The Difference between IQ and Intelligence

High school isn’t easy; it’s hard. High school at Monta Vista is even harder. Hours upon hours of memorizing and sorting and last minute cramming for a test leaves us exhausted, but with a good grade. Which is all that matters. For now.

But this good grade isn’t necessarily a reflection of how smart we are; it is a more accurate reflection of our IQ, the ability to “teach a person new information and measure knowledge retention”(Schneider).

Change in IQ over time. (Source: Mohamed Nagdy and Max Roser)
Change in IQ over time. (Source: Mohamed Nagdy and Max Roser)


So what exactly is the difference between how smart we are and what our IQ score is? Well, it has more to do with application of knowledge rather than memorization. Eleventh grader, Ivana Hsiao, believes that “IQ is not an accurate representation of smartness, because it only tests the recognition of patterns”.

An IQ test is based on your brain’s ability to sort and recognize patterns, and solve problems with similar methods, much like memorizing a formula and recognizing when to use it. Smartness, on the other hand, involves real world situations, something we don’t come into contact with very often.

According to James Flynn, the students he meet are “‘no different than the medieval peasant who is anchored in his own little world’”. But studies show that we have been getting smarter. IQ’s have been rising 3 points per decade; this may not seem like a lot, but the average range is 90-110, only a 20 point difference.

So where the gap? We have enormous potential, coming from a generation with new technology and access to the world around us, but we’re just not using all our resources effectively. Our IQ may be high, but placing ourselves in mentally challenging situation will help improve our smartness.

Our focus on STEM subjects have also left a hole in our education. “‘I’m not being gloomy but actually the major intellectual thing that disturbs me is that young people . . . are reading less history and less serious novels than [they] used to,’” Flynn states “arguing that we should have a background in the crises that have shaped world history before we form opinions on current politics.”

And it’s not only politics, although this year’s presidential race has been particularly popular. By lacking knowledge of past experiences and their effects, we start living in a one dimensional world, where we have all these modern skills and yet come out of university with no knowledge of how to solve new problems.  

We could make the excuse that no one uses these kinds of things in life anyway, but let’s be real. The world has changed and the assembly-line kind of knowledge doesn’t help anymore. Gone are the days that we can count on getting a job at the local factory or farm for a living. We can’t rely on memorizing formulas and hope that someday someone somewhere will have a problem that we happen to remember from AP Calculus.

Lets face it; the world is getting more complex and we have new problems that are going to need new formulas, which is why having a high IQ isn’t really all that helpful. In response to the quote “ Everybody is  genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” by Albert Einstein, a junior, who asked to remain anonymous, answered that “Intelligence is based on certain fields. You may be smart at one thing but not at the other. This is why IQ isn’t accurate in regards to smartness”.