The IQ scale has long been used to assess intelligence and the ability to reason. By using a standardized score, experts compare your abilities with other people your age in an effort to determine how clever you are. But can taking one test really determine the entire breadth of your knowledge? Many experts are now saying no. Keep reading to find out why.

What Is An IQ Score?

IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is the measurement of your mental aptitude expressed as a number. There are several standardized tests that are used, but they all work off of a scale that assumes a score of 100 is about average. In the past, it has been assumed that anyone with a score over 100 is smarter than average and anyone with a score lower than 100 is less smart.

IQ Score Ranges

What does it mean to have an IQ of 100? You are right in the middle: About half the population scores lower than you and about half scores higher than you. Very high and very low IQ scores don’t occur very often. In fact, only about 2% of the population has an IQ score lower than 69 or above 130. Here’s the full scale:

> 130 Very gifted

121-130 Gifted

111-120 Above average intelligence

90-110 Average intelligence

80-89 Below average intelligence

70-79 Cognitively impaired

What Does My IQ Score Mean?

It’s not always easy to determine what an IQ score means, even if you have an exact number. Why? The circumstances under which you take the test cannot be standardized. For instance, if you happen to come down with a horrible cold on test day, you’re likely not going to perform as well as you normally would. Does this mean you’re less intelligent? Of course not.

That’s why most professionals today will not only give you a specific IQ score but an IQ range. That range shows where you might fall on the IQ scale given errors in measurement or outside factors which may have influenced your performance.

How Is IQ Determined?

The original IQ test was created by French psychologist Alfred Binet in the early 1900s. It computes IQ by taking the ratio of mental age to chronological age and multiplying it by 100. So, if a 20-year-old man had the mental age of a 15-year-old (meaning he performed at the level of an average 15-year-old), his IQ would be 15/20 x 100, or 75. If he had the mental age of 30, his IQ would be 30/20 x 100, or 150.

Today, few tests involve the computation of mental ages. Modern tests are designed to measure your general ability to solve problems and understand concepts, including mathematical ability, memory ability, and spatial ability. While you may find that you perform especially well in a particular category, most experts believe that if a person excels in one area, they will also perform well in other areas. Likewise, if they do very poorly in one area, they will likely not perform very well in other areas, either.

Because IQ tests measure the ability to understand broad concepts and ideas, learning new information will not necessarily increase your score. Learning may increase your cognitive ability, though, which could lead to a higher IQ. Scientists are not entirely clear on how the relationship works.

Are IQ Tests Really Good At Measuring Intelligence?

Short answer: no. Most experts today agree that IQ tests are not an effective means of measuring intelligence. Why? The standard IQ test only measures cognitive problem-solving skills, but it has long been known that intelligence is far more complex and includes many more factors.

The fact is, intelligence is far more than one’s ability to solve mathematical problems or understand patterns. indeed, a Canadian study recently identified three main areas of intelligence that are not included in traditional tests: short term memory, reasoning skills, and verbal ability. Others say that emotional sensitivity, musical abilities, and social understanding should be included when estimating intelligence.

Whatever intelligence is made up of, it’s become abundantly clear that standardized tests do not do it justice. As Laci Green, host of DNews, said, “What the IQ test (does) measure (is) how well Westerners might do in Western schools.”