Please do not discuses about IQ tests that have problems like: 2,4,8,16,... what is the next number? having the answer as 32, because one can relate any number of random numbers mathematically! Whenever I ask this question to someone they would just say: yes! getting top marks and ranks in school or college does make one intelligent because they could just score a top rank in IQ tests!

This paradox about such IQ tests not being correct can obviously be reasoned, but are top rank holders in proper subjects at school or college more intelligent than the rest of the students?

I agree upon the fact that there can be diverse definitions for the word "intelligent". The definition I use for the term intelligent is: a person who has the ability to learn any kind of subject that involves reasoning and extend his abilities to be able to develop that subject**; time frame is not a problem in my definition. To be elegant, I believe that one who has the ability to learn and research on any subject is intelligent. I do not consider people who could do stuff any computer program can do, as the existence of an algorithm to solve that task makes that task less imaginative but could involve high calculation ability (a weight lifter is different from a martial artist) . Scientists haven't achieved human level intelligence in machines and that makes me set machines as my reference point for intelligence.

please provide references enough to convince me and others on your answer.

*lets imagine relating a series 2,4,8,16,111; to do this we would first have to define a 5th degree polynomial with unknown coefficient values. equate: $f(1) = 2, f(2) = 4,...f(5) =111$. Its obviously possible to solve and get 4 values for each coefficients and the rest 2 coefficients end up being linearly related to each other (substitute any value other than zero for one and get the other). So hence you have a polynomial relating 2,4,8,16,111!

**when I say "develop that subject" I do not mean writing books and teaching, but I refer to the method of using one's creativity to enlighten themselves on the deepest regions of that subject.

P.S. also please suggest the best possible ways to measure one's intelligence.


could you also please explain why we rely on tests that do not have defined answers to its questions for measuring one's IQ? Whenever I see a question that first gives a series like 2, 4, 6, 8. ? and ask for the missing number, I would be tempted to write 15356346546434 instead of 10 and form a polynomial relation that expresses the term in the series given its term number (like $f(n)$ would express the $n^{th}$ term).

I have also seen IQ question papers with questions that has a star drawn on with random numbers displayed within each blank loop we find within the star and a question mark in one of the blank loops which asks for the answer. Even they have arbitrary answers.


2 Answers 2


I think you have three core questions:

  1. What is true intelligence and how can it be measured?
  2. To what extent does school performance correlate with true intelligence?
  3. To what extent does school performance cause true intelligence to change?

Intelligence tests provide the best known means to measure general cognitive ability. There is a huge literature on intelligence tests. Good intelligence tests will generally sample from a wide range of cognitive domains (e.g., verbal, spatial, numerical, etc.). The literature on intelligence tests shows them to be a strong predictor of a wide range of important life outcomes.

So in essence, I reject your assumption that seems to dismiss the validity of intelligence tests. Over a hundred years of research and thousands of studies tell a rich story about the inter-correlation of different ability tests and their correlations with variables like educational performance, work performance, and many other variables. The review by Neisser et al (1996) is an excellent introduction to this literature.

I think this existing question on the correlation between GPA and IQ provides a reasonable answer to your question about the association between school performance and intelligence. In short, there is a very strong correlation between the two variables.

The final question is actually very interesting. I.e., what is the causal effect of education on intelligence? and what is the effect of a student applying additional effort to their education on intelligence?

I'm not as familiar with literature evaluating the causal question. The default assumption given the stability of intelligence and the plausible causal mechanisms is that intelligence causes school performance.

That said, education must on some level cause forms of intelligence to develop. My sense is that interventions targeted at increasing intelligence have generally not had sustained success. Also, twin studies generally show a negligible correlation between adopting parent intelligence and child intelligence, which also reinforces the strong role of genetics. There may also be differences between education increasing domain specific knowledge as opposed to increasing general intelligence.


  • Neisser, Ulrich; Boodoo, Gwyneth; Bouchard, Thomas J.; Boykin, A. Wade; Brody, Nathan; Ceci, Stephen J.; Halpern, Diane F.; Loehlin, John C.; Perloff, Robert; Sternberg, Robert J.; Urbina, Susana (1996). "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns". American Psychologist. 51:77–101.

Your definition of intelligence ("...the ability to learn and research on any subject...") is exactly what IQ tests measures; general abstraction and reasoning ability. A nice article about the validity of IQ and the flimsy scientific basis of multiple intelligences. That is surely the best way to measure intelligence. However, IQ tests aren't completely fair - studies have shown that education can influence IQ. That's why most IQ tests use people of comparable education as your reference group. Furthermore, not all IQ tests are created equal - some emphasize memory (recall) more, for instance. Someone with eidetic memory would obviously have an advantage in these cases that shouldn't be attributed to the ability to abstract or reason. There are also abilities that can arguably be dissociated from IQ which matter in academic pursuits (i.e. "enlightening oneself in the deepest region of a subject"). One of these is rationality. Another is personal motivation - lazy people generally achieve less.

  • $\begingroup$ yes, but what about my example 2, 4, 8, 16? Its not mathematically wrong to say that the next value could be 111. How can an undefined question like the one asking us to find the next number in a series of numbers be used to test one's intelligence? thanks in advance $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Oct 7, 2014 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't necessarily wrong, no, but you would have to be quite clever to come up with a rule for the sequence other than "multiply n-1 by two". A more ambiguous example would be 1,2,4,8, for example, because it could be seen as s(n) = 2^n or s(n) = s(n-1)*2. The idea, within the context of an IQ test, is to find the most suitable/simple abstraction - which, in your example, is undoubtedly the "multiply by two" rule. IQ test questions shouldn't really be ambiguous. I get the feeling that you're really asking about creativity, though, and how IQ tests don't account for that. $\endgroup$
    – user6682
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ There has been research into the relationship between IQ and creativity. Essentially, it seems that people might need a certain level of IQ in order to be decently creative. For an overview of what creativity means, or how it's related to IQ, see good 'ol Wikipedia...: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creativity. $\endgroup$
    – user6682
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ By the way - getting top marks in school or college does NOT mean that said person could get top marks on an IQ test. Such people just have to study hard, not necessarily be exceptionally smart. $\endgroup$
    – user6682
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:44

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