The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests are two different standardized tests used for different types of measurements.
The GRE is a test widely used in the process of applying to graduate school, while the IQ test measures intelligence.
Although these are two separate tests, there is some overlap. Because of this, many people wonder if there is a relationship between the two.
I have successfully helped hundreds of students achieve their dreams of higher education, and I can help answer this question. Here, I'll outline the GRE to IQ comparison and share what I know.
Summary of the Key Findings
- There is no official correlation between the test takers' GRE scores and IQ.
- Some efforts have been made to create formulae that translate GRE scores into equivalent IQ scores.
- There are many reasons that a correlative formula would still not predict IQ.
What is the GRE?
The GRE is a standardized test administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is used as part of the admissions criteria at many graduate programs in the United States.
It contains several tested categories, including verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.
These categories are designed to evaluate a candidate's ability to reason and communicate effectively, as well as their comprehension of the written word.
The verbal and quantitative reasoning tests are graded on a scale from 130-170, while the analytical writing section has a score range of 0 to 6.
The math and language sections are combined to give an overall score from 260-340 points.
What is an IQ Test?
IQ tests are designed to measure cognitive ability and intelligence. They test problem-solving skills, spatial reasoning, verbal reasoning and comprehension, and more.
There are several tests used to measure intellect, such as the:
- Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
- Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
- Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
- Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities
Each test has different questions, but they all generally assess the test takers’ verbal IQ and mathematical abilities, spatial and perceptual skills, and ability to classify, use logic, and recognize patterns.
“I would say that IQ is the strongest predictor of which field you can get into and hold a job in, whether you can be an accountant, lawyer or nurse, for example.” - Daniel Goleman, author
These tests are used to examine your processing speed, mental organization, memory, and comprehension. This way, they are measuring intelligence across a variety of domains.
The test results are standardized by transforming the raw scores to a normal distribution with a mean of 100 . Thus, an average person has an intelligence quotient of 100.
Is There an Official Correlation Between These Tests?
Given that both tests result in a quantitative measure, it is reasonable to ask if there is a GRE score to IQ relationship. It makes some sense that higher scores might reflect higher IQs and lower scores equate to lower IQs.
However, the current, official answer to that question is "no." Mensa, the high IQ society, says that GRE tests taken after 9/30/2001 are not acceptable in place of an IQ test .
That being said, Mensa allows GRE test versions taken before 9/30/2001 to be used as IQ test substitutes. So, GRE scores were once considered to be correlated with an official IQ, but no longer.
Unofficial GRE to IQ Score Relationships
Although Mensa does not recognize the Graduate Record Examination as an acceptable high IQ test, you may find unofficial conversions elsewhere.
Creating these usually demands a certain proficiency in statistics, as they require an analysis of the GRE's mean and standard deviation to come up with a "Z-score" that can be turned into an IQ score.
One commonly cited version of this calculation yields the following formula :
IQ = [(GRE composite – 302.69)/15.35](15) + 111
You can see that this calculation will scale IQ across a range of GRE scores, with a perfect score equaling to an IQ of 147.
Note that this analysis applies only to new GRE tests from 2016 and later. Of course, this is, at best, an estimate and is not endorsed by the vast majority of testing services.
Why Don't GRE to IQ Conversions Work?
Even though people often want to correlate GRE test scores and IQ scores, there are some good reasons why these conversions don't work:
1) IQ measures innate intellect, while the GRE measures knowledge and competencies you can learn, such as math and vocabulary words. This means you can significantly change your GRE scores through GRE prep and practice, but your cognitive abilities are relatively fixed.
2) The GRE is biased towards students who speak English as their first language, while IQ tests will accurately evaluate intellect since you can take it in your native language.
3) Although the GRE and IQ tests evaluate some similar concepts, the GRE does not cover many of the dimensions of intellect. For example, IQ tests will examine spatial reasoning, logic, memory, and other factors for which GRE scores are not a good measure.
4) People often misinterpret statistical relationships in their analysis of correlation. Just because people with high IQ scores may score well on the GRE, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people with high IQs who perform poorly because they did not study. And some people who have a lower IQ may still score highly on the Graduate Record Examination because they do thorough GRE prep.
5) The scoring of the two tests is very different. The GRE scores are done on an objective scale based on the number of questions answered correctly. An IQ test is a relative score that compares you to others within your same age group.
Does the GRE Measure Intelligence?
The GRE does not measure intelligence - it evaluates the potential for success in grad school.
It is possible for someone to be highly intelligent but perform poorly on the test due to circumstances outside their control. This certainly has no bearing on the natural intellect of anyone taking the exam.
GRE to IQ Conversion - Final Thoughts
Given that the GRE measures practical knowledge, not innate intelligence, there is no "official" conversion from a GRE score to an IQ score.
However, it may be possible to find unofficial conversions through statistical analysis of the GRE's standardized scores.
That being said, you should not take these statistics and calculations too seriously. There are many valid reasons not to assume that a GRE score corresponds to an IQ score.
And if you want to do better on your GRE, check out our review of the best GRE preparation programs.
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