IQ – myth or meaningful?

At some time or another, just about everyone has their IQ measured. Such a test might be an explicit IQ measurement, where you get a score afterwards – 100 is the mean result. This may be for fun or perhaps for consideration for membership of MENSA [as I dabbled with many years ago]. Often such tests are used as part of a broader assessment or have a specific application.

An example is computer programming aptitude …

I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no qualifications that permit me to do my job. Fortunately, I have not been masquerading as a doctor or a lawyer or some profession where specific qualifications are required in order to practise legally. To be a software engineer, you just need to persuade your employer that you are up to the job.

I guess that, nowadays, most people seeking jobs in software would have a degree in computer science or somesuch. When I was at university, there were less courses that delivered such courses, but there was a rapidly growing demand for software engineering staff. Employers tended to take a pragmatic view: if you were smart enough to get a degree [in something] and you had a suitable aptitude [which they felt that they could assess], it was worthwhile hiring you and providing the necessary training. That is how I got started. My degree was in Materials Science; software was my hobby.

The typical software engineering aptitude test was essentially a [slightly] stripped down standard IQ test. It turns out that I am quite good at such tests. I do not attach any particular significance to this fact, other than to say I have a knack for logical puzzles. When I was seeking my first job, I did quite a few of those tests and, the more I did, the better my aptitude became!

I had lots of interviews and lots of tests, which resulted in quite a few job possibilities. But one company sticks in my mind. This was a large computer company that wanted to hire quite a few graduates. They invited a bunch of us up to London for interviews etc. We arrived in the afternoon for an informal meeting and some presentations, then we were sent out for the evening, with some of the previous year’s intake of graduates, for food and beer. As a student, the prospect of free beer was very attractive [actually, it still is!] and I partook enthusiastically. The sting in the tail was that I was required to be back at their offices at 8:00 the following morning for tests and interviews. I managed to get up and arrive there in time, but I did not feel great. I was given a cup of coffee and then presented with an aptitude test. I did my best, just following my instincts, as thinking was too challenging. When I finished, I waited for the results.

I did not need to wait long. I was almost immediately shown into an interview room, where the guy had a printout in front of him. The initial discussion started like this:
Him: “Good morning. How are you today?”
Me: “Hello. Fine thanks. Actually I have been better.”
Him: “So you enjoyed your evening out yesterday?”
Me: “Yes, very much. Too much perhaps.”
Him: “I was just wondering … I have never seen anyone get the test 100% right before.”

We talked some more and I was offered a job. I did not accept. Even though I was impressed by a company that supplied free beer.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2014/06/19/iq-myth-or-meaningful/