Friday, 23 August 2013

Embracing my inner swot - Mensa Test

You might remember back towards the end of June that I wrote about a Channel 4 TV series called “Child Genius”. If you don’t, well, it’s no big deal. Basically it was a Channel 4 documentary focusing on some of the children contesting the final stages of the Mensa child genius competition. Very interesting it was too. In my first post I wrote that I was interested that a General Knowledge test was one of the measures used. Well, one thing led to another, and I went to the Mensa website to try to find out more. I read all about the conditions for actually joining Mensa, basically that you have to sit two tesst, and achieve a score within the top 2% in either of them to be invited to join. In much the same spirit that I filled in my application for the 2007 SOBM of Mastermind, I filled in an application for a test, and posted it off ASAP before I had time for second thoughts.

Last Saturday I went and sat the tests in a rather cheap hotel in Cardiff. Worryingly neither the Mensa people running the tests, nor the candidates sitting them could work out how to work the coffee machines properly. Twice I was given hot chocolate when I wanted cappuccino, however, I digress. At the start of the test the nice lady who was running the whole show made a point of saying that knowledge had no part in the test, and would not help at all. Not that I was expecting it to do so, but even so it didn’t do a great deal for my confidence. I’ll come back to this whole thing of knowledge v. intelligence shortly.

The first test was called The Culture Fair Test. This was a non-verbal test, and basically, there were shapes. Lots of them, in sequences. It’s only been a few days since I took the test, but even so the details are blurring in my memory. I think that there were some – pick the one that completes the sequence, some – pick the odd one out, and so on and so forth. As you’d expect, they start with easy ones, and then get steadily harder. If it had just been down to this test, then I wouldn’t have fancied my chances much. The second test though, called the Cattell B, was much more to my liking, though. Most of this was word based, and this is where I want to come back to the idea of knowledge as opposed to intelligence. Large parts of this test seemed to me to be testing your appreciation of nuances of vocabulary, and I would have thought that vocabulary could be called an area of knowledge. Not that I’m complaining, for I felt on much surer ground on this test. As it happens, it wasn’t so much the word questions that I enjoyed, as much as what I thought were pure logic puzzles at the end.

When I asked after the test I was told it would be about two weeks before I would be sent the results, so I was a little surprised when the results came through the post today. As I suspected I scored better on the Cattell B than the Culture Fair, but the upshot is that I did well enough to be invited to join.

I posted about the invitation on my status on Facebook, and several friends whose opinions I respect and take notice of congratulated me, but also noted that they had been members before, but had left because of disillusionment and disappointment with the organization. Well, the thing is I’ve come this far now, and I’d like to see for myself. So I shall be sending in the form, and then we’ll see how it goes. One more thing to appease my inner swot, I suppose you could say.

1 comment:

Ewan M said...

I took the Mensa test a few years ago. I was writing articles for a football website at the time and thought it might be a fun experiment to take the test and report back on the experience. I passed. Much like yourself the Cattell B test, which deals primarily with verbal intelligence, was very much to my liking. I also took a number of tests that enabled me to join other "high IQ" societies from the IHIQS (which accepts entrants at the rather more workmanlike 95th percentile and upwards) to a few "elite" 99th percentile+ organisations where the entrance exams make the Mensa test seem like a Big Brother application form. Just as I'm not sure if there is very much correlation between conspicuous displays of general knowledge and intelligence (though Richard Dawkins, who once suggested that University Challenge-type GK tests might be a better way of selecting candidates for Oxbridge than A Level results, has opined otherwise) I'm far from convinced that scoring well in IQ tests discloses much more than an ability to score well in IQ tests.