Staying Sharp For Dummies
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The benefit of IQ tests to measure language skills is that they're based on the responses of thousands of people from different backgrounds. Psychologists use many different types of tests to measure how the brain works, including IQ tests. IQ stands for "intelligence quotient." A person's IQ is defined by how that person performs on one of several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence.

IQ scores provide an excellent representation of standard language ability across different age brackets. For example, verbal IQ tests reveal the expected language ability for individuals in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and so on. So you don't have to guess how good your skills are — you can measure by comparing your scores to your age group on an objective test.

Looking at the verbal scores on IQ tests

The purpose of the verbal component of IQ tests is to measure your language skills. If you haven't already guessed, your mastery of language is important in everything you do.

These questions measure how well you use language to express your thoughts, understand ideas, and converse with other people. You can see examples of a variety of questions from different aspects of IQ tests in the next section.

You can find a range of tests on the Internet that claim to give you an accurate score for your IQ. You may find taking such tests to be a good mental exercise. However, remember not all online tests are accurate. To be accurate, an IQ test must have undergone the strict scientific rigor to make sure it measures your skills in a reliable and valid manner. Don't worry, though. If you're interested in finding out what your IQ is, many tests are scientifically valid and can provide insight into your abilities.

Measuring your brain's IQ

Would you like to test your IQ? Here are some examples of IQ test questions you can answer:
  • How are a dog and a cat the same?
  • How are an apple and an orange the same?
You may have guessed that this type of test measures how well you can compare things in the world around you. You may have said that a dog and a cat are both animals, which is a good response. But a better response would be that they're both domesticated animals or pets. What about an apple and an orange? Some people point out that they're both round and, of course, they're both fruits. The purpose of this test is to measure how well you can verbalize in detail how two different things (dog and cat) can be considered alike.

Try some different ones now:

  • Give a short definition for the word fashion.
  • Give a short definition for the word democracy.
The answers you give for these questions tend to reflect your own experiences. For example, you may define fashion as "useless" or "a waste of time." Although this description may accurately reflect your own views, you'll probably get a score of zero. A good answer would be "a prevailing style or custom." This answer would get a score of 2. An IQ test like this one measures not only how well you know the definition of a word but also how well you can define it.

Try one more pair of examples:

  • What would you do if you saw someone running off with a shopping bag and a woman crying "Help"?
  • What would you do if you saw someone struggling in the water?
These questions measure how well you can respond to social situations and apply your common sense. Here again, your experiences may direct your responses. For example, you may have just read in the news about a man who successfully chased away a burglar from his house and, inspired by this story, you respond that you'd pursue the person running off with the bag. Or perhaps you have a fear of water and wouldn't want to jump in to help a struggling person, but you may answer the second question by saying you'd throw her a rope so you could help pull her to safety.

Psychologists and statisticians have carefully vetted the questions in an IQ test to make sure they provide an accurate measure of your language and other cognitive skills. After completing an IQ test, you get a score ranging between 50 and 150.

So what does your score mean? Most people score between 85 and 115. That's pretty good considering a score of 100 is the middle point. But some people (less than 3 percent of the population) score above average: 130 or higher. On the flip side, some people get a low score, perhaps close to 50. Here again, a small percentage of the population gets such a low score. But remember: Your IQ score doesn't define you. Making the most of your brain power and staying sharp mentally is the key, no matter what your IQ score.

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The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older people.

The Health in Aging Foundation is a national non-profit organization established in 1999 by AGS to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public.

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