There are many kinds of intelligence testing. Some are considered to be more credible than others, and in many cases, intelligence testing may be a scam. Most people are familiar with the IQ test, which rates human intelligence on a scale that divides the test subjects "intelligence age" by their chronological age.

Intelligence Test Types and Uses

Any discussion of intelligence tests should begin with the understanding that unlike measurements like weight and length, there is no definitive way to measure intelligence. Intelligence itself is a fairly abstract term and is related to numerous factors including parental intelligence, environment, social situation and economic status. Intelligence is also a broad expression that may take into account more sophisticated and nuanced qualities beyond an ability to reason or to calculate.

The type of intelligence tests that most people are familiar with are tests like the IQ test developed by French psychologist Alfred Binet. Binet and his colleagues developed a test focused on an individual's verbal abilities which was initially designed to diagnose developmental delays or learning disabilities in young children.

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Prior to the development of official intelligence testing, intelligence was measured simply by observing an individual's external behavior. It was thought that most intelligence was derived from parents, but that ultimately intelligence came down to an individual's personal judgment.

Some of the most popular types of intelligence test in psychology are tests like the Stanford-Binet test, The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and Raven's Progressive Matrices. These tests can be administered to an individual for a fee, and many of them can be taken online or in person. These tests are designed to measure specific capabilities that taken together and averaged into an overall score provide an indication of an adult's intellectual capacities.

What Intelligence Tests Measure

There are many different intelligence test types and uses. However, in almost every case, intelligence tests measure four key areas of mental capacity. The first is verbal intelligence. Verbal intelligence is classified as the kind of intelligence that makes an individual a strong communicator and also proves strength in the areas of reading comprehension and verbal dexterity. Intelligence tests for verbal intelligence are usually fairly easy for people with large vocabularies, and who read easily and quickly.

The second category that most intelligence tests measure is numerical intelligence. Not simply related to mathematical calculations, numerical intelligence is considered to be related to overall intelligence in a number of ways. The skill does tend to be measured by assessing the test-takers ability to complete complex calculations and even more simple ones.

Related to numerical intelligence is spatial intelligence. Spatial intelligence is the ability to solve complex problems that require an understanding of spatial relationships such as distance, size and area. Finally, the last type of intelligence measured by an intelligence test is logical intelligence. This somewhat nebulous-sounding skill is simply the ability to apply reason and logic to situations and scenarios. This ability is critical and comes into play in many situations in life.

What Other Kinds of Intelligence Tests Are There?

What the popular imagination and colloquial language consider to be intelligence is almost exclusively intellectual. That is to say that the kinds of intelligence measured on the IQ tests discussed above are the kinds of intelligence that are most often associated with academia, schooling, study and other situations that fall under those categories. However, there are several other categories of intelligence that are exceptionally important and which are not measured in a traditional IQ test.

In 1983, Harvard professor Howard Gardner published his now famous study on the nine types of intelligence. While many people assume that intelligence covers the kinds of skills and abilities that get you into college, Gardner recognized that there are several different kinds of intelligence. While not all of the types of intelligence are related to academic performance directly, all of them have intrinsic social value, and many of them are displayed by people from a very early age.

The nine types of intelligence as Gardner defined them are:

  1. Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence 
  2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  3. Musical Intelligence 
  4. Spatial Intelligence 
  5. Existential Intelligence 
  6. Intrapersonal Intelligence
  7. Interpersonal Intelligence
  8. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 
  9. Naturalistic Intelligence 

Intelligence one, two and four are pretty well covered in the traditional IQ tests that were discussed above. Musical intelligence is an interesting sort of intelligence and not one that is widely discussed in typical discussions of intellect. It is the ability to be able to discern sounds, their timbre, their pitch and different tones. While this may be a skill that is most useful or most applicable in the musical profession, being able to discern tone, sound, distance and other factors can also help in a survival situation.

Existential intelligence is a particularly complex type of intelligence. People who score high in the existential intelligence section of Gardner's rubric are able to grapple with abstract thought pertaining to issues like our existence, why we live, what life means and why we die. While not every intelligent person has to be able to think about issues like these, there is a significant amount of information present in psychology studies to suggest that this sort of thinking is both rare and valuable.

What Other Kinds of Intelligence Is Important?

If you were to Google "types of intelligence test PDF," chances are that the search results wouldn't necessarily touch on interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, but as research continues to show, those kinds of intelligence are increasingly important.

Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability of the individual to form complex and positive interactions with other people It's an ability to sense the feelings, motivations and intentions of other people and respond accordingly. Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to skillfully interpret your own feelings, your own responses and motivations and what it is that you desire.

These two kinds of intelligence are directly linked to mental health. People with excellent interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence tend to perform well in society and have strong, positive relationships. They are well-adjusted, self-aware, empathic and honest. They tend to have an ability to interpret what's going on in a given situation, and they can "read a room" by picking up on the energy in the space and proceeding accordingly.

What Other Types of Intelligence Did Gardner Study?

Beyond the kinds of intelligence that are generally reserved for mental activity, Gardner was able to recognize that sensitivity and understanding of the physical world and people's place in it, was a kind of intelligence too. While earlier definitions and measurements of intelligence focused on skills traditionally employed in scholarly pursuits, Gardner's work explored a facet of the concept that allowed for a much richer interpretation.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence is another kind of intelligence measured by Gardner. While this may sound like a made-up metric of intellect to people who associate intelligence exclusively with the mind, it is tremendously valuable. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability to coordinate your mind and body. Trainers and fitness instructors often refer to it as "mind-muscle connection," also traditionally referred to as "hand-eye coordination."

Finally, Gardner explored the phenomenon of "Naturalist Intelligence." This variety of intellectual capacity refers to an individual's ability to connect with the natural world. An understanding of nature and a connection to it is valuable, and it can be cultivated. People blessed naturally with naturalist intelligence are likely to take great pleasure and interest in animals, plants, botany, veterinary medicine, conservation efforts, biology and earth science.

Do Intelligence Tests Really Work?

Experts cautioned and have always cautioned against taking intelligence tests very seriously. IQ tests are said to measure a person's aptitude, but intelligence is something that can be developed over the course of someone's life.

A child born into a home that does not prize intellectual exploration may find himself with a low IQ score if he takes a test in his high school years. However, soon after taking this test, he could potentially find himself in an environment where his curiosity is piqued, and he finds himself doing the kind of self-motivated study that boosts intelligence.

The goal of intelligence tests is primarily to measure an individual's logical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. These tests can be helpful in terms of coming to a general understanding of where an individual is on a continuum, or whether there may be some developmental delays or issues. However, the results of an intelligence test should be weighed lightly as all individuals have the potential to change, develop and grow.

This is particularly true when it comes to children. Any sort of assessment that claims to measure a child's potential or intelligence should be used carefully. Pigeonholing children at a young age can be traumatic and difficult for the children and their families and places unnecessary psychological burdens and stress on them. The truth is that while standardized tests can help to get a sense of a where a child is at that moment in time relative to his or her peers or particular standards, there is no way to measure how far a child might go.

What Kinds of Intelligence Test in Psychology Are Valuable for Children?

Depending on the goal of your intelligence test, taking a basic IQ test could be valuable. Individuals who are interesting in joining MENSA, the self-proclaimed high-IQ community, must take a particular test in order to qualify as a member. In addition, there are a number of other tests that are popular, including the Woodcock-Johnson III Test of Cognitive Abilities, which challenges test takers to answer questions that require skills in verbal comprehension, auditory learning and spatial relationships.

The Differential Ability Scales Test is a test given to adolescents that asks them to demonstrate problem-solving skills in a number of different areas. Often, the questions and answers feature illustrations or diagrams. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V) is a test that measures children's competency in a variety of subject areas. The subsets are divided into eight sections such as spelling, reading comprehension, auditory learning and more.

What Things Should You Keep in Mind If You Are Taking a Type of Intelligence Test?

The most important thing to remember is that intelligence tests are not an accurate measure of how smart someone is. Intelligence tests are tasked with measuring intellectual potential, which, as you have seen, can grow, change and develop.

The goal in all intelligence tests is to get an overall sense of the capacity of the individual in question for critical thought, other strengths and weaknesses. Although many posit that hereditary genetics are a greater predictor of intelligence than anything in a young person's natural environment, it is still believed to be the case that a child's surroundings and exposure can alter potential.

Aside from things like exposure to books and learning, a family environment that supports and encourages intellectual pursuits, access to good education, and a number of other factors may affect your score on an intelligence test. Proper nutrition during the formative years is critical for developing cognitive skills. Children who seem to struggle with communication or are nonverbal may also need special attention or administration when taking an intelligence test.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.