Tag Archives: Statistics

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.

GREs and PhDs

Well, that went well. I took my GREs again this past Saturday, since my previous set of scores had exceeded their shelf-life by about a year. It took me about three hours to complete the exam, which is actually about an hour longer than I expected it to take (of course, I hadn’t expected to do _two_ Quantitative sections, either).

The first test I took was during the fall of 2001, my fourth year of college. I was carrying a full credit load, working 30+ hours in the cafeteria, and burned way the heck out. I did pretty ok on the Verbal section (550) and crushed the Analytical (730). The Quantitative, however, messed me up. Let’s just say that a score of 540 on the Quantitative is not competitive – not at all. That score got me ranked in only the 37th percentile for that section. I was fortunate, though, to be able to still get into graduate school and pick up my first Master’s degree.

This time around, I scored a 580 on the Verbal – still not as high as I would have liked, but still decent. The Quantitative was a different story. I boosted my score by 140 points from the first time, landing at a nice, solid 680. That’s much more competitive and should make it that much easier to land a position in Purdue’s doctoral program. I won’t know about my Analytical Writing until the official scores come in, but I’m optimistic.

So, I’m now in the process of completing my application for the Statistics doctoral program at Purdue University. I’m fairly hopeful that I’ll have the credentials to get in and that I’ll be able to start classes this coming fall. I’m kind of excited about this!

GREs and Back (Hopefully) To Grad School

My previous set of GRE General Test scores exceeded their five-year limit this past April, so in order to go back to grad school and start work on a Ph.D. in Statistics, I need to retake the exam and generate a fresh set of scores. This actually isn’t as bad a thing as it might seem, even though taking the GREs is about as much fun as spending three hours at the dentist. The first time I took the exam, I scored somewhere around the 98th percentile on the Analytical section. I performed pretty well on the verbal, as well – the actual number escapes me at the moment, however. The Quantitative, though, kicked my butt – and hard – much to my chagrin. I’ve always been pretty good at numbers, so I was pretty dismayed at how difficult that section was for me. Hazards of having not used much math in the couple of years before taking the exam. This opportunity to take the GREs again is my chance to redeem myself. I really need decent scores on the Quantitative section, especially considering that statistics is a pretty quantitative field. Makes sense, right?

I’m scheduled to take the computer-based GRE again on Dec. 8. This means that I get to experience the joy that is the two new question types on the exam. For the verbal section, this means completing questions that have two or three blanks in a sentence or passage, as opposed to the single blank in the former type of question. For the quantitative it means filling in a number blank for either a number or a fraction. It means that the GRE is probably going to be a bit more difficult than it was previously, but the advantage is that I have a month to study, and I have a couple of really good study aids at my disposal.

Provided everything goes well with the GRE, I’m hoping to enter Purdue’s Ph.D. program in statistics next fall. It might mean taking a couple of ‘remedial’ stats courses to catch up, since my stats background consists of three graduate level courses I took during my Master’s program at Ball State. I’m good for that, though, and I’m really hoping that everything will come together well enough to gain admittance. Plan B, of course, would be to enroll in the non-terminal Master’s program for statistics and use that as my testing ground to prove that I can handle the coursework to move into the Ph.D. program. Purdue is also my obvious choice for this program, since I can get the faculty/staff discount on tuition.

Now, the one aspect of the Ph.D. program that makes me nervous the quarter-time minimum teaching requirement. I’m really not much of a public speaker, and I certainly develop a level of performance anxiety whenever I get in front of people. It helps, of course, to remember that my knowledge and expertise will be greater than that of the undergraduates I’d be teaching, and I’m sure I’d become more comfortable with the idea of teaching as I do more of it. And there’s always the chance of stepping into a professorship down the road, so being able to teach and having some experience in that area will certainly help.

Lots of good stuff ahead, I imagine, and believe it or not, I actually look forward to taking the GRE and seeing just how much knowledge this head of my possesses. The idea of going back to school again and getting my Doctorate doesn’t sound half bad, either.

BlueSands Numbers

Bluesands Stats

I’ve got to say that my site’s stats from yesterday alone make my numbers from the rest of the month look paltry by comparison – nearly 1000 hits yesterday, mostly directed at my BlueSands WordPress theme. The next closest day this month is around 140 hits. Quite the margin of difference. Of course, it helps that I also made sure to add BlueSands to the “Weblog Tools Collection”:http://weblogtoolscollection.com write-up for yesterday, which always sees a lot of traffic.

It’s also a little more than twice the number of hits my site received when I released the Navigation theme for bbPress, which isn’t all that surprising, considering that WordPress is still, at this moment, more popular than bbPress.

I’m a Hermit

I do these things very seldom, and I share the results even less frequently, and I don’t do Tarot cards at all, but the result from this little survey was dead-on for my personality. Occasionally, one of these things actually works out. Now, to do a statistical study to test reliability and validity. ((Yes, I’m just kidding.))

You are The Hermit

Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.

The Hermit points to all things hidden, such as knowledge and inspiration,hidden enemies. The illumination is from within, and retirement from participation in current events.

The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. You do not desire to socialize; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. You prefer to take the time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent but these feelings eventually lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.

The Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Faulty Numbers

“The real test of Halo’s power will be this fall when we see how well Halo 3 moves Xbox 360 consoles.”

No, the real test of halo’s power will be figuring out how many Xbox 360s have _already_ been moved because of Halo 3, in addition to how many are moved when it releases this fall. Because the fact is, there are many of us who have acquired 360s already in anticipation of Halo 3’s release this year. There are more numbers to look at in the statistics than just those surrounding the immediate release date of Halo 3. Apparently, they guys over at Joystiq don’t know much about statistics.


I’ve just quite a bit of material to write about, all of it stacking up in the queue. Most of it right now has to do with theology and philosophy and the like, some of it has to do with writing, and some to do with gaming. All of it requires a clear head to mull over and think through coherently enough to formulate something worthwhile from the rabble, and so I’ve pushed it off for a few days now. My heart may be into writing, but my mind simply can’t keep up right now.

To give you a little idea of what I have on the table right now, here’s a list of entries I’m hoping to draft in the somewhat near future:

* A response to statements that the Bible may not actually be inerrant
* A response to the charge that C.S. Lewis himself may not have considered the Bible to be inerrant
* Musings on the use (or lack thereof) of classical logic in today’s culture
* The disappearance of antithetical logic
* The social nuances of avid bloggers
* An objection to bookstores that are beginning to place science fiction and fantasy novels in separate categories
* A little blurb on eschatology
* Video games in politics – again
* Storytelling in video games – just how important is it?
* The relationship and similarities of statistics and psychology

I’ll even give you folks a choice – which of the above topics sounds most interesting to you? What would you like me to write about first?


No offense to those of you that do these, but Quizilla quizzes are hardly reliable or valid. I suppose that they _can_ be fun, but the statistician in me absolutely rebels at these things, thus ruining all the fun. I’ve tried running through a few over the last few months, and inevitably I end up just shaking my head and cringing a lot. The shuddering subsides after an hour or so. Honestly, who writes those questions, let alone thinks that they actually relate to the results they give? It’s painful to watch, so that’s why I usually steer clear of this type of social meme. Now, if they were designed to actually be valid and reliable, I think I might enjoy them more. But of course, it’s just your average Joe who sets them up, someone who generally knows little to nothing about survey design, so naturally the results are going to end up meaning bupkus.

But hey, don’t listen to me – I’m just a spoil-sport, anyway.

Attraction Kills?

Men Pay the Ultimate Price to Attract Women – Yahoo! News

Personally, I like this part:

bq. “Women live longer in almost every country, and the sex difference in lifespan has been recognized since at least the mid-18th century,” said Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan. “It isn’t a recent trend; it originates from our deep evolutionary history.”

So, what, an observation of 250 years or so automatically generalizes to how-many-million years of human existence? That’s some good ‘science’, that.

Or this:

bq. Males of many species must fight vigorously for the right to mate. Think of rams butting heads. Spectacular male bird plumage is another example of biological effort required to succeed, effort that uses energy and can shorten a life.

Hm, haven’t seen too many guys butting heads late…. oh, wait. Coupla guys over there right now… nevermind. Oh, and that plumage! Never seen a classier looking guy/transves… er, yeah.

Strange, though, how this kind of ‘evidence’ will probably be taken as hard scientific fact by most people. There’s not one thing in typical human male behavior, anatomy, or physiology that would suggest to me that the male body works harder at acquiring a mate than does the female. He doesn’t (usually) literally, physically butt heads with other guys, he doesn’t grow specialized feathers that are more brilliant than those of the female (doesn’t grow feathers at all, or brilliant colors, unless you want to count that ghastly Hawaiian shirt), he doesn’t secrete pheromones or anything of the like in order to attract a mate. ((A study I saw recently _did_ suggest that men and women do produce some small amount of pheromones, but it did say, too, that it wasn’t a significant enough quantity to make any kind of real difference in normal ‘mating habits’ of the typical adult human.)) I guess we’re just going to have to keep looking for mates the way we always have – through our darn good looks and dashing personalities.

Really, the high stress of our daily lifestyles and the drive to perform that nearly all men have _still_ makes more sense with regard to our comparatively shorter lifespans than does this theory that it is our bodies somehow striving to produce something in us to make us more sexually appealing to our female counterparts.

Might As Well Use a Match

I was asked yesterday about joining the office lottery pool. From what I understand, everyone pitches in a couple of bucks a week, and then our secretary goes and buys everyone a lottery ticket. The winner (should anyone happen to do so) then acquires a little extra cash and a few bragging rights.

I decline the opportunity to join the pool. I was actually a little bit surprised that the others even took part in this weekly tradition, given that we are all statisticians and are all aware (presumably) of the odds of actually winning anything significant. ((How does 1 in a gazillion strike you?)) It has always seemed to me that spending money on lottery tickets, however little or much, is an incredibly wasteful use of financial resources. If people would total up how much they spend on lottery tickets and compare that number against actual winnings, I think (or at least, I would _hope_) that they would be embarassed. It’s actually kind of comparable to those who smoke – you are essentially taking your own money, saying “I don’t need this anymore,” and setting a match to it. I have just never been able to justify using my own money so recklessly.

I am grateful that I have never been tempted to gamble. I am grateful that my parents raised me to appreciate the value of a dollar so that I will not be irresponsible with those resources that God has given me. Besides, as a new homeowner, I have plenty of things to spend my money on that will yield greater returns than any lottery ticket will. I’d much rather put my finances toward appreciating the value of my property. In the longrun, it will be a whole lot more satisfying, I think.