Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

IQs in Academia


IQ tests are not a particularly great way of measuring intelligence – for one thing, you can learn how to do them. But it is nevertheless amusing to look at this compilation of IQ scores by academic subject (I presume these scores are for students in these subjects not academics).

I’m looking smug because Physics comes out on top. Not that this means anything of course.

  • 130.0 Physics
  • 129.0 Mathematics
  • 128.5 Computer Science
  • 128.0 Economics
  • 127.5 Chemical engineering
  • 127.0 Material science
  • 126.0 Electrical engineering
  • 125.5 Mechanical engineering
  • 125.0 Philosophy
  • 124.0 Chemistry
  • 123.0 Earth sciences
  • 122.0 Industrial engineering
  • 122.0 Civil engineering
  • 121.5 Biology
  • 120.1 English/literature
  • 120.0 Religion/theology
  • 119.8 Political science
  • 119.7 History
  • 118.0 Art history
  • 117.7 Anthropology/archeology
  • 116.5 Architecture
  • 116.0 Business
  • 115.0 Sociology
  • 114.0 Psychology
  • 114.0 Medicine
  • 112.0 Communication
  • 109.0 Education
  • 106.0 Public administration

A pity pay rates don’t follow the same hierarchy.

Other commentary on this can be found here.


Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

16 thoughts on “IQs in Academia

  1. The problem with the IQ scale is that it suggest a higher degree of accuracy, than it can actually meassure. It is my strong suspicion that someone’s IQ can only be meassured with a margin of error of 10 points, this because if you let one person make a IQ test in different circumstances, the results will also differ by great amount.

    • Quite. The problem with all sorts of things like this is that they don’t come with error bars – IQ, University rankings, proposal rankings etc. etc. Of course the groups producing such things wouldn’t make as much (any?) money if they were forced to admit how inaccurate they are.

      • In science, the most interesting data are the error bars. Because they tell us something about the quality of our data. The sad fact is that most people do not understand terms such as “on average” and “variance”.

      • Quite!

        But politicians demand certainty and can’t handle the truth that things are uncertain.

        And as for distributions that are more complex than a gaussian – things like income distributions, for example, that are hugely skewed and where simple measures of ‘spread’ like variance are inadequate – they wouldn’t know where to start. And most economists wouldn’t know where to start either.

      • Gaussian curves are actually quite rare, at least outside fields such as physics. But their popularity is based on their simplicity.

      • There is a mythology about them thanks to the central limit theorem, but that is misleading. Look where it gets you if you assume gaussianity in loan default risks…

      • We all know by now…

      • Not sure the economists have taken on nongaussianity yet, at least not in the City. I’d expect them to be saying much more about power law distributions and scale free market movements if they did. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place.

      • And don’t get me started on biomedical statistics. p=0.05 as the grounds for acceptance? Don’t make me laugh!

      • That rule of thumb stems from the time before we understood the relation between genes and medication. In the future medication will be more individualistic, and doctor will take one’s genetics into account when prescribing drugs.

  2. Remember that Eisenhower was shocked when an aide mentioned in passing that half of the population of the United States of America was below average in intelligence.

  3. I’d expect physicists and mathematicians to come out top whether you believe the scores actually reflect relative intelligence or that people in these disciplines are good at doing the tests but why are the averages so low? Shouldn’t they be at least ten points higher?

    • These are based on US GRE test scores, and so come from people trying to get into graduate school. Not all of them will get places, let alone PhDs or an academic job. The conversion from these score4s to IQ is also uncertainly calibrated so there may well be some kind of offset for all the values, possibly accounting for the 10 point shift you suggest. The relative calibration should be pretty reliable though.

      • I read chemistry at university. Whilst I have scored up to 212 on IQ tests, I think the most reliable measurement was 134 which does suggest a ten point shift.

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