January 5, 2007

"Is it possible to prepare for Intelligence tests?"

An Ask Metafilter question. The main piece of advice over there is exactly what you would expect: take practice tests. I'd add my classic piece of test-taking advice that I figured out by my own trial and error: Believe -- even if it's pure delusion -- that you're having a wonderful time taking the exam. Control your emotions. If you believe this test is going to destroy or embarrass you, you're doomed.


Anonymous said...

I used to give a lot of IQ tests as part of my job. I think there are at least a couple of things people could do to increase their scores.

The first is what you mentioned: emotionally prepare to give your best effort and have a good attitude. Along with that, good nutrition and sleep for a couple of days before the test would add to the emotional and neurological preparation. So would avoiding alcohol and drug use for a couple of days before the testing.

The other way to prepare is to find out the type of tasks required for the subtest and practice. Now this is not ethical, but it would likely raise scores.

I do NOT think that these practices would raise the scores much. Certainly not a standard deviation. In fact, the rise in scores might fall within the standard error, and be statistically useless. However, some schools and organizations have a strict number cut off, and the preparation might be significant in that case.


hdhouse said...

ann...actually that is very very good advice. in keeping, there is an issue of going to a "happy state of mind" and "some exercise (physical)" just prior...all help.

and if you take that silly IQ test that pops up online now and then and find the 1001 others, you can improve your score...but i do think that is just a factor caused by repeated test taking.

Troy said...

Related to Ann's advice... On all exams LSAT, Bar and intelligence exams I use shooter's breathing (sniper's or whatever one calls it). Breath in through the nose for 5 sec., hold for 5, breath out through the mouth for 5, hold for five and then repeat 2 more times. Heart rate is lowered and my concentration increases as stress level decreases. Does it work physiologically or just in my head? Who cares? I've used it each time and done well.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that it is. Ann and T. Mink provide good suggestions, I think. As I've never worried about a test in my life (except one I had no control over, such as a lab test), I really don't have any idea.

hdhouse said...

since when is the LSAT a test of intelligence? My x-wife crammed for it for a year. I crammed for it in an hour. I got the higher score which explains a lot of things...well it doesn't...and I got into better schools but my feeling was if this is the requisite for being a lawyer...entrance by ability to take a stupid (and i mean stupid and banal) test than what is the point.

my daughter was the absolute worst SAT test taker on earth....i mean that...she got her name right but i can't see what else...and she is magnificent in her career and her profession generally...

again..this is a good topic and needs some discussion Ann. it woul be valuable.

Anonymous said...

Hey Troy, sniper breathing works by changing the oxygen/carbon dioxide ration in the blood. When you breathe that way, you are doing the opposite of HYPERventilating, you are HYPOventilating.

Hyperventilating raises the oxygen, preparing us to run or fight. If we do neither, we get all keyed up, jumpy, and twitchy. Hypoventilating lowers the oxygen and raises the co2, making you more calm.

An even more effective method of sniper breathing would be to breathe in for a count of 3, hold for 6, breathe out slowly for 9, then wait with empty lungs for 3. Works like a charm for most people. Very effective for dealing with test anxiety.

Maxine Weiss said...

"Believe -- even if it's pure delusion -- that you're having a wonderful time taking the exam. Control your emotions."---Althouse

Yeah, in other words....don't start laughing, sighing, gushing, and otherwise levitating out load...to the annoyance of the other test takers who are having just as wonderful a time as you.

I can't tell you the number of times I've been disturbed and distracted by other people's 'good time' while trying to concentrate on my own.

Peace, Maxine

SteveR said...

I would offer that preparation itself, is an attribute of intelligence.

I an any case, confidence (or it emotional variations) is an important element.

Of course there is no susbstitute for being intelligent.

Anonymous said...

Steve R hits nail firmly on head and drives it in with appropriately succinct and perceptive comment.

Kudos, Steve!

Anonymous said...

HDhouse asked a good question: "since when is the LSAT a test of intelligence?"

Since never. It is used as a screening device. The thinking goes that high scores on the LSAT are a good predictor for good grades in law school. Same as the GRE and the SAT. It is my understanding that the SAT is not as good a predictor of college achievement as high school grades are. I think it is the same with the LSAT.

When I was a psychology student I used to administer the LSAT. One thing I always found amusing is that you have to leave your thumbprint to take the test. What does that mean? Other professional or graduate tests do not require this.

As an aside, I was told by the chief muckety muk administering the LSAT to go into the men's bathroom during a break to make sure the lawyer hopefuls were not cheating in the john. I refused saying that I don't hang out in bathrooms, even for money.


Maxine Weiss said...

Engaging in rapturous levitation while taking a challenging exam....to the distraction of the other test-takers.

Peace, Maxine

hdhouse said...


lawyers cheating in johns? assuming you meant with answers - proving once and for all that lsat has nothing to do with moral turpitude.

Kirby Olson said...

Once I tried to take the GREs with a guy next whose nose whistled. It wasn't a regularly whistle, but one that was erratic, and changed in tone and intensity every time he breathed. Not recommended.

Pogo said...

I have noticed that coming to a fill-in-the-dot test the day after getting blitzed turns out not so good.

Diarrhea is also bad to have on test day.

Ditto for breaking up with your girl the day before the exam. Best avoid her entirely for a few weeks before if that's a concern.

Don't wear a sweater. I don't care how cold you are. What are you, nuts? You'll get hot, it'll get stuck on your head as you attempt to disrobe, and you'll look insane struggling with the damn cableknit Bill Cosby reject you never liked, wrestling for a full five minutes, and then forget the answer to number 32 which was just on the tip of your tongue but is now gone forever, you idiot.

And it's not the day to stop smoking. Or to start. Try No-Doz over coffee, if caffiene is a must. Especially if one's bladder capacity is less than the 3 hour test time frame, and you'd prefer not peeing with the monitor in tow.

Just sayin'; not that I'd know.

My sister-in-law (aiming to teach painting) took the GRE and, having taken no math since 8th grade, merely drew a pretty pattern with the dots for the math portion (I believe her; can't add on her own fingers, that girl). "Highest score ever", according to the math prof who asked her to consider changing departments. I kid you not.

Anonymous said...

Before every 'big' test I've ever taken, I spend the night before doing things totally unrelated.

If that means going to a party or simply sitting at home watching sports/reading, it's all the same. One good night without thinking of the test works wonders.

Of course I am/was a natural test taker (hated homework, but would ace tests) so this might not be good advice :)

DNR Mom said...

My foolproof/proof fool method as a child: memorize the definition of "avuncular," since it was the last question on the Wechsler.

Upshot: my IQ is still firmly ensconced in the "dull-normal" range.

Daryl Herbert said...

The other way to prepare is to find out the type of tasks required for the subtest and practice. Now this is not ethical, but it would likely raise scores.

It's unethical to practice for the LSAT? No wonder people say lawyers are unethical.

tmink's comment only applies to tests where takers aren't supposed to practice; what's unethical is that a rule (unspoken?) is being violated, not that there's something inherently wrong with practice.

since when is the LSAT a test of intelligence?

Since it measures your intellectual abilities in an abstract, domain-neutral fashion.

That's why Mensa accepts it (where it rejects the SAT/PSAT/lots of other tests that aren't close to purely IQ).

The sad thing is, I've only got about a week left before my LSAT score becomes permanently irrelevant--that's when 1st-semester grades come out. Nobody's going to ask me what my score is, ever again. It was so much fun to have a higher score than everyone else.

Being able to please your professors is a test of intelligence as well as social skills (suck-up-itude) that more closely measures what your bosses will be looking for in the future. Pleasing your boss is very much like pleasing your prof. That's why grades are 90% of the hiring equation and raw scores don't matter.

class-factotum said...

When you take the logic portion of the LSAT, don't worry about *why* Bob won't ride in the canoe with women and what a moron he is and why should you accomodate his stupid problem when you are figuring who sits where in the two canoes. Just because he is an idiot who hasn't learned to sit in a stupid boat with the opposite sex doesn't mean you should let your test taking be slowed.

Christy said...

I always loved test taking. It was the only time I was ever allowed to show off. Never underestimate a kid's desire to show off.

Anonymous said...

Daryl wrote: "tmink's comment only applies to tests where takers aren't supposed to practice."

Thank you for the clarification. I was specifically THINKING about IQ tests but my POSTING was not clear at all. There is a large market of graduate school and college entrance exam type test which you mention.

There are none for how to score higher on the WAIS or Stanford-Binet etc. That is because the publishers and practioners work to keep the content of the IQ tests secure. A public test is a useless one I believe.

Thanks again. Trey

Seven Machos said...

As someone who has taught standardized test prep for many years and who is thoroughly indoctrinated with The Princeton Review's philosophy that all standardized tests pretty much suck awfully, I could write a long treatise on this topic.

I won't. I will offer one insight: tmink says that a public test is a useless one. This is often true if the material to be tested is based on what you learned in a class. However, the point of IQ tests and SATs and other standardized tests is that they don't test what you learned in any class, on purpose. They test a set of skills that have nothing to do with any class. And they very often have huge consequences on test takers' lives.

The problem is that the test creators can and do make mistakes. They create conceptually bad questions. They create poorly worded verbal questions. If the tests cannot be exposed to the light of day, it simply is not fair to the test-takers. On a more practical level, a normal course has a few or, in the worst case, several hundred students. Students have access to the the test-makers and test-graders for redress if a question is bad. On standardized tests, there is no real due process available when things go wrong.

Anonymous said...

Seven, I agree with you in part. The IQ tests are statistically validated and reliable. It is in the numbers. And the verbal questions DO have particular questions that really do need to be kept private. BUT, the data and info for these tests is published and criticized. So they are accountable in that fashion.

I do not know just who the college and grad school tests must answer to! And that worries me a bit.


Seven Machos said...

Tmink -- Bell curves are not hard to acheive. Any test that approaches whatever intelligence is will basically tell us who is intelligent and who is not, and who is in between. We can get the all-coveted statistical validity at a much lower social and economic cost.

A good parallel, as always, is sports. Take any athletic endeavor and test some people in it who have never done it before. At the end of the test, the athletes will rise to the top and the non-athletes will suck, and the sort-of good athletes will be in the middle.

Standardized tests are nothing but a big Wizard of Oz. Why should a few entities monopolize standardized testing and gatekeep at the door of academia when any old test will do?

Anonymous said...

Seven wrote: "Bell curves are not hard to acheive. Any test that approaches whatever intelligence is will basically tell us who is intelligent and who is not, and who is in between."

We have areas of agreement as well as disagreement. I agree that bell curves are not that difficult to achieve. Just decent measurement in a normal distribution will do it. But in the pro circles, there is considerable controversy about just what intelligence is. So the issue is complicated.

Another issue is that of subtests or areas of intelligence. It is difficult to construct a test that has adequate subtest distinctiveness. You want to know about the child's (school age children are the major focus of IQ tests) variable abilities and intelligences as well as have a number for their global intelligence, or g.

It is really complicated and over my head to tell the truth. For me, I use the IQ tests as either a screening for adequate intelligence or to help with ADD diagnosis. And I do not even get to do that very often any more. But I maintain that test security is necessary for the complicated, clinical IQ tests.

Have a wonderful day, thanks for writing.


Küsu said...

Make some!
I just did 3 different IQ Tests.
First test score: 102 (Which I think is the true score)
Second test score: 114
Third test score: 131
(Which is my "trained" score)

If you know what awaits you, you will be much better.