How smart am I really?

Been meaning to collect my notes on the topic. I have a selfish interest in psychometric testing that arises from the inferiority complex and dissonance that, in turn, comes from being a smart guy who can’t function as an adult. I get asked far too often why I work at a McDonald’s, and sometimes I’m unprepared and lost for words. How do you explain to a normal person that college isn’t for smart kids? Where do you start?

Anyway, this seemed like a good time to partially answer the question, as I’d just wandered from the Chateau to to complete the dark triad traits questionnaire (Narcissism 10.6th percentile, Machiavellianism 22.8th percentile, Psychopathy 24th percentile). Anyway, they had borrowed an IQ test from, so I gave it a shot.

Short story, my educated guess in response to physphilmusic over at Vox Populi was correct.

I don’t know. I can only say with a reasonable degree of certainty that it’s above 130.

Professional Opinion

Some four years ago now, a psychologist tested me for ADHD. Turns out I was right in thinking I’m a little more prone to inattention than average. Who knew, right? (Apparently everyone but me until college.) Anyway, part of the test was a short-form IQ battery of sorts. Too bad she didn’t give me the full battery, because I wouldn’t have to write all this speculation, but getting an IQ test is expensive and I guess it’s bad business to give ’em away for free.

I still remember the ensuing conversation pretty well.

Laura: “I think that’s enough.”

Aeoli: “Wait, I think I can get this last one.”

Laura: “I’m sure you could. You probably know this already, but you’re very bright.”

Aeoli: “Yeah. Does that matter?”

Laura: “It does, because your academic record is all over the place.”

Aeoli: “Alphabet soup.”

Laura: “Right, but you should be getting all A’s. Your intelligence is probably somewhere in the 99th percentile.”

Aeoli: “Even in [University of] Michigan engineering?” (At the time I probably couldn’t have told you what IQ stood for.)

Laura: “Yes.” (This isn’t necessarily true. Sure, a 136 IQ without dysfunction and good study skills can get straight A’s in UofM nuclear engineering, but even then it’s not a sure thing.)

Aeoli: “But my grades were always all over the place. After middle school I think I had a 3.25 and I failed a couple of classes because I didn’t want to do the homework.”

Laura: “And that’s why I’m so sure that you have ADHD.” (From here, she went on to explain the connection with the other tests.)

AFOQT Scores (Form S/2)

Back in 2006 I was 18. I can barely remember it, but I remember being surprised that my verbal percentile was so much lower than usual on a standardized test. Similarly, my quantitative percentile was higher. This suggests to me that, aside from the fact that SATs and ACTs are now achievement tests rather than aptitude tests, the Air Force (and probably the armed forces in general) are recruiting their officers with a heavy verbal emphasis. Either that, or I’m a math genius and somehow never realized it (keeping in mind that this test is normed for college undergrads).

Acad Aptitude: 93
Verbal percentile: 75
Quantitative: 96

They also tested for “pilot” and “navigator” skillsets, probably for the nefarious reasons that Steve Sailer mentioned.


This particular IQ test spots me at 136 +/- 6, with a spectacular set of disclaimers that puts my disaffection at ease. If you’re not interested in criticism of survey methods, just skip to the next section.

You got 54 questions correct. “IQ” is calculated relative to the general population by setting the average score equal to 100 IQ points. Below is a graph of how other people have scored on this test.


If they were the general population, you would have an IQ of 126. However they are not, in fact the people who have taken this test are quite a selected sample. So here comes the fuzzy part that no online IQ test does very well; we have to estimate how much higher the IQ of the people who take this test is than the general population.

To do this, the vocabulary section of this test included ten words that make up the WORDSUM test of the General Social Survey, a broad random sample of the United States adult populaton taken every year. Below is a graph of how people who are part of the General Social Survey and people who have taken this IQ test score.


The effect size is d = 0.66, which equals 9.9 IQ points.

That makes the estimate for your IQ 136 +/- 6.

Wordsums and general vocab

Never met a wordsum I haven’t maxed. That corresponds to an IQ a bit higher than 128, because a person at exactly 128 (if such a thing were definite) would occasionally miss a word. At 128, my distribution of correct answers would look more like this: 10/10, 10/10, 9/10, 10/10, 8/10, 10/10, 10/10…

If I’m remembering correctly, estimated my total vocabulary to be approximately 32,000 words. For a 25-year-old, that ought to correspond with a near-perfect or perfect verbal SAT score.

When I take the Merriam-Webster vocab quiz, I typically score about 3.5 standard deviations above the average for my age group.

SAT Scores

Reading: 690 (94th percentile)
Math: 620 (80th percentile)
Writing: 620 (86th percentile)

Pretty ho-hum for a near-genius. I’ve never been a motivated student, very much in spite of the fact that I’m indiscriminately curious.

ACT Scores

I’ve lost them and the online “service” is quite hostile to the idea of retrieving them (there’s a mandatory 20-minute queue just to get my username and password), but I remember my overall score was definitely 28 (91st percentile). I think my reading score was 32 (95th percentile), math was probably 27 (88th percentile), science was 26 (87th percentile), and English was 30 (92nd percentile).

I don’t rely on the ACT and SAT scores much in weighting my estimate, because they are achievement tests and not aptitude tests (and because my memory of the ACT scores is imprecise). So they measure other things, aside from natural ability.


My previous estimates (135 or so) are very close to being correct. I think this is supported by the evidence and suggests that I am an intelligent, but highly inattentive and maladapted person. So now I finally have an answer for all the people who ask why I work at McDonald’s.

I’m still planning to get properly tested when I’m 28. No longer as ingenopathic as I once was, I see no reason I shouldn’t test prep.

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2 Responses to How smart am I really?

  1. Zeke says:

    That’s a great conversation starter.

    “Why do you work at McDonald’s?”
    “I’m smart but maladapted and inattentive.”
    “Ah. I think I see my friend across the room. I should go.”

    Also, I looked up ingenopathic. I’m suddenly one new vocabulary term smarter 🙂

  2. Basically, except in casual conversation I prefer:

    “Why do you work at McDonald’s?”

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