Tag Archives: intelligence

For as long as standardized exams like the SAT and ACT have been part of the college admissions process–a long time, indeed–they’ve been mistaken for conventional intelligence tests. This misconception makes sense. After all, the SAT and ACT are standardized tests, and intelligence appears to play a major role in success on these exams. That does not mean, however, that they are the same.  Traditional intelligence testing dates back to the turn of the 20th century, debuting in France and then making a splash in the United States. The various intelligence tests evaluate markers of general intelligence, often referred to as intelligence quotient or simply IQ. Of course, defining intelligence itself poses pernicious challenges, especially to those who ascribe to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. However, general intelligence, also known as g, encompasses both crystallized and fluid intelligence, basically knowledge and problem solving ability respectively. Below these broad categories lie specific…

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The recent negative publicity that the SAT has received once again exposed College Board’s inability to provide students and colleges with both a perfect test environment and a reliable measurement tool. This is nothing new. It just received a lot of publicity this time. After the story broke, my wife asked me why the colleges don’t offer their own entrance exams. My response was that despite having more than fifty years to come up with an alternative, they have done nothing. Sadly–and I say this as a parent–I don’t think it will ever change. Colleges simply do not have the resources to give your child’s application the review time that it deserves. As a result, they are dependent on two numbers: GPA and test scores. One would hope that GPA is a reasonable measure of a student’s academic accomplishments, although high schools are unfortunately not immune to the grade inflation…

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It was once thought that growing up in a bilingual home was a detriment to a baby’s cognitive development. Scientists believed that the child would become confused or develop schizophrenia or a split personality. Today we know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Speaking another language goes far beyond just learning a second set of words, phrases, and metaphors. Learning a second language can actually increase the size of the hippocampus–the area of the brain responsible for creating, storing, and retrieving memories and information–while also increasing the amount of neural pathways connecting other parts of the brain. Here are a few more cognitive benefits to learning another language: Multilingual people tend to score better on standardized tests. They are better at remembering lists and sequences. They are more perceptive to their surroundings. They are better able to focus on important information while sifting out unimportant or misleading information.…

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Education, or at least learning, must be more than the memorization of facts and routines. Learning is a process of developing ways of looking at the world, frameworks of reasoning, representation, and calculation that we can apply to different situations. Basically, learning is about developing mental models.   A mental model describes a way to think about something. As a result, we should never try to apply a single model to every situation. Why do we need more than one? The investor Charlie Munger, who has mastered many complex systems to massive profit in his day, has said much about mental models: “… the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. “You’ve got to have models in…

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Intelligence just ain’t what it used to be. For much of human history, knowledge signified smarts. Those that remembered facts, recounted history, and memorized big vocabulary words presented as the formidable intellects in their towns, villages, or duchies. Simply knowing things is what made us smart. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: a mere mastery of facts stopped being sufficient evidence of real intelligence. Knowledge remains necessary, certainly, but far from sufficient. Why isn’t remembering facts enough to be considered very smart? Albert Einstein, that immortal avatar of genius, described the distinction when asked to recall a simple fact, in this case the speed of sound: “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. …The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” True…

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All standardized tests tend to be lumped into the same amorphous category, even though different exams obviously, either by design or error, test different attributes and abilities. The SAT and ACT represent the pinnacles of test design, each meticulously crafted over decades to assess much more than the average test taker can imagine. Neither of these exams qualify as IQ tests, but both require the application of various forms of intelligence. Psychologist Raymond Cattell classified two different types of intelligence: crystallized and fluid. Crystallized intelligence represents the ability to access and use learned knowledge, skills, and experience. On the SAT & ACT, crystallized intelligence represents, among other things, knowledge of grammar rules, math formulas, and vocabulary. Fluid intelligence represents the ability to solve think logically, solve problems, identify patterns, and handle novel scenarios. This category also encompasses mental traits like executive function, working memory, and processing speed. On the SAT…

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