A Mensa Primer: Get Into Mensa

What is Mensa?

Founded in 1946 by Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer, Mensa is a high IQ society – the only qualification for membership being an IQ is in the top 2% of the population.  Mensa members are also known as ‘Mensans’.

The word ‘Mensa’ comprises two Latin words: mens, which means “mind” and mensa, which means “table”, indicating that it is a round-table (open discussion) society of minds.

There are now around 100,000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world. There are active Mensa organizations in over 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica.

The website for Mensa International can be found here.

Websites for national groups can be found here.


What are the advantages of being a Mensa member?


Intellectual stimulation

You can find intellectual resources to exercise your brain in national magazines, in local newsletters, and at regional, national and international conventions. Mensans (Mensa members) have a profusion of special interest groups. To quote from Mensa International:

Whatever your passion, there’s almost certain to be a Special Interest Group (SIG) filled with other Mensans who share it! Mensa offers approximately 200 SIGs, in mind-boggling profusion from African Violets to zoology. Along the way you’ll find microbiology, and systems analysis, but you’ll also find Sherlock Holmes, chocolate and Star Trek. There are the expected: biochemistry, space science, economics — and the unexpected: poker, roller-skating, scuba diving, UFOs and witchcraft. There are SIGs for breadmaking, winemaking, cartooning, silversmithing, and clowning. Heraldry, semantics and Egyptology co-exist with beekeeping, motorcycling and tap dancing. Sports SIGs cover the classics (baseball, basketball, and football) and the not-so-classic (skeet shooting, hang gliding, skydiving). And any Mensan who can’t find a SIG to join can easily start one.


Social life

Local groups meet monthly or even more regularly. There are widely attended annual conventions offering workshops, seminars, and parties.


Mensa publications

You will receive your national magazine with contributions by Mensans on a wide variety of subjects. In some countries, in addition to the national magazine you may receive lively local newsletters. Mensa also publishes it’s own research journal on IQ related topics – The Mensa Research Journal – for the general public. http://www.mensafoundation.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Journal


Side benefits

In some countries Mensa sponsors a members-only credit card and insurance program. There is also a program that aids traveling Mensans. There have been reports that job applications have been easier with Mensa membership on your CV – particularly if the hiring person is also a Mensan.


How to become a Mensa member

Mensa membership is open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised intelligence test.

American Mensa accepts scores from approximately 200 different standardized intelligence tests, as well as Mensa’s own dedicated IQ test. Some of these test one’s spatial and analytical abilities using non-verbal questions only. We call these tests “culture fair” because they don’t require general knowledge, vocabulary or math skills that are learned in school and which differ from culture to culture. Other IQ tests include questions that present verbal analogies or puzzles that test comprehension and mathematical ability.

A list of some of the authorized IQ tests for Mensa membership with Mensa membership are listed here.

Results from tests given by an institution, agency or clinic must include the full name of the test, the score and the percentile rank. This documentation must be on the letterhead of the institution, agency or clinic; it also must be signed by the psychologist responsible for the testing and must include the psychologist’s license/certification number as issued by the state in which the psychologist practices. Applications are individually assessed by Mensa. The American Mensa application form can be found here. This month the evaluation is free. Normally it is $40.


You may already be qualified

If you took your SAT exam before 1/31/94 or GRE before 9/30/01 you may find your score qualifies you for membership. For details click here.


Mensa Admission Test

If you have not taken an official IQ test by a qualified administrator, you can choose to take Mensa’s own Admission Test.  This involves certified volunteer Proctors supervising a testing session in your area! You can contact your national Mensa organisation to find out about the schedules for these tests – click here for details.

If you score at or above the 98th percentile on either of the two tests, you’ll qualify and be invited to join Mensa.

If English isn’t your primary language, American Mensa offers a battery of culture fair, non-language tests.


How to prepare for a Mensa admission test

This will be the topic of our next blog. Practice makes a very big difference.  Improving your fluid intelligence with HighIQPro training will also help substantially.

To get you limbered up, try the Mensa Workout.

Or take the Mensa home test.


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I am a cognitive scientist with a joint Ph.D in cognitive psychology and neuroscience from the Center of the Neural Basis of Cognition (Carnegie Mellon/Pittsburgh). At IQ Mindware we develop brain training interventions to increase IQ, critical thinking, decision making, creativity and executive functioning.


  • Just curious when the next part of this blog, “How to prepare for an IQ test to join Mensa”, will be posted. Thanks!

    Bob Mulholland 15.08.2011
  • Hi, as far as I know you need a full scale score for Mensa – not just verbal comprehension. Do you have this?

    MAS 11.01.2012
  • Here’s what you can do – find out your combined score, and the standard deviation of the test (which is 15). Subtract 100 (the mean of the population) from your score and then divide by the standard deviation (15). This gives you what is called a z score. If your z score is 2.06 or above, you qualify for Mensa! 2.06 is the z score that cuts off the top 2% of the population. Looks like you qualify:)

    MAS 12.01.2012
  • I’m going to ask him for that today.I want to say my combined score was 136, but I’m not totally sure about that.

    Kat Havens 12.02.2012