Various types of problems and questions in standard IQ tests are thought to measure different aspects of cognitive function, such as pattern recognition, working memory and processing speed. The tests are intended to measure an individual's natural ability to think, not how much he knows. Dozens of different IQ tests are out there, with a half-dozen or so most commonly used. Some testing protocols allow subjects to use scrap paper or calculators, while others do not.
Many intelligence tests contain multiple-choice questions designed to test for logic and the ability to identify patterns and make connections. For example, you might be given the task of deciding whether a kitten is most like a puppy, a stuffed animal or a tiger. Alternatively, the question may present a sequence of words and ask you to choose which of several options would most logically come next. You may be asked to identify synonyms or antonyms of a word, or identify a relationship by completing an analogy such as, "Pencil is to paper as spoon is to a) plate b) soup c) scissors." Other verbal questions may test your comprehension of a paragraph or brief essay.
Intelligence tests use questions that call on your ability to solve basic arithmetic equations and number sequence puzzles as a measure of working memory and reasoning ability. You won't be expected to have an educated grasp of higher mathematics, but the ability to manipulate numbers and solve basic problems is considered strongly related to overall intelligence. Common questions involve solving for the next number in a series or finding the value of a blank space on a numerical table.
Questions that use neither numbers nor letters but rely solely on analyzing visual patterns or diagrams are considered some of the most unbiased, measuring an individual's thinking ability without interference from cultural or linguistic factors. You may be asked to identify differences or similarities in patterns, or choose which pattern or diagram should be next in a sequence.
The best known test of this type, Raven's Progressive Matrices, measures abstract reasoning by asking subjects to identify the pattern that logically comes next in a sequence. These questions are the least likely to resemble situations that are familiar in everyday life, and if you are facing an IQ test, it's a good idea to become familiar with them and do some practicing.
Puzzles, Hands-On Tasks and Auditory Tests
In some types of IQ tests, subjects are asked to solve puzzles or perform tasks with blocks or other physical items. The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test is a completely nonverbal test designed for children aged 5 to 18. The test relies on gestures and object manipulation and is considered to be an accurate, culturally-neutral measure of intelligence for hearing impaired and non-neurotypical students. Some tests also use music and spoken word to test auditory processing ability.