How Important is IQ/Natural Intelligence for Getting into Top-Tier Grad Schools?

Answered on Quora.
It’s very important, but as the answers below suggest, no school will ask you for that, and you might not even want to volunteer it. Some of the answers below don’t make sense.
Some say IQ doesn’t matter, grades do. IQ is very highly correlated with grades. Testing well on GRE’s will be very highly correlated with IQ. Of course the ability to do good research will be well correlated with IQ. And I am sure that recommendation letters and their quality is correlated with IQ also.
So most of these answers are circular, tautological. They are saying, “IQ isn’t important. It’s all these other things (that just happen to be highly correlated with IQ) that are important.” So IQ’s important after all.
Some quotes are correct though. You will have to work your ass off in grad school no matter what your IQ is, and you may not even graduate out. I almost didn’t get my Masters, and I have a stratospheric IQ. Everyone wants to get the doctorate, but the Masters was such murder that no way am I going for something a lot worse.
IQ is natural intelligence.
One answer below says they are looking for grad students who can come up with novel methods to solve unsolved problems. What do you think an IQ test looks for almost more than anything else? Just that.
Bottom line: If you are thinking of getting into grad school for purposes of getting a PhD, an IQ of 125 is highly recommended: this is the average IQ of PhD holders. I suspect there is a floor of ~115 for PhD degrees. There is a similar floor at that level for physicians.
Go ahead and look up your score from school or pay a clinician to administer a good test, or if you are still in school, ask to be tested. Go the Psychology Department and ask if the Counseling Office balks – they often will test you for free.
If you do not have at least a 115 IQ, I would seriously reconsider trying to get into a PhD program at a top university. You are setting yourself up for failure. The only exception would be if you have a very lopsided IQ such that say you have great math skills but poor language skills so you end up like the well-known female mathematician with a 98 IQ.
17% of the population has an IQ of 115+. That’s 54 million Americans, which is a lot of people.

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5 thoughts on “How Important is IQ/Natural Intelligence for Getting into Top-Tier Grad Schools?”

  1. I agree with your correlation between high IQ and admission to graduate school. Completing a Ph.D. also requires an incredible level of persistence for most people. My Ph.D. in radiation biophysics required 11 years of full-time work after I graduated from an elite undergraduate science and engineering school, Harvey Mudd College.
    The negative economic consequences of a pursuit of a technology Ph.D. are summarized in the April 14, 1993 Wall Street Journal article, “Black Hole Opens in Scientist Job Rolls.” See also the December 4, 1994 Newsweek article “No Ph.D.s Need Apply.” Both articles feature some of my experience. The actual cause of the problem is special interests lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass arcane legislation that serves as de-facto government-sanctioned foreign-hiring-preference program for foreign nationals in technology-based fields. The work visa program is called “H-1B.” This controversial program which began as the H-1 Visa in 1976 – and its progeny should be immediately repealed as “Bad Law” because they are built on a foundation of fraud. Sadly, I know of smart U.S. citizens that have died as a consequence of employer abuse of the H-1B Visa program. I hope that you will discuss the H-1B and OPT work visa programs further, as they harm huge numbers of intelligent American citizens.
    As a long-distance runner whose lifetime mileage is in the 25,000 mile range during 42 years, I believe that there is a strong correlation between completing a 26.2 mile marathon and completing a Ph.D. I completed 3 marathons and numerous shorter distances until my lower back gave out around five years ago.

    1. I am absolutely floored by your intellectual and physical accomplishments in your life. They deserve the highest of praise. You obviously had a gift or two from birth, but you also worked incredibly hard, harder than most folks do at much of anything.
      I have written quite a bit about the Hindu 1-B program. It’s a typical consequence of capitalism. The capitalists all want the Hindu 1-B program. Under capitalism, the capitalists capture 100% of the media and almost all of the government too, especially the executive and legislative branches. The H-1 B program would have to be stopped by the state where the executive and legislative branches are both of full of very rich men, a few capitalists and almost all of the rest of them who are in essence being bribed and pretty much owned by the big capitalists.
      For some reason, people can’t seem to figure this out, though it’s so obvious to me. It’s a severe drawback to most capitalist market systems, where the market becomes a form of Politics and takes over society, communication and the state. Now if you want to talk socialist market systems like they have in China, I’m listening.
      And if those tech firms were owned or controlled by their workers, they could still be run competitively for a profit, but how many workers would vote to replace themselves with cheap foreign labor.

      1. Dear Robert: I agree with you. My first sentence reads, “I agree with your correlation between high IQ and admission to graduate school.” I also agree with the concluding sentence of your reply.

      2. I’m pleased to see the 30 results when I conduct the Google query “Robert A Lindsay” “H-1B.” I’m surprised with the modest number of intelligent people who have the courage to criticize this lethal program. Among other items, my research suggests that a number of H-1B Visa beneficiaries at the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) and First Energy were responsible for the massive August 14, 2003 blackout.

  2. Thank you for correcting your response to me. You may learn more about my activism via the Google query of both phrases, “H-1B” and “Gene Nelson.” I have twice testified in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the harms of the controversial H-1B Visa program. I also testified twice to the National Academy of Sciences on the same topic. My 110-page “Victim Impact Statement” was accepted as Exhibit 40 in the 2006 D.C. District Court federal corruption case styled as “USA v. Abramoff” Per Google, there are now 427 responses to the above Google query. . FWIW, I have also been a Mensa member. My most memorable meeting was one in New York City featuring Isaac Asimov, Ph.D. My current activism since 2013 to save PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant is found via a search for “Californians for Green Nuclear Power.”

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