Science 3 min read

IQ Bell Curve: What Does It Mean

Olivier Le Moal /

Olivier Le Moal /

What follows on IQ, IQ 130, and “IQ Bell Curve” must be taken with a grain of salt. It shouldn’t lead to any faulty generalization or hasty judgment as nothing is written in scientific stone.

Firstly, intelligence is a particularly complex topic because it is hard to define. Second, it seems that intelligence is becoming a powerful universal criterion of individual value.

You can’t use superlatives when talking about people’s intelligence. At least not as liberally as when comparing their height, weight, fortune, appearance, and other physical and social traits.

Yet, we have a label for individual intelligence: Intelligence Quotient.

First, What is IQ?

The intelligence quotient, IQ, is one of the means to assess the general human intelligence or g factor. Unlike height and weight units, IQ is an indirect comparative measure. Thus the result is not perfect.

Like height, weight, and other human variables, IQ may vary within a wide range. Most people would fall within the middle.

The more you go toward both ends, the fewer people you’d find and the more extreme the cases.

Very high and very low IQ scores don’t occur often, which makes them harder to measure using intelligence tests.

Although contentious, standardized IQ tests often don’t assign a specific IQ score, but rather an “IQ range.” It tells you how does your IQ measures against the average of the reference group.

It’s More of an IQ Bell Curve

There are many types of IQ tests, each giving its score.

However, these psychometric tests are normed tests that compare an individual’s performance compared to a large group of people, or the “norming group.”

Intelligence is “tricky,” affected by several elements, like environmental factors and dozens of genes. IQ tests help us put a number on it.

IQ scores have an average mean of 100, with standard deviations going higher or lower on each side by 15 points.

Based on most IQ tests, the IQ score of around 70 percent of the population (read: IQ test-takers) falls between 85 and 115.

Above 115 are generally considered “high IQ.” Those with IQ 130 and above are usually considered “highly gifted.”

People with IQ of 130 make up the top 2 percent of the population.

The higher above IQ 130, the more a person ventures into the geniuses realm. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, for example, is said to have an IQ of 160.

Albert Einstein has never undergone an IQ test, but experts estimate he must have been 160 or higher, just like Steve Jobs.

The distribution of IQ scores in the general population forms what’s called the “IQ Bell Curve.” The extreme ends of the IQ Bell Curve are 70 and 145.

A person whose intelligence falls below or above the standard deviations from the mean could either be intellectually disabled or a genius.

You can pat yourself on the back if you score an IQ of 130 or anything more toward the higher end of the IQ Bell Curve. But being that smart, you surely know that there’s still social and emotional intelligence(s) beyond mere cognitive abilities.

If you don’t find yourself in the 99th percentile of the population, don’t fret! You can be in the lower half of the IQ Bell Curve, or you may never take an IQ test, and live happier than geniuses.

Read More: Recent IQ Scores Show That Humans are Getting Dumber

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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