Testing Intelligence


Testing intelligence is a complex, often misunderstood concept that often has a profound impact on education. As educators, we need to be careful as not to utilize information such as these tests in isolation, but consider the whole child and their development as a process.

Intelligence quotient (IQ) tests initially took the mental age of the child and divided it by the child’s actual age, then the result was multiplied by 100 (Berger, 2012). Current IQ tests are more complicated, but still consider 100 to be average score. IQ is strongly considered when diagnosing cognitive impairments and learning disabilities. Achievement testing is also used and assesses mastery of a certain skill or concept, rather than learning potential. Standardized tests are used in such a way and even go so far as to place schools in the United States on a top-to-bottom ranking list, depending on their results. Schools scoring within the bottom five percentile are penalized, which oftentimes means closing the doors.

While I understand the importance of intelligence testing to education and as a means of measuring cognitive, reasoning, and processing abilities, I think the subjectivity of such tests should be taken into consideration and not looked at as the only measurement we use to assess a child’s ability. I think issues related to the potential carelessness of the assessment administrator should be considered, as well as the level of motivation the child has in acknowledging a certain level of bias. I think it is important we look at ways in which to assess a child’s learning potential through formative, ongoing assessments, as well as summative assessments to better gage a student’s growth, but also be conscientious of and give these assessments in a way that acknowledges children’s differing abilities: standardized testing tends to negate this fact. Students should have experience with open-ended questions or forums that force them to “think outside the box,” rather than to simply bubble in the correct answer from four choices.

Finland is intriguing to me because of their success in education reform. Unlike the United States, no external standardized assessments exist to rank students or schools and most teacher feedback to students takes the form of written explanations of areas of growth as well as concern. While similar to the US, samples of students are assessed at the end of second and ninth grades for school investments, the results however, drive successful reform, rather than retribution. Many assessments in Finland are open-ended in format to cultivate deeper thinking skills within student’s learning and education.


Berger, K. S. (2012). The developing person through childhood (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010, November). What we can learn from Finland’s successful school reform. In National Education Association. Retrieved October 11, 2014


One thought on “Testing Intelligence

  1. Renee,
    As educators, we do need to consider the whole child when assessing intelligence. I agree, that testing should include ongoing assessment to judge a child’s growth and development. I researched Finland as well and I think that there is something to be learned from this model. There is so much pressure put on students and teachers when it comes to standardized tests. Learning opportunities are missed as teachers are forced to teach the children “to the test”.


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