrad Physics.
  5. Apr 25, 2012 #4


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    depends what you mean by intelligence. every definition suggests its own test and its own sample. e.g. one might think it is unintelligent to smoke tobacco, but then that definition puts Einstein and Oppenheimer and some famous present day mathematicians among the unintelligent.
  6. Apr 25, 2012 #5
    But that will mean I've wasted three years. I want to know now!
  7. Apr 25, 2012 #6
    "Most people think that it is intelligence which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character."
    - Einstein
  8. Apr 25, 2012 #7
    imo if you managed to get into university you'll do fine as long as you put effort in and don't leave everything to the last minute.

    This notion of 'I'm not smart enough' or 'I'm not intelligent enough' is ridiculous. If you put the effort in you will do fine, it's just like running a marathon or body building, you work at it piece by piece, anyone can run a marathon and anyone can body build (although some people will claim their bodies defy all known medical science because 'low/fast metabolism lol'). You've just got to work at it. IQ tests measure how good you are at doing IQ tests and nothing else.
  9. Apr 25, 2012 #8
    That's a bit ridiculous. The harms of tobacco were not widely documented when Einstein and Oppenheimer started smoking.

    I would say starting to smoke (not continuing to smoke once started) after knowings its harm is very unintelligent.
  10. Apr 25, 2012 #9
    Why can I never find the sources of these Einstein quotes?
  11. Apr 25, 2012 #10
    "One should make as many quotes as physically possible and never leave a record of them"
  12. Apr 26, 2012 #11


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    Your posting history suggests that you don't need to waste three years on physics. Change your major now and you'll save yourself a lot of time later on.
  13. Apr 26, 2012 #12
    What about my posting history makes you think that?
  14. Apr 26, 2012 #13
    Richard Feynman had an IQ of 125, which is high, but not when considered what a genius that man was. This once again proves IQ doesn't tell you anything.

    Source: Wikipedia, not the most reliable I agree.
  15. Apr 26, 2012 #14
    We recently had a good thread relating to this topic on one of these forums called, “How do you define Intelligence.” Anyone interested in the topic should be able to find it easily enough. I don’t remember which of these forums it is in.

    But relating more to the question posted here: When I was young, I had many adults in my life who delighted in having my intelligence evaluated by one expert or another. The end result is that I seem to be at least three standard deviations above the mean, which is an IQ of 145. They said that the population was too small in that range to accurately standardize a test over 145. What does that mean to me? Absolutely nothing, except that it put me into special classes with very intelligent kids, where I always felt like I was the dumbest kid in the class. I do not relate any of that to how I judge my actual intelligence.

    How do I gage my intelligence? Frankly, I don’t. But if I did, I would look to see how successful I’ve been at doing the things that I have a real passion for. My answer would be the same as just about anyone else because everyone does well at the things they are passionate about. If their passions correspond to what the tests are testing, then they will do well on the tests. If not, then they will be judged not so intelligent. But in actual fact, they are no less intelligent just because they do not do well on standard IQ tests.

    When I was in school, I had a passion for all things relating to mechanical engineering, so that is what I studied and I did well. If I had followed my parents’ advice to go into medicine or law, then I would have done very poorly, because my passion level for that was near zero. Now nearly four decades later, I still have a passion for mechanical engineering, and I’m still doing well. People call me “brilliant” and “smart” all the time. But they would be calling me something much less nice if I had gone into medicine or law, because I would have performed poorly. But if I had made the wrong career choice, would that have made me any less intelligent? Certainly not. It just would mean that I made a poor career choice based not upon my passion but on the advice of others.

    So my advice to you would be to make sure that you love what you are studying so much that you lose all track of time when working or contemplating that subject. If you have not found that subject yet, then keep looking. Then once you have been working in that career field long enough to be stuck in it, you will have no regrets about having chosen it. You will be happy to be stuck. You won’t be simply counting the days until retirement. I’ve seen many people counting days, and they are all the people who perform the worst in their jobs because they have no passion for it. I want to be like a guy I work with who is 85 years old. He is still an excellent engineer, and he is still making plans for the future with no interest in retirement.

    One more point of advice: Judge yourself as extremely intelligent. People seem to manifest a level of intelligence that corresponds closely to their own self evaluation. People who think they are stupid normally act stupid. People who think they are intelligent act that way. I’m not talking about the hypocrite who tries to act intelligent when he believes in his inner soul that he is not. I’m talking about people who know from the depths of their heart and soul that they can get this done, even if they currently don’t know how. Those are the ones who accomplish the things they want to accomplish, and they have whatever level of intelligence they need to do it.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  16. Apr 26, 2012 #15
    One more thing you mentioned. I also had a great deal of trouble talking to people when I was your age. The idea of getting up in front of people to talk was terrifying. But today I will talk with anyone or before any group. I was once in a church where the pastor did not show up, so they asked if I could do something. I got up and gave a sermon to a large group with a 15 minute notice, and I had fun doing it. The people seemed to think that I had spent a great deal of time in preparation. I do similar things at work when I need to, and I find it fun. The point being is that once you decide in your inner heart and soul that you are able to do something, then you will be able to do it. Overcoming this communication difficulty is not difficult, but may take some time. Just stick with it.
  17. Apr 26, 2012 #16
    Determination and passion don't care about IQ tests; only IQ tests care about IQ tests.

    If you genuinely enjoy physics, then stick with it. There are many fields related to physics, so if you don't like it you'l have many other choices that won't set you back too far behind: mathematics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, etc.
  18. Apr 26, 2012 #17
    IQ tests are irrelevant. Feynman "only" scored a 122. You're in good company.

    But there is no quick assessment/numerical value/test that will tell you if you should continue. If you are doing well in classes and enjoying yourself that should be enough.
  19. Apr 26, 2012 #18
    Thanks for all the advice. I'm interested in a degree in geophysics so if all else fails I'll definitely be able to do well enough to do that.

    About the IQ business, I know it's not a good test of ability to excel in a field, but I have a suspicion that most on this forum would preform around the same score and that is why I wanted to know. I'm satisfied, though.
  20. Apr 26, 2012 #19
    I took the test on that iqtest.dk link that you posted. One thing I noticed is that I actually found it to be a lot of fun in the same way that I find physics to be fun. The questions exercised the same parts of my brain that I use when thinking about things like dipoles aligning in electric fields, or about the role the jacobian determinant plays in the multivariable substitution rule, or about why ##\rho\vec V## is the appropriate thing to take as a closed surface integral to find the mass flux out of a region of fluid.

    In fact, I think I would even go as far as to attribute the 118 I got to the fact that the visual-spatial parts of my brain are well exercised from a few years of studying physics. If you had given that test to me 3 or 4 years ago I suspect I would have done noticeably worse. But would that have meant I was inherently less "intelligent?"

    Also, I'm partly upset with myself for getting "only" a 118. On one of the questions toward the middle of my session I got really stuck and didn't move on quickly enough. I wasted like 9 minutes and then ended up hitting skip regardless. I knew after about 2 minutes that it was a question I wouldn't likely solve, but unfortunately my OCD doesn't go away under time pressure, so I kept at it just for the sake of not skipping a question. I spent the 12 remaining minutes answering subsequent questions at an adequate pace, and then I was totally kicking myself when the clock hit zero. So a other thing to be realized is that IQ tests might be mildly biased against people with poor test taking skills. I wonder if my score would have been much better with that lost 9 minutes recovered.
  21. Apr 26, 2012 #20
    That's not exactly bad. From what I've heard the test is harder than others. When I took it, I got halfway through one time then had to stop and when I took it again I got a 118.

    My processing speed isn't as high as others so I think some extra time would have helped a lot.

    I read somewhere that a year of university increases your IQ a few points if you're taking rigorous courses. I can't cite that but it does seem to be the case that after I've done my courses that I feel like my brain is more 'on'. It certainly seems to have done that for you.
  22. Apr 26, 2012 #21


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    IQ tests weren't invented to identify smart people; they are a tool that can be used to identify mild to severe shortcomings in cognitive abilities. They are helpful in that respect, but using them beyond that is of little use and meaning.

    If you possess a good work ethic, are diligent with your work, and have a passion for physics, then you have a lot going for you. I wouldn't waste your time worrying about IQ tests. Focus on doing well in school and go from there.
  23. Apr 26, 2012 #22
    I just don't beleive Feynman's IQ was anywhere near 125. Either he was having fun by screwing around with the test or he was so bright that the test couldn't take an accurate measurement of him.

    Oppenheimer compared him to Dirac; his parents were Ashkenazi Jews who as a people have extremely high IQ to begin with. I'd place him above 150.
  24. Apr 26, 2012 #23
    These threads appear far too often. Even if you find a way to guage your intelligence, so what? The only thing you can control is your work ethic, so work harder than your classmates. I've never been naturally smart like some people I've met but I do better then them because I work harder.
  25. Apr 27, 2012 #24
    No matter how hard I'd work at it I'd never amount to a hill of beans at professional football. Innate talent counts for a lot and a high IQ is like having more horsepower under the hood. You'll pull a heavier load or go farther in less time.

    Nobody is saying you can't be a productive sucessful physicist with an average IQ- you can. You could even win the Nobel prize. But if you've ever met a genius and you aren't one you know instantly that you are missing a gift.

    Just watch Gene Kelley in Singin' In The Rain. He was a kinesthetic genius. He made it look easy, fluid and effortless. A high IQ looks similar when its mowing through a hard problem with grace and ease.
  26. Apr 27, 2012 #25
    Be careful equating IQ with general intelligence. They are correlated yes, but once you get to the upper echelons of natural general intelligence IQ does not correlate well. I don't recall what the upper bound is but I think it's something like 2 standard deviations (~130 on most IQ tests); i.e. you can't really say a guy with a statospheric IQ of 180 or something "has more horsepower under the hood" than the 140 guy. The test just breaks down at those levels. See: Feynman, Richard.

    Probably the most reliable way to gauge your own intelligence is to analyze how quickly you learn new complicated material and can apply that to solve problems. Basically see how well you perform doing math and science research and solving problems, relative to your peers. That measure beats a 60 minute IQ test every time.
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