What IQ Isn’t

A number of students have recently taken the CogAT test in Douglas County School District. It can be nerve-wracking to receive the results, especially if you are anticipating a particular score. While I’m hopeful that your child’s CogAT results give you information that you already suspected to be true, I believe it helps it helps to have context about what IQ is and what it isn’t.

The first thing to know about IQ test results is that the results do not define your child. Your child is much more than a number (or set of numbers, as the case may be). This is so important I think it bears repeating: Your child is much more than their IQ. Your child is the combination of their personality, humor, relationships, spirituality, physical body, emotions, and so much more.

IQ test scores do not measure an innate trait, like sex or chromosomal syndromes. An IQ test measures how well a child does on an IQ test. A bunch of psychologists have come up with ideas about what IQ is and what it isn’t, and they’ve devised ways of measuring what they are trying to describe (intelligence). But you should know that this has changed over the years as they’ve tried to improve their ideas and measuring techniques. Now… IQ scores are correlated with other behaviors, such as school and occupational achievements, but please remember IQ is not something in someone’s DNA.

We want to think of an IQ test score like your child’s height. The height does not make a child who he or she is. It may help or hinder certain activities; for instance, a five-foot-two-inch boy may not do as well at basketball. But the height of the child does not determine the child’s identity or future. A six-foot-four-inch boy may not excel at basketball or even like the sport.

Similarly, IQ may influence what your child does in his or her life and how he or she does it. But his or her IQ test score is merely one part of your child.

It’s also important to know that IQ is not always one number. When we have our child tested, we are typically looking for information. And, oh how we long for clear, concise, and consistent information. When grandma calls and asks about the test results, wouldn’t it be nice to just give her one number? And wouldn’t it be great to hear the number and know for certain whether or not the child will end up in the Discovery Program? This does not always happen.

It is fairly common to need more than one IQ score to describe a child’s abilities. IQ is a complex idea that includes many different cognitive abilities. People typically vary on their performance of these abilities. The IQ scores in each of these ability areas give information, they seek to describe the strengths and challenges that are part of your child’s experience. If the strengths are super strong and the challenges are quite weak, one number doesn’t give us accurate information; it underestimates the strengths as well as the challenges. More numbers can be quite helpful by giving us more precise information of the child’s abilities.

Most important, please know that IQ does not make or break a child. IQ does not ensure success in a career. IQ does not predict whether an individual experiences joy or finds contentment in life. Whether your child ends up identified as gifted or not, Douglas County School District provides excellent education for all children. I’m hopeful your child will receive attention, knowledge and challenge appropriate for their abilities.