Highest IQ in the world

Terrence Tao is meant to have the highest IQ in the world
Terrence Tao is said to have the highest IQ in the world

Unlike other human characteristics, IQ is not as straightforward to accurately measure. Weight, height and even human strength can be measured with a much greater degree of accuracy. Alfred Binet, one of the forefathers of IQ testing, made one of the biggest contributions to the science by simply pointing out that human intelligence and IQ could only be estimated with a degree of error. So it therefore follows that handing out the designation of “highest IQ in the world” is subject to some degree of error and speculation.

With that in mind, there are quite a few web resources that hand out titles for highest IQ in the world. Let’s investigate a few of them.

  • Terrence Tao: is reported to have an IQ between 220 and 230 (most likely this is closer to 200). Based on a SD of 16, this implies a rarity of 1/11 Billion. This result appears contradictory given that the world population of 7.1 billion. What this illustrates is that ‘black swan’ outliers that are ‘off the charts’ exist when it comes to the highest IQ in the world. So what makes Terrence so smart? First off, he was solving arithmetic problems by the age of 2 when most of us were content with relieving ourselves in our diapers. He went on to score a 760 in SAT math by the age of 8. He also was the youngest ever participant in the mathematics Olympiads, winning bronze, silver and gold in 1986, 1987 and 1988 respectively (he was only 13 when the latter happened!). He graduates with bachelors and masters degrees by the age of 16, winning a Fullbright scholarship to attend Princeton University where he gained his PhD by the tender age of 20. He was appointed a full time professor at UCLA by 24
  • Christopher Hirata: has an IQ estimated around the 195 mark. Christopher was adding up the cost of his parent’s grocery shopping chart by age 3. By age 12, he was taking college level course in physics and calculus. By 13, he won the gold medal at the international physics Olympiad becoming the youngest ever participant to win that distinction. Hirata completed his BSc in mathematics at Caltech by the age of 18 with a GPA of 4.2 and his PhD in physics from Princeton by age 22. He is currently a visiting professor in physics and astronomy at Ohio State University.

Highest IQ in the world: characteristics

So the two case studies for highest IQ in the world share a lot in common: (1) IQ around 200, which represents a rarity of 1/11 billion; (2) a very early display in mathematical abilities; and (3) unique academic achievement from a very young age. Even if the measurement of IQ is not perfect, these two individual’s unprecedented achievements signal unparalleled raw talent.

But you don’t have to look very far to find smart people. We have already found several people with an IQ of c.140 on To find out how you measure up, click here.