What is Mensa? And what is the Mensa IQ test? Mensa is a high IQ society which traces its roots back to 1946. The society was founded by Englishmen Roland Berrill, a barrister and Dr Lance Ware, a scientist and lawyer. The founders sought to create a society where the only qualification for admission was a high IQ, which would be ascertained via a Mensa IQ test or a recognized professionally-administered test. Mensa is a non-political organisation that is free from all social distinctions.
The society’s official objectives are as follows:
- to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members
- to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity
- to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence
Mensa IQ test qualifying scores
Mensa membership is available to individuals who have an IQ score within the top 2% of the population (i.e. a score in the 98% percentile). One in 50 people have the intellectual ability to qualify for Mensa. Aspiring members can either submit prior evidence of having achieved a score in the top 2% on an acceptable IQ test (e.g. Standord Binet, Weschler, Cattell) or can sit a Mensa IQ test (Mensa administers its own admission tests in some countries), but many also sit well-established IQ tests that are administered by Mensa volunteers in a group-test setting. Mensa has local societies in several countries, and the Mensa IQ tests administered may vary from country to country.
Why is the Mensa IQ test threshold set at 2%? The 2% is arbitrary. There are several high IQ societies which may have stricter or looser standards for admission. For instance, the International High IQ Society admits for membership individuals with an IQ in the top 5% of the population (i.e. 1 in 20 people would qualify), while the 999 society admits individuals with an IQ score in the 99.9% (i.e. 1 in 1,000 people could qualify).
The average IQ score of the general population is assumed to be 100. Because IQ follows a normal distribution, this means that 50% of the population will have a score that is greater than 100, and 50% of the population will have a score that is lower than 100.
The Mensa IQ test score for entry depends on the test taken. For instance, the Cattell verbal IQ test has a standard deviation of 24, which means that an IQ score of 148 (i.e. a score that is two standard deviations above the mean of 100 places you in the top 2% of the population) is required to qualify for Mensa membership. Stanford-Binet, on the other hand, has a standard deviation of 16, which means that a score of 132 would be required to qualify for membership. So the IQ test score doesn’t mean anything without also knowing the standard deviation of the test taken.
Mensa IQ tests (or tests administered by Mensa) place great emphasis on speed. The group-tests will usually comprise a test which measures crystallized intelligence (i.e. mainly verbal) and another which measures fluid intelligence (i.e. culture-fair IQ testing). The one common characteristic of these tests is that speed is of the essence.
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Alternatively, if you think you might want to sit a Mensa IQ test, we strongly recommend that you practice here. Practice will help eliminate some of the level of surprise associated with the test, and will ensure that you perform at your best on the day of the test. Click here for Mensa IQ test practice questions.