Preparing For The Mensa Challenge – How To Get Into Mensa

In this tutorial you will be given the following:

  • The IQ score you need to become a Mensa member.
  • An explanation of how a Mensa IQ score compares to an average IQ.
  • The official IQ tests that qualify you for Mensa membership.
  • Where to find practice IQ tests for Mensa.
  • How to prepare for taking a Mensa qualifying IQ test to maximize your chances of success.
  • What is Mensa and what are advantages to being a Mensa member.

Note that we are not affiliated with Mensa – this is independent advice by researchers specializing in intelligence augmentation through cognitive training interventions.

 

An IQ in the top 2%

Getting into Mensa is NOT EASY. You have to score at or above the 98th percentile – the top 2% – on a standardized, professionally administered IQ test. This is typically a score of 130 or more. What does an IQ score of 130 mean?

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The IQ Score Bell Curve

With standardized IQ tests, IQ tests are designed so that their scores have a ‘bell curve’ distribution in the general population with an average of 100.  This curve has a peak in the middle where most people score and tapering ends where only a small percentage of people score. In statistics this distribution of scores is called a bell curve or normal distribution – as shown below.

 

IQ bell curve

Standardized IQ tests are designed so that the exact average (mean)  IQ score in the general population is 100.  An ‘average IQ score’ or ‘normal IQ score’ can be defined as a score between 85 and 115. 68% of people score between 85 and 115.

The Mensa qualifying IQ score is a score that puts you in the top 2% of the population in a bell curve like this one. The Mensa qualifying score is 130 or higher, as shown below.

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This table indicates how IQ levels can be classified.

 

IQ-Level-Scale

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How To Test Your IQ? Mensa Accredited IQ Tests

Standardized IQ tests accepted for Mensa membership are administered by school districts (e.g. the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)), private psychologists (see below), the military (e.g. Army GCT) and human resource departments (e.g. the Wonderlic). There are two broad types of intelligence test:

  1. ‘Full-scale’ IQ tests, made up of subtests for fluid intelligence (Gf) as well as vocabulary and general knowledge, visuo-spatial ability, short term memory, and processing speed. Sometimes quantitative/mathematical reasoning is also tested in ‘full scale’ tests.  A popular example is the WAIS-IV IQ test.
  2. Culture-fair tests of fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is our ability to reason and problem solve, independently of familiarity, training and practice. These test a component of your intelligence called ‘fluid intelligence’. A popular example is the Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices test.

Mensa accepts scores from approximately 200 different standardized intelligence tests (click for qualifying test information here). Some are fluid intelligence tests. Some are full-scale tests.

 

 

 

The Mensa Admission Test

A cost-effective method of measuring your true IQ level is to take a Mensa supervised test – $40.00 in the US /  £17.50 in the UK.  This fee includes:

  • A reserved place at the centre of your choice.
  • The opportunity to take two IQ test papers. The Cattell III B and the Cattell Culture Fair III A.
  • The marking of your IQ test papers and your results returned to you in confidence.

American Mensa offers two test batteries by Mensa proctors, that may qualify you for membership. The first includes both the Mensa Admission Test and the Mensa Wonderlic®; this is the battery of tests given most frequently. This is a full-scale IQ test. The second battery is a “culture fair” battery that includes the Cattell Culture Fair, the Nonverbal Reasoning Test and the SRA Pictorial Reasoning Test. This is primarily a fluid intelligence test. Mensa Supervised test sessions are held at centres throughout your home country. Click here for details from International Mensa. For those in the US click here. For those in the UK click here.

 

Mensa Online Practice IQ Tests

The Mensa Workout

To get you limbered up, try the Mensa WorkoutThis quiz is not an official IQ test to qualify you for Mensa but gives you a good idea of the range of question types involved in official IQ testing. The questions on the “Mensa Workout” are biased towards people whose primary language is English. You have half an hour to answer 30 questions.

 

Start Quiz

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The Mensa Practice Test

Alternatively you can take the online Mensa Practice Test for $18. As explained by American Mensa:

The Mensa Practice Test is a fun way to discover if you are Mensa material. While this timed test will not qualify you for membership, it does offer an equivalent score that correlates to your IQ range and provides a strong indication of your likelihood for success should you choose to take our admission test. For only $18, you can take the Mensa Practice Test online now, and it will be scored immediately.

 

Other Online Practice Tests

The GIQ Test

The GIQ test  will give you a good standardized estimate of your ‘full scale’ IQ – combining fluid intelligence (non-verbal) and verbal problems. The fee is $10. According to the test-makers:

The GIQ Test is an online analog for the most common clinically proctored IQ tests. In our internal study, the GIQ Test correlated within about 4% of an individual’s full scale score on a clinically proctored IQ test. The GIQ Test’s sections are modeled after clinical IQ test sections.

The GIQ has the following features

  • Time required: 25-45 minutes estimated. No time limit.
  • Components of intelligence measured: full scale intelligence, ‘verbal’,  ’spatial’ and ‘quantitative’ intelligence. Your performance sub-score on this test can substitute as a measure of your fluid intelligence.
  • Culture fair IQ test? No. Vocabulary, similarities and arithmetic subtests are culture-dependent.
  • Fee: $10

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The iqtest.dk

This is a fluid intelligence test of culture-fair reasoning and problem solving skills. It is similar to the ‘culture fair test battery’ alternative for Mensa qualifying tests. As explained on the iqtest.dk website:

This test is developed with the aim of measuring your Intelligence Quotient (IQ). The test is Culture Fair, i.e. it minimises the effect of cultural variables, such as language, mathematics, etc. The test is based on logic, but is furthermore designed to test learning capability, memory, innovative thinking and the ability to simultaneously address several problems. The test measures the general intelligence – g.The calculation of IQ is based on answers from more than 250,000 people.

In this test you have 40 minutes to answer 39 questions. Take the test here.

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Getting Into Mensa – Training Strategies

 

An effective strategy for getting into Mensa is a combination of practice and working memory (n-back) training. Working memory training back is an evidence-based method for increasing cognitive ability through neuroplasticity change (ref). There are two general training strategies for the two types of Mensa test available (check with your Mensa provider what kind of test you will do). Both of these strategies have been used successfully by hundreds of test-takers.

 

Culture Fair (Fluid Intelligence) IQ Test Strategy

As noted above, Mensa accept two types of officially administered IQ tests: those that that measure fluid intelligence (your abstract reasoning and problem solving skills), and those that measure all subfactors of your intelligence, including verbal and quantitative intelligence – called ‘full scale’ tests. They have a Mensa Admission Test for both. For a fluid intelligence strategy I suggest the following:

  1. Take the free iqtest.dk. This will give you a good estimate of your current IQ level. Take a note of your score. If it is 115 or higher, with the right preparation and training you have a good chance of attaining a qualifying score of 130 on a Mensa accredited IQ test for fluid intelligence.
  2. Schedule a month in advance a professionally administered fluid (culture-fair) IQ test such as the Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM) or the Cattell Culture Fair III IQ test with a local psychologist or educationalist. Alternatively, inquire with your local Mensa society whether you can take a ‘culture fair’ Admission test. Culture fair tests are essentially fluid intelligence tests.
  3. Leading up to your qualifying IQ test, commit to training your working memory capacity. Working memory capacity  is your mental ‘workspace’. The larger the capacity, the more complex reasoning and problem solving you can do. There is a body of scientific evidence showing that working memory training can have widespread benefits for IQ and cognitive performance (review or journal article).  The evidence-based i3 Mindware brain training software application has been designed to expand working memory capacity and increase IQ level by 10-20 points. There is a money-back guarantee if you do  not attain this IQ gain based on standardized IQ tests before and after training. IQ level is not fixed, and can be improved with training long term.
  4. Leading up to your qualifying IQ test, commit to training your IQ problem solving strategies. Practice on fluid intelligence IQ tests, such as found here on SmartKit. The i3 IQ augmentation software also incorporates systematic tutorials on problem solving skills and strategies, designed by cognitive scientists.
  5. There are other lifestyle practices you can adopt over this period to increase your IQ. These include regular exercise, a brain-optimizing diet and unbroken, regular sleep.
  6. After completing the i3 training program if you have chosen it, allow for at least two days before taking the qualifying IQ test.
  7. Take the official test.
  8. Join Mensa

 

Full Scale IQ Test Strategy

 

  1. Schedule a month in advance a Mensa accredited full scale IQ test. Click here for details from International Mensa. For those in the US click here. For those in the UK click here. Ensure that you establish that the test is ‘full scale’ – including verbal and quantitative problems.
  2. Take the Mensa Workout.
  3. Take the Mensa Home Test (see above).
  4. Take the GIQ Test (see above).
  5. All these practice tests will give you a good estimate of your current full scale IQ level – the type that is tested on the standard Mensa Admission Test.
  6. Leading up to your qualifying IQ test, commit to training your working memory capacity. For a full-scale test, we recommend the i3 Mindware brain training application has been designed to expand working memory capacity and increase IQ level on full-scale tests by 10-20 points.
  7. Leading up to your qualifying IQ test, commit to practicing full scale IQ test problems.  The i3 Mindware software has been designed to systematically give users practice on full scale IQ test problems. It is known that this practice can substantially improve scores on full scale tests.
  8. As in the fluid intelligence only strategy, there are other lifestyle practices you can adopt over this period to increase your IQ. These include regular exercise, a brain-optimizing diet, meditation and unbroken, regular sleep.
  9. After completing the i3 Mindware training program if you have chosen it, allow for at least two days before taking the qualifying IQ test.
  10. Take the official test.
  11. Join Mensa!

 

Subscribe for free eBooks on joining Mensa and IQ augmentation

 

 


Additional information

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.

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Advantages of being a Mensa member

Mental 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.

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Social life

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

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Mensa members 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.

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Career

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.

 

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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.

13 Comments

  • Well I need to prepare for the Mensa Test , while searching in Google about Mensa I came across your site and I must say that you’ve got very good reading material for students like me . Thanks .
    I had also come across another great site called http://www.3smartcubes.com which is mainly based on IQ and Aptitude tests . These are Phd Certified Tests.
    IQ Test – http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/iq-test/iq-test_instructions.asp This IQ Test has a time duration of 20 minutes .
    Aptitude Test – http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/aptcomplete/aptcomplete_instructions.asp

    Tasneem R 16.03.2010
  • Hello,

    There is a good resource out there for people to prepare and pass the mensa test.

    Robert 07.05.2011
  • Hello, At age 56, I am interested in learning how I might take this test and who to see for it ! Thank you for any info., MCW

    Marie Connolly-Whitmore 26.05.2011
  • You need to check on your local Mensa ‘chapter’ via the US Mensa site first. Get in touch with them to see when the next test is.

    MAS 26.05.2011
  • 49. What’s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other users like its aided me. Great job.

    Zelda Glazier 16.06.2011
  • This study guide may help you with passing the mensa.

    Manuel 14.08.2015
  • I am 13 but I have a surprising good IQ level, which I only discovered last year. I scored at multiple different tests online, at around 130-140. My brother is 17 and also had an higher IQ than me of 150-160 (and already has a Mensa award). I have ADHD which makes me less able to take these sorts of tests, but I’m interested in learning how I could also become a member, thank you.

    Ayka Donerciler 08.01.2016
  • […] Around 2% of the population has an IQ greater than 130 which is ‘gifted’ intelligence. This is an IQ of 2 standard deviations from the average IQ. This is Mensa standard –  the IQ score on a valid, standardized IQ test required to become a member of Mensa. […]

  • Ayka, please don’t let anyone label you with a pseudoscience diagnosis like ADHD. You’re fortunate to have a sharp mind, use it to research the history of psychiatry and the rent seeking behavior of the charlatans who practice it. There is no legitimate scientifically verifiable evidence for anything in their DSM manual, and extreme corruption continues to guide the promotion of their dangerous unproven drug treatments. Look to neuroscience for answers, not the quackery of psychology. A good place to start is the work of Beatrice Golomb MD PhD (she’s also the wife of Terry Sejnowski at Salk Institute). I am a Mensan and wish you all the best.

    Brian 26.03.2016
  • […] Around 2% of the population has an IQ greater than 130 which is ‘gifted’ intelligence. This is an IQ of 2 standard deviations from the average IQ. This is Mensa standard –  the IQ score on a valid, standardized IQ test required to become a member of Mensa. […]

  • Found the sample questions to be quite interesting

    Vedhas 30.11.2016
  • Hi, I scored 143 on the home test and I was given the Percentile score, top 3%. According to your article 143 should be within the 2%. Could you clarify why Mensa indicated that score as 3%?
    Thank You

    Csaba 26.01.2017
  • If it’s a standardized test, 143 is well above the 98th percentile. No idea why Mensa classifies this as ‘top 3%’. Perhaps e-mail them.