I started working with a clinical psychologist last week,  Dr. Adam G. Stein, in search of techniques to improve my focus and working memory.  The first few sessions included a battery of I.Q and achievement tests.

There were, of course, a few surprises: (Surprise!)

1) I was sure my backwards memory (i.e. repeat a sequence backwards) would be terrible.  Turns out it’s better than my forward memory.  Not sure what this means yet.

2)  I find the process enormously fun (actually, that might not be a surprise, but still worth noting).

3) There is absolutely overlap between the IQ and SAT tests.  Just speaking from firsthand experience, I’d say they’re first cousins — maybe once removed — but definitely share the same DNA.

For example, I.Q. test questions look just like these SAT questions:

According to Nicholas Lemann’s book,  The Big Test, the SAT did in fact start out as a sort of I.Q. test in the 1920s.

SAT used to stand for “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” but in 1993, the College Board changed it because that sounded too I.Q.-ish. Then it became a “Reasoning Test,” and now I don’t believe those letters stand for anything in particular.

Here’s what the College Board has to say:

The SAT tests the skills you’re learning in school: reading, writing and math. Your strength in these subjects is important for success in college and throughout your life.


And,  Wikipedia about the I.Q./SAT connection:

Certain high IQ societies, like Mensa, the Prometheus Society and the Triple Nine Society, use scores from certain years as one of their admission tests. For instance, the Triple Nine Society accepts scores of 1450 on tests taken before April 1995, and scores of at least 1520 on tests taken between April 1995 and February 2005.

The SAT is sometimes given to students younger than 13 by organizations such as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, who use the results to select, study and mentor students of exceptional ability.

Frey and Detterman (2003) analyzed the correlation of SAT scores with intelligence test scores.[20] They found SAT scores to be highly correlated with general mental ability, or g (r=.82 in their sample). 


Gawd, could you imagine if it turns out that my own I.Q. is the final road block?

llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis