The Pros & Cons of IQ Testing in Schools

Written by carolyn scheidies
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The Pros & Cons of IQ Testing in Schools
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Intelligent Quotient (IQ) testing in schools has become prevalent over the last fifteen to twenty years. Children who used to be tested in high school are now often tested in the lower grades. Rationale for IQ testing takes several forms, and some of the reasoning behind implementing the testing makes sense. However, as in every decision made and carried out, there are both intended and unintended consequences.

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Positive Outcomes

IQ testing in schools stemmed from the reasoning that if schools discovered the IQ of the students, teachers could focus on teaching to the particular needs of each student; a student could be taught at a level that he could and would comprehend. The rationale was that if the material was IQ-directed, students wouldn't be forced to try to learn material they were clearly incapable of understanding.

Unintended Consequences

Teaching according to IQ means more work for teachers, who then must prepare several different lessons about the same subject in order to teach to the perceived understanding of the students. Teachers, administration and even parents often make judgments of total intelligence based on IQ test results. IQ tests, at most, test only one or two aspects of a student's capabilities. Once IQ results are revealed, students may be branded with the results. It may change the way others view them as people, and even the way they view themselves, limiting their potential to succeed.

Not Infallable

Cultural differences hinder results, as do learning disabilities that have no affect on intelligence. A student who is becoming ill at the time of the IQ test may not test well, yet the result can haunt that student for the rest of his academic life. Some students just don't test well. They may do great on daily work and understand the subject, but the stress and/or fear of failure inherent in test taking immobilises their brain functions.


The IQ testing and the IQ learning model separates students. Other students quickly pick up on who makes the grade and who doesn't. While IQ test results are supposed to be kept confidential, students know from the changes in teaching methods for their fellow students who is considered “smart” and who is not. While this has always been the case to some extent, IQ testing appears to students to validate their perceptions.


If an IQ test in school is kept in perspective with the realisation that tests aren't perfect, and if the students' work and other factors are taken into consideration, an IQ test can provide one baseline teachers can use to help students reach their fullest potential. Repeated IQ testing can also reveal problems with the technique. A repeat test may show whether the original IQ test revealed the actual IQ or if, for one reason or another, the student just did not test well.


IQ testing in school can help parents consider educational options. For some students, this may mean staying in the regular classroom; others may need some specialised educational resources and teaching, and for other students, homeschooling might be indicated.

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