What is intelligence?

This question has perplexed philosophers for centuries and has caused more debate, argument and even punch-ups than almost any other academic discussion. Happily, the picture is becoming clearer.

In this article, we’ll focus on IQ – intelligence quotient – which involves our verbal, numerical and logical thinking skills. This form of intelligence makes up as much as 20% of your overall mental ability, and uses our ‘left brain’ skills of logic, analysis, words, numbers and listing.

Despite what many may say about your IQ being unchangeable, the opposite is true: It is very responsive to appropriate training and can be enhanced significantly.

So what do the IQ scores mean?

 80 or less – well below average
100 – average
120 – very intelligent
140 or more – genius IQ

Intelligence tests

Here are some typical intelligence tests:

a. Chicken is to chick as duck is to __________.

b. Fill in the next number in the series: 4, 8, 13, 19, 26,  __________.

c. Pick the odd one out: moon, sun, lemon, earth.

d. Infant is to infancy as adult is to __________.


a. Duckling, the relationship being the oldest and youngest members of the group.

b. 34 because each new number increases by a number in the sequence 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…

c. Lemon, because it is the only fruit, the others being celestial bodies. This could also have, as a little boy answered, a ‘creative logic’ solution. He answered ‘Earth’ because it was the only blue one. This form of logic, different from the standard IQ logic, is equally important and equally worth developing, it fires and inspires your imagination.

d. Not adultery, a trap which many people fall into. The answer is adulthood, the state of being an adult, as infancy is the state of being an infant.

As your intelligence improves, you should be able to answer increasingly complex logical questions.

Does IQ measure intelligence?

It is important to note that IQ is just a score that you receive when you take some tests that measure intelligence. So, does IQ accurately measure intelligence?

Yes. IQ tests do measure some forms of intelligence. However, they do not measure the broad definition of human intelligence which is more than just logic, reasoning and cognitive skills.

According to Psychologist Wayne Weiten, “IQ tests are valid measures of the kind of intelligence necessary to do well in academic work. But if the purpose is to assess intelligence in a broader sense, the validity of IQ tests is questionable.”

Psychologist Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind, listed eight intelligences of which only two (linguistic intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence) are tested when doing IQ tests. The other six intelligences are spatial-visual, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. Later, Gardner added existential and moral intelligences to the list.

Techniques you can use to improve your IQ

So how can you increase your score? Follow these 8 techniques and you should soon see an improvement.

1. When using your calculator, try to estimate the answer before you calculate it. As you improve your skill (and it will improve ) accelerate your speed.

2. Improve your vocabulary – a mere five words per day will put you in the top 1% of vocabularians within a year, and vocabulary is a key to your logical and life success.

3. Do puzzles and crosswords – they keep you mentally astute.

4. Play mental calculation games. Start with simple sums such as 3 plus 5, and gradually increase the complexity. Again, accelerate your speed.

5. Try to find logical inaccuracies in everything you read.

6. When you do read, try to read a bit faster: speed reading leads to speed thinking leads to higher IQ.

7. Play and enter mind sports competitions, even if it’s only a general knowledge quiz at your local pub. Keeping your brain focused is an excellent way of honing your thinking skills.

8. Keep reminding yourself that you can improve your IQ, this simple technique will actually improve it.

Activities that can improve IQ

If you feel that a good IQ score is important to you, or perhaps, you want to join MENSA, there are activities you can do to really improve your IQ.

Memory games: Playing games that involve some memory training like crossword puzzles and sudoku can improve your IQ scores.

Spatial-visual activities: Spatial perception is the ability to rotate 2D or 3D objects in space. Certain sports like basketball, soccer, golf, dancing and gymnastics, which require spatial perception can improve your IQ.

Reading: The more you read, especially on general topics, the more knowledgeable you become. This will help when you are doing your IQ tests.


  • Buzan, Tony. “Boosting Your IQ.” Adapted with permission.
  • Gardner, Howard. “Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences.” New York, Basic Books, 1993.
  • Weiten, Wayne. “Psychology: Themes and Variations.” 2016.