What Is a Genius IQ Score?

What score do you need to be considered a genius?

Genius IQ Score
Is your IQ score over 160? If so, you are considered a genius. Blend Images - Eric Raptosh Photography/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

People often talk about very high IQ scores, often referred to as genius IQ scores, but what exactly do these numbers mean and how do they stack up? What is considered a genius IQ score?

  • High IQ: Any score over 140
  • Genius IQ Score: 160 and up
  • Unmeasurable Genius: Scores that are 200 and over

But what do these IQ scores really mean? Are people in the "Genius IQ" bracket really that much better off than those in the "High IQ" or even the "Average IQ" brackets?

Having a high IQ is indeed strongly linked to academic success, but is it tied to greater success in life overall? Are geniuses more successful than their lower-IQ counterparts?

Some experts suggest that other factors, including emotional intelligence, might matter even more than IQ.

A Breakdown of IQ Scores

So how exactly do IQ scores break down? The average score on an IQ test is 100. Sixty-eight percent of IQ scores fall within one standard deviation of the mean. That means that the majority of people have an IQ score between 85 and 115.

  • 1 to 24 - Profound mental disability
  • 25 to 39 - Severe mental disability
  • 40 to 54 - Moderate mental disability
  • 55 to 69 - Mild mental disability
  • 70 to 84 - Borderline mental disability
  • 85 to 114 - Average intelligence
  • 115 to 129 - Above average; bright
  • 130 to 144 - Moderately gifted
  • 145 to 159 - Highly gifted
  • 160 to 179 - Exceptionally gifted
  • 180 and up - Profoundly gifted

    What IQ Scores Really Mean

    When people talk about intelligence tests, they often discuss "genius scores." What exactly constitutes a genius score on a measure of intelligence? To understand the score, it is important first to learn a little more about IQ testing in general.

    Today's intelligence tests are based largely on the original test devised in the early 1900s by French psychologist Alfred Binet.

    To identify students in need of extra assistance in school, the French government asked Binet to devise a test that could be used to discover which students were most in need of academic help.

    Based on his research, Binet developed the concept of mental age. Children of certain age groups quickly answered certain questions. Some children were able to respond to the questions typically answered by children of an older age, so these children had a higher mental age than their actual chronological age. Binet's measure of intelligence was based on the average abilities of children of a particular age group.

    What exactly is an IQ score, though? What exactly are these intelligence tests trying to measure?

    Intelligence tests are designed to measure a person's problem-solving and reasoning abilities. Your IQ score is a measure of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Your score on an IQ test indicates how well you did on these tests of mental abilities compared to other people in your age group.

    Understanding IQ Scores

    IQ scores follow what is known as the Bell Curve. To understand what the score on an IQ test means, there are a few key terms that you should know.

    • Bell Curve: When IQ scores are plotted on a graph, they typically follow a bell-shaped curve. The peak of the "bell" occurs where the majority of the scores lie. The bell then slopes down to each side - one side representing scores that are lower than the average, the other side representing scores that are above the average. 
    • Mean: The mean is the average score. The average is calculated by adding all of the scores together, then dividing by the total number of scores.
    • Standard Deviation: A measure of variability in a population. A low standard deviation means that most of the data points are very close to the same value. A high standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very spread out from the average. In IQ testing, the standard deviation is plus or minus 15.

    IQ Scores Are Increasing

    IQ scores have also increased with passing generations. This is known as the Flynn effect, named for researcher James R.


    Since the 1930s when standardized tests first became widespread, researchers have noted a sustained and significant increase in test scores among people all over the world. Flynn has suggested that this increase is due to improvements in our abilities to solve problems, think abstractly, and utilize logic.

    In a 2013 TED Talk, Flynn explained that past generations largely had to deal with the concrete and specific problems of their immediate environments. In contrast, people today are expected to think more about abstract and hypothetical situations. Not only that, but approaches to education have changed dramatically over the past 75 years and more people tend to have jobs identified as cognitively demanding.

    What Do IQ Tests Measure?

    Logic, spatial awareness, verbal reasoning, and visual abilities are some of the key areas assessed by many IQ tests. They are not intended to measure knowledge in specific subject areas like the SAT and ACT tests focus on.

    An IQ test is not something that you can really study for in order to improve your score. Instead, these tests are more interested in looking at your ability to use logic to solve problems, to recognize patterns, and to make rapid connections between different points of information.

    While you might often hear that brilliant individuals, including Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking, possessed IQ's of 160 or higher or that certain Presidential candidates have specific IQs, these numbers are simply estimates. In most of these cases, there is no evidence that these well-known individuals ever took a standardized IQ test, let alone shared these results with the public.

    A Word From Verywell

    IQ tests are indeed interesting, but it's important to remember that they are not the only measurement of intelligence. They focus on certain areas of our abilities and, while they do point to how smart a person may be academically, there are areas in life that someone may be better at than others. In the least, you now have a good understanding of what an IQ test really can tell you.


    Flynn JR. Why Our IQ Levels Are Higher Than Our Grandparents'. TED Talk. 2013.

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