Skip to main content

IQ and its impact on performance

child with book learning

What is IQ?  Is it a measure of academic capability or an innate ability to arrive at solutions to knotty problems?


If you’ve ever seen an IQ test (or the Mensa qualifying tests) you’ve probably worked out that it’s more about reasoning and problem solving than having the ability to assimilate a mountain of complex material.  In other words it’s more about mental agility than having an enormous bank of knowledge.


Most IQ tests measure your visual, maths and language capabilities and test your memory and the speed at which you’re able to process information – compared to others of your age.  The results are compiled into a bell curve with 100 as the average (at the top of the bell).  To become a member of Mensa you (or your child) would need to score somewhere in the top 2% – around 160.

Is your IQ fixed?

Not at all.  You can improve your reasoning and problem-solving skills – it is partly to do with practice.  Over time your score is likely to improve – and the more IQ-style problems you practise with the better you’ll get.


Having a high IQ does not necessarily result in high grades in school.  However, the more schooling you get, the more likely it is that your IQ will improve.

Does a high IQ = a problem child?

Many highly intelligent people – with high IQs – have a reputation for being disruptive in school.  This is often put down to finding education ‘boring’, as they have to wait for their schoolmates to catch up.  In fact, this is not necessarily the case.


A high IQ doesn’t mean that a student will sail through all their studies and pass with top grades.  When a student doesn’t live up to a teacher’s perception that they are ‘bright’, it’s usually because they’re lazy and have been spending too much time resting on their laurels and not enough time studying for the exam.


In a Yale review of thinking and reasoning skills, it was pointed out that a high IQ is like height in a basketball player.  It’s very important, all things being equal.  But all things are not equal!  There is a lot more to being a good basketball player than just being tall.


Good grades are earned because the student is motivated to learn and has a desire to be taught.  Boredom is the desire to not be taught; intelligent students can see that this won’t get them very far!


Having said that, there are students who find they are able to learn much quicker than the average and they can get frustrated at not progressing as quickly as they’d like.  If you think your child is one of these, it may be worth getting their IQ tested (if it hasn’t already been assessed) and having a chat with their teachers to see if there is an alternative path for high achievers.


To get the teacher to take you seriously, your child will have to have evidence of achieving excellent marks so far.

Nurturing your child’s IQ

In order to maintain IQ you need to stimulate your brain.  This is akin to the ‘use it or lose it’ cliché.


If you think your child has an above average IQ, encourage them to take up activities that give them that stimulation – like chess or learning a language.


When it comes to IQ, a period when the brain receives less stimulation tends to show a drop in IQ – so make sure your children get enough mental stimulation during the school holidays, particularly that long summer break each year!