IQ Changes in Teens


It was originally though that IQ could not change within an individual, and that the test would remain stable if education remained stable.

The Flynn Effect threw this thinking away.  The Flynn Effect goes like this: an intelligence quotient (IQ) is standardized by using a sample of  test-takers. The average of the results is set to 100 with a standard deviation set to 15 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are standardized again, but use a new sample of test-takers, born more recently than the first. Again, the average is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.

The Flynn effect changed how statisticians looked at intelligence, but not how cognitive scientists did.  More studies showed that IQ can be changed by about 15 points depending on things like access to opportunity, SES, and quality of education.  Remember that ultimately intelligence quotients do not accurately measure intelligence, just how well the subject does on the intelligence test.  So it makes sense that the quality of education and learning will affect the test taker’s score.

However, for the first time, we are looking at cognitive changes within an individual that are based on biology and not outside social forces.  A journal article in Nature magazine cites a study by Cathy Price and her colleagues out of University College in London.

Dr. Price administered IQ tests and MRI scans to 33 healthy teens — the first time in 2004, when the kids were 12 to 16 years old, and then a second time in 2007-08, when they were age 15 to 20. They found changes in individual subjects’ performance on the tests, with verbal IQ, nonverbal IQ and composite IQ fluctuating up or down, in some cases around 20 points. In all, 39% of the sample had a change in verbal IQ, 21% in nonverbal IQ and 33% in composite IQ.

When MRI scans were examined, the changes were most often associated with the parts of the brain relating to speech and hand movement.

What this means is that there is greater plasticity  in the developing brain than originally thought, producing huge implications for education.

“We have a tendency to assess children and determine their course of education relatively early in life, but here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to still be developing,” Price said.  “We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early stage when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years.”

Now, if we can find the money to pay our teachers…


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Emma S.
Emma S6 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

This just means that during the puberty years, where the physical body is going through massive hormonal changes as well as major growth spurts, the concentration level kind of goes wayside, as the automatic brain is in need of using more power to push through these changes. Once the body and hormones regulate back to a pattern, a new one at that, then the brain can straighten it's self out and think about subjects like speech, language, etc... That explains why teenagers are squirrely, and they learn and become better students at young adulthood.

Another flaw is the fact that it doesn't take into account that some people have different kinds of intelligence. Some are relatively strong all the way around. Others are definitely strong in one or two related subjects. There are logical, such as math and science; communication, such as reading/writing/language etc & history... Both deemed necessary. Then there are those of us who are more creative, and think outside the box, and can come up with ingenious ways to work around problems that make conventional solutions void... Yet creative thinkers aren't deemed important, because we may be the musicians, artists, etc... Yet the fine arts is what keeps culture going.

Phil Smith
Phil Smith6 years ago

So tell me ,, Why is it that kids still find it hard to do simple math ,, don't know the meanings to half of the words in a simple conversation and are still being graduated without being able to read and/or write???..

Julija S.
Julija S6 years ago


Charles G.
Wilde Thange6 years ago

IQ expands rapidly with the impetus of sex...

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham6 years ago

thank you for this article :)

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago


Arjen Lentz
Arjen Lentz6 years ago

IQ assessment is based on a type of question, and the ability to deal with that type of question can be trained. In some cases a society's (or subculture) general thinking pattern is already more in tune with the way IQ works, and that can account for the differences. So it measures proficiency of the IQ-type thinking pattern, not general intelligence. And measuring general intelligence is not what the test was designed for anyway.

The concept of IQ is flawed and quite outdated. It was invented in France then adopted in Britain long ago to identify kids with mental disabilities. It's "rigged" in that Europeans tend to score higher than say African Americans. But to prove the point that rigging can backfire, Asians tend to score higher than Europeans.

Measuring intelligence in this way and potentially using it for selection purposes is fraught with dangers - highly intelligent people can be ill-equipped to deal with certain situations based on other factors, and "less intelligent" people (according to IQ test) can do much better. So it's cheap&dirty filtering/selecting, let's not pretend it's anything else.

janet T.
janet t6 years ago

IQ isn't everything, that is true. But IQ changing in the teen years is not news. I read that fact about 22 years ago when my youngest was identified as gifted. There are also different kinds of gifted learning types. Schools and teachers don't always know that. Many gifted kids don't do well in school, and some gifted kids don't look gifted to their parents because they don't always stick to one subject. Sometimes gifted children like to learn some subject and then move on to another subject, kind of getting a taste of everything they can. And some gifted children like to keep their smarts under cover so they don't stick out. Gifted kids also sometimes look weird because they get along best with kids older and younger than they are but not always kids their own age. Do some research and write another article.

Helen K.
Helen K6 years ago

Just FYI. When children at the best schools know there is an IQ test coming up (or the SAT for example) they go to the bookstore with their parents and buy a book with a title of "Improve your IQ score" - or something of that ilk. Then, for every night before that test, that child and it's Mom or Dad go through as many practice tests as they can possibly stand in one evening. The process can be exhausting (it starts off fun). But that child is pretty much guaranteed to get a super score and thence acceptance to a super university.
IQ tests can be terrifying if you haven't taken one for a decade or two - just practice a few if you suspect you might be getting one. And don't forget that even Bill Gates once scored 5.5!