PSYCH: Genius and SAT Scores

David Musick (
Wed, 8 Jan 97 01:27:42 UT

I'm not sure why people equate high SAT scores with high intelligence,
especially with genius. I took the SAT, and I did excellently, but the test
didn't test my intelligence as much as it tested my knowledge. None of the
math questions required any creative solutions; they were all pretty
straightforward and simple, given a familiarity with math. The verbal section
was a little less straightforward, but still easy, given the proper knowledge;
one section of it required a familiarity with the proper syntax and grammer of
English and an ability to spot errors in passages. Other sections required an
understanding of English and an ability to answer basic questions about a
passage one read. That's it. That's all the test is; it just tests how well
people know math and English. One could argue that it takes a certain amount
of intelligence to have learned math and English well by the time one takes
the test, but it really tests very little, just some basic skills.

To get a real understanding of someone's intelligence requires much more
elaborate testing. Part of intelligence is learning speed, so people should
be given lots of new activities to perform, and they should be observed to see
how long it takes them to develop competence at the new activities and what
sorts of strategies they use. Other aspects of intelligence are ingeniousness
and resoursfulness and the ability to make elaborate plans and carry them out,
so people should be asked to complete various tasks, such as building devices
which have certain properties, given certain materials to do it with or
programming a computer to accomplish elaborate tasks. Other aspects of
intelligence involve problem solving, so people being observed should be given
problems, of all kinds, to solve, and their basic strategies and how long it
takes them to solve various kinds of problems should be observed. Other
aspects of intelligence require knowledge of oneself, so people should be
interviewed extensively, to see how clearly they understand themselves. Other
aspects of intelligence involve being able to think clearly and deeply and
understand things clearly, so people should submit several essays and papers,
explaining their philosophical understanding of things. And there are many
other aspects of intelligence, and to get a useful understanding of a person's
intelligence requires elaborate and extensive testing and observation, and the
results will not be some number, such as an intelligence quotient, but it will
be a detailed breakdown of how well the individual does at different types of
cognitive skills as well as an explanation of the individual's general
strategies for learning and problem solving. Intelligence is not a quantity;
it is a collection of cognitive skills.

- David Musick

-- Approach everything with an attentive mind, and you will be constantly
exercising your mind and growing more intelligent. --