IQ is one of the traditional measures of intelligence and many people are interested in questions like:

  • What is a good IQ?
  • What is a low IQ?
  • What is an average IQ?

While a scale exists, it can be hard to parse without a bit of guidance. Below is a brief explanation of the IQ scale and what the scores mean.

The Range of IQ Scores

Technically speaking, there is no high end of an IQ scale, while the low end would be set at one. In reality, the lowest scores on the IQ test have been registered in the 40s, with a few possible outliers that could have gone as low as the 20s. As it stands, the current IQ test gathers everyone in this category in the sub-70 range.

The highest IQ ever tested was Fields Medal recipient Terrance Tao with an IQ in the range of 225 to 230. The tests, however, typically group anyone with an IQ above 145 in the range of genius or near-genius.

Typically speaking, the IQ test tends to group people into one of only seven categories. Differences within each category tend to be minimal, while differences between the highest and lowest categories can be significant.

Under 67: Extremely Low

A terribly contentious category, IQ testing isn’t actually used as a benchmark for determining mental disability any longer. Instead, it is one of several possible indicators that an individual may not be legally competent to take care of himself or herself. Only about five percent of all people fall under this number, with the majority of those scoring somewhere between 50 and 67.

70-79: Borderline

Another controversial category, those with an IQ between seventy and seventy-nine are typically considered to be able to take care of themselves but may have some difficulty doing so. Those who remember the 1990s film Forrest Gump might recall that Forrest had an IQ of 75. Only about two percent of all people fall into this category, many of whom you might not expect at first glance. In fact, differentiating between IQs at all at the lower levels can be more a matter of social ability than anything else.

80-89: Low Average

The vast majority of IQ scores – about seventy percent – will find this level as the bottom of the chart. Those with an IQ between eighty and eighty-nine are generally considered to be on the lower end of average. Remember, having an IQ in this range doesn’t mean that you aren’t clever – Steve Jobs was rumored to have an IQ that fell into this range. In most cases, having an IQ of this level means that formal education can be difficult but possible, while normal daily tasks are no more difficult at this range than they are at any other range.

90-109: The Average

If you look around, this is where most of the people you’ll meet will fall. About fifty percent of all the people tested for IQ fall in here. People with this score find education no more or less difficult than most, nor do they tend to have any major intellectually-related problems taking care of themselves. It’s impossible to list famous people who might fall into this category, as at least half of them would show up here. If your IQ falls in this range, you’re in good company.

110-119: High Average

The seventeen percent of individuals who fall into this category tend to be a little more intellectually gifted than others, but not by much. George Washington and JFK both fall in here, as does director Francis Ford Coppola. Those who fall into this range tend to find education a bit easier than their peers, though it has no real impact on activities of daily living. Once you’re at this point, you’re beginning to see changes in how information is processed rather than competency.

120-129: Superior

At this point, you start to see a noticeable difference from the average. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both fall into this category, and some experts estimate that Leonardo da Vinci would have as well. Only about seven percent of all people fall into this rarified space.

130 and Above: Genius to Near Genius

It’s hard to say that there’s really any differentiation in this group, as those with an IQ above 130 tend to make up a very small percentage of the population. This is the MENSA group, the top two percent of all IQ test takers. The major divide comes in at 140, the point at which an individual is typically labeled a genius. Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and numerous other famous figures fall in here. Typically, those with an IQ above 160 tend to have their IQs estimated rather than actually tested.

What is a good IQ score? Generally, anything above 85 means you’re at least average. This is just one way of measuring intelligence, though, so it’s important to look at your IQ as a baseline.