IQ Tests That Really Aren’t

I’m kind of annoyed by all the so-called intelligence tests that keep popping up on Facebook. Most of these tests cover topics like celebrities, TV shows and movies, music, etc. – essentially topics involving entertainment and popular media in US culture. There are several things about these ‘tests’ that annoy me:

  1. Entertainment is a stupid metric for an intelligence test. The only thing that entertainment surveys actually measure is how much of your time is spent watching TV, listening to music radio stations, or reading celebrity gossip. There are a number of high IQ societies that serve up an IQ test that covers all areas of knowledge, ranging across math, science, literature, history, current events, and yes, even entertainment. But the entertainment questions are just a small subset of the total test. Most of the weight is placed on all the other areas of the test. So, ‘IQ tests’ that use entertainment as the sole field for testing one’s intelligence are just plain stupid.
  2. On the technical side of survey design, all of these ‘IQ tests’ on Facebook are way too short. A good survey will run anywhere from 50-300 questions, depending on the scope of the data needed. Generally speaking, the more questions you have, the greater the level of accuracy you will get. Very few of these Facebook tests go beyond 20 questions (and most barely break 10).
  3. True intelligence tests also go through a rigorous set of reliability and validity tests. The reliability tests help ensure that the test consistently measures what it’s supposed to and that it is internally consistent. Validity tests check to see if the survey generalizes to the survey population, that it actually gathers useful and accurate information. You can bet that none of these Facebook IQ tests have undergone that sort of process.

I know, I know – most people just take these tests because they’re fun to do, and I’m probably over-analyzing things. I guess, as someone from a field of study where surveys are part of what I do, I get a little bit bugged by these casual IQ tests that don’t actually measure anything useful, primarily because most of the people who take them actually think that they _are_ IQ tests and take the final scores at least somewhat seriously. It’s misleading, and I find that mildly irritating. Call them what they really are – quizzes that test your knowledge about popular entertainment.

One thought on “IQ Tests That Really Aren’t”

  1. I know exactly what you mean. Most “IQ” tests (among others), I take with a grain of salt. The one thing that really annoys me is when they are passed off as intelligence tests when they are measuring knowledge. Knowledge and intelligence are very, very different things–and some people do not seem to understand that. I’ve encountered some people like that. So when someone takes one of these, and then believes their IQ is 10pts above MENSA acceptance are being what I would refer to as scammed.


    If you want to know you’re IQ, find a psychologist, and be ready to dish out some money. Or be sufficiently fascinating that they’ll do it for free. :)

Have anything to add to the conversation?