My IQ

When I came to the US, I heard about Mensa — the high IQ society. My IQ had never been tested, so I was curious. I was told that there was a special IQ test for non-English speakers and that my fresh immigrant status and lack of English knowledge was not a problem. I signed up.

There were two tests. One test had many rows of small pictures, and I had to choose the odd one out in each row. That was awful. The test was English-free, but it wasn’t culture-free. I couldn’t identify some of the pictures at all. We didn’t have such things in Russia. I remember staring at a row of tools that could as easily have been from a kitchen utensil drawer as from a garage tool box. I didn’t have a clue what they were.

But the biggest problem was that the idea of crossing the odd object out seems very strange to me in general. What is the odd object out in this list?

Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

The standard answer is supposed to be hen, as it is the only bird. But that is not the only possible correct answer. For example, pig is the only one whose meat is not kosher. And, look, sheep has five letters while the rest have three.

Thus creative people get fewer points. That means, IQ tests actually measure how standard and narrow your mind is.

The second test asked me to continue patterns. Each page had a three-by-three square of geometric objects. The bottom right corner square, however, was empty. I had to decide how to continue the pattern already established by the other eight squares by choosing from a set of objects they provided.

This test is similar to continuing a sequence. How would you continue the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9? The online database of integer sequences has 1479 different sequences containing this pattern. The next number might be:

  • 10, if this is the sequence of natural numbers;
  • 1, if this is the sequence of the digital sums of natural numbers;
  • 11, if this the sequence of palindromes;
  • 0, if this is the sequence of digital products of natural numbers;
  • 13, if this is the sequence of numbers such that 2 to their powers doesn’t contain 0;
  • 153, if this is the sequence of numbers that are sums of fixed powers of their digits;
  • 22, if this is the sequence of numbers for which the sum of digits equals the product of digits; or
  • any number you want.

Usually when you are asked to continue a pattern the assumption is that you are supposed to choose the simplest way. But sometimes it is difficult to decide what the testers think the simplest way is. Can you replace the question mark with a number in the following sequence: 31, ?, 31, 30, 31, 30, 31, … You might say that the answer is 30 as the numbers alternate; or, you might say that the answer is 28 as these are the days of the month.

Towards the end of my IQ test, the patterns were becoming more and more complicated. I could have supplied several ways to continue the pattern, but my problem was that I wasn’t sure which one was considered the simplest.

When I received my results, I barely made it to Mensa. I am glad that I am a member of the society of people who value their brains. But it bugs me that I might not have been creative enough to fail their test.

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94 Comments

  1. Assaf:

    Yuck! Why would you want to join the Mensa? They’re the most insecure bunch of people I’ve ever met, which is a big turn-off. The proof is in the pudding, as they say – if you want to prove you’re smart, do something smart. Invent something, prove a theorem, solve a problem. If you need someone to tell you whether you’re smart or not, I think you should take a closer look at yourself and ask yourself why you even care.

  2. Frederick Lionetti:

    Tanya, I believe the correct answer is “cow” because that is the only one in which the letters are arranged in alphabetical order.

  3. Tanya Khovanova:

    Frederick, great!
    I’ve been waiting for someone to give a cool and an original explanation for “cow”.

  4. Andrew Geng:

    Without dying, a cow can give milk, a hen can give eggs, and a sheep can give wool. What can a pig give?

    (Well, to be totally honest, I *have* seen brushes made from pig hair.)

  5. Alexey Radul:

    Or ‘:’, the colon character, because it’s next after 9 in the ASCII code.

  6. Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog » Blog Archive » The Odd One Out:

    [...] am strongly opposed to questions of the type “which is the odd one out” during IQ tests. On the other hand, I do not [...]

  7. Ryan Fox:

    Andrew: Pigs (and sheep) can give milk too. :)

  8. MPL:

    Cows are also the only one of the four used as draft animals (i.e. oxen).

  9. Noelle:

    People tend not to realize how much culture adds up in “Intelligence Quotient” tests. Personally, I think someone should create an “Intelligence and Creativity Quotient” test, because these two attributes are important to using each other best. I’ve known people who were “intelligent” in that they knew a lot of facts and could catch onto the rules someone else used (in their own culture), but they aren’t very creative and can’t use what they know in new ways. I’ve also known people who were definitely creative, but didn’t know very many facts or were in a “culture” they didn’t know much about and had trouble coping. Though of the two overall, I’d say creative people can get through more than people who have a lot of facts stored up.

    Maybe the ICQ test could have something like “list as many possible answers for these questions as you can think of.”

  10. Rob:

    I had a chance to join mensa when I was 12 (27 now). I decided against it because I was skeptical in the score they gave me. It seemed like they gave me a high score just to collect a membership fee from me. First test I did I scored 130ish, second was 149, 3rd was 166 (last two were marked by mensa). It’ll help you get a job if you tell them about, but that’s the only use I’ve found for my results.

  11. katie:

    I applied for Mensa because I wanted to take their test. (It was fun.) I joined Mensa for the card. They give you a card! So you can say, “I’m a card-carrying genius.” If that isn’t amusing, I don’t know what is.

  12. Merlin:

    No, sheep is not the best answer.
    The number of letters is not a dominant feature if the question is about kinds of animals.
    You can apply numbers to letters, but words are groups of letters with a meaning, and if this meaning is always about animals then you can be sure of a dominant pattern there.
    Also, if you add an extra implicit meaning to the word pig, you can also say that a sheep is the only animal that provides wool.
    And so on…that deviates and in the end makes all animals the odd one out.
    This takes you nowhere.
    The 123456789 sequence should have 0 or 10, the latter is best however.
    Here also the point is not to adhere to clever excuses, because then you can make up 1500 answers and that takes you also nowhere.
    There is only answer that makes no use of excuses, and that is 10, the natural follower of 9.
    And besides that, if the question really was about cleverness, the sequence could be restricted to only the first number: 1.
    With some philosophy you can guess the next number in the sequence.

  13. Shaf:

    ” How would you continue the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9? ”

    It’s obvious, the correct answer is 0A, there can be no other alternative (lol)

  14. Herbert:

    @ Merlin:

    But that’s exactly what the author is talking about. It’s only a person’s opinion what *should* be the next number in the sequence. On top of that, it asks what *is* the next number in the sequence, not “what is the best answer for the sequence provided”. Just because you don’t give the desired answer doesn’t make your answer incorrect, especially if the question is ambiguous.

    If I asked you, “What has more than two limbs, none of which are considered arms?” what would you answer? A tree? A dog? A chair? If I told you that the answer is “Octopus,” because they’re actually called tentacles, wouldn’t you not accept my answer because yours is perfectly valid?

    I personally feel the next value in the sequence is 0, because any number can be made from a combination of the resulting 10 digits. I would also have guessed that “sheep” is the odd one out due to the greatest number of letters.

  15. Christ Schlacta:

    10 is obviously not the next answer, the sequence is clearly shown to be a sequence of single digit numbers, it must be 0, A, or :.

  16. vg:

    The answer is always most most simple, yet most complete one. There is no alternative answer and no creativity involved. Anyone can make up alternatives, but it is not always easy to pick the best one.

  17. Amit Gupta:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep -> Hen

    Since hen walk on 2 limbs but the rest walk on 4?

  18. Coomaraswamy:

    There are many creative ways to define “odd” elements. However, this not a creativity test. This is a test that asks one to guess what the tester wants. This of course is unstated. Despite acing the Mensa test 50 years ago, I have done a lot if incredibly dumb things in my life. The smart things I’ve done have been more the product of meditation than anything else — which, as it turns out, also frees up one’s creativity in defining “odd” elements on IQ tests.

  19. JS:

    @vg:
    How can you talk about intelligence without talking about creativity? That’s completely ridiculous.

  20. Dumb Coward:

    The only smart person in Mensa is the one collecting membership fees in exchange for a card.

  21. Sanjoy Das:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep -> Hen

    It is the only creature that repeatedly tried to cross the road in its childhood.

  22. Zeynalov:

    The answer is pig. because other animals are multipurpose animals alive, from cow hen and sheep we use their milk, egg or wool. Alive Pig is useless.

  23. Alf:

    One more vore for cow, because it has four stomachs.

  24. duggi:

    are you bragging and complaining at the same time?

  25. Andrew:

    Any true test of intelligence must ask both “what is your answer?” and “why is that your answer?” Multiple-choice questions are a crutch for examiners who is unwilling or unable to judge the quality of the respondent’s reasoning.

  26. me:

    Thank you for this brilliant post! There’s many an occasion in life where the narrow perspective of the interviewer can determine the incorrect evaluation of a more nimble mind. The animal example is great, and I’ll expect to quote it over and over in the coming years.

  27. Justin:

    It looks like you all assume the testers have only 1 acceptable answer to all their questions, making the multiplicity of valid answers an issue… What if they actually take the consistency of your unusual but true responses to see whether you’re a pure genius getting complex and true answers to all questions, an average person getting most of the answers right with the easiest to find solution, or dumber than the rest getting wrong answers often or unexpected right ones on occasion proving it’s not creative brilliant answers but just failure following a simple thought process.

    Who knows ?

  28. Tanya Khovanova » My IQ « Jason Kumpf:

    [...] from a kitchen utensil drawer as from a garage tool box. I didn’t have a clue what they were.via Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog » Blog Archive » My IQ. On not proving the twin prime conjecture with AutoCAD – Hack a DayLeave a Reply Cancel [...]

  29. Werner:

    My answer was hen, because its the only animal with two legs.

  30. Michiel:

    Obviously, ‘hen’ is the odd one out as it is not an actual animal species but more of a gender indication.

    The species can be many, not only chicken but other common poultry as well. All the other animals are species.

  31. J-B:

    ‘Sheep’ is the odd word out as it is the only word in the sequence which is not necessarily singular. One cow, one hen, one pig; one sheep OR many sheep.

  32. ben wolfson:

    “With some philosophy you can guess the next number in the sequence.”

    185. Let us return to our example (143). Now, judged by the usual criteria, the pupil has mastered the series of natural numbers. Next we teach him to write down other series of cardinal numbers and get him to the point of writing down, say, series of the form 0, n, 2n, 3n, etc., at an order of the form “+n”; so at the order “+1″ he writes down the series of natural numbers. — Let’s suppose we have done exercises, and tested his understanding up to 1000.

    Then we get the pupil to continue one series (say “+2″) beyond 1000 — and he writes 1000, 1004, 1008, 1012.

    We say to him, “Look what you’re doing!” — He doesn’t understand. We say, “you should have added two: look how you began the series!” — He answers, “Yes, isn’t it right? I thought that was how I had to do it.” —- Or suppose he pointed to the series and said, “But I did go on in the same way”. — It would now be no use to say, “But can’t you see … ?” — and go over the old explanations and examples for him again. In such a case, we might perhaps say: this person finds it natural, once given our explanations, to understand our order as we would understand the order “Add 2 up to 1000, 4 up to 2000, 6 up to 3000, and so on”.

    The case would have similarities to that in which it comes naturally to a person to react to the gesture of pointing with the hand by looking in the direction from fingertip to wrist, rather than from wrist to fingertip.

  33. One last test:

    If you have a high IQ shouldn’t you be able to compose questions that illustrate that IQ?
    If you were really that clever would you be spending your time debating farm animals or hypothetical numeric sequences?
    If you knew how intelligent you really are, would you want to be part of a group of people who passed a hen-goat-goose test?
    What about social intelligence, physical intelligence, emotional intelligence, spatial intelligence or cognitive intelligence?

    Degrees of intelligence are more easily recognizable as degrees of stupidity.

    There are more than enough examples of both in the real world and in our own individual lives that make Mensa’s test a poor approximation.

  34. Hoover:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep -> Pig

    Pig is the only one that can fly.

  35. Borui Wang:

    Indeed, it’s testing your inductive bias : ).

  36. pttr:

    Michiel:
    No such thing as a male cow ;)

  37. kikito:

    Hen is the only one which is not commonly used as an insult.

  38. jnevill:

    “hen” is the only one one named that is gender specific.

  39. Cncool:

    It’s sheep because it’s the only one whose plural doesn’t have an s.

  40. Sophist:

    I knew right away that the answer to the animal question is “hen”, because it’s the only one with two feet. After some thought, I realized that the last time I heard anyone ask me something about sheep and hens, they were asking me an arithmetic puzzle.

  41. John Bastian:

    @Michiel:
    “Obviously, ‘hen’ is the odd one out as it is not an actual animal species but more of a gender indication. The species can be many, not only chicken but other common poultry as well. All the other animals are species.”

    ‘Cow’ isn’t a species, either. Many adult female animals are also called cows, including alligators and camels:
    http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/animals/Animalbabies.shtml

    In the context of the question, the most likely species is ‘cattle’!

  42. Pablo:

    We ESL students say sheep is out because its singular and plural form is the same.

  43. Sarth:

    Sheep is the only plural. Potentially :-) If you were Hindu, cow would seem to be the most different from the others, I would guess.

  44. JHKINGS:

    I think it’s sheep, because all the other animals live in or near a barn, while sheep are out in open range.

  45. JohnLBevan:

    David Mitchell (UK Comedian)’s views on Mensa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPMKqyaXtHI

  46. JohnLBevan:

    ps. Sheep is the odd one out in the list below as it’s the only one followed by a dot:
    Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

    In the question, the grey bar before the list of characters is the odd one out as it’s the only visible object which is not a character.

  47. B:

    @Michiel: many species use “cow” to describe the female of the species, possibly as common as “hen”.

  48. Neil:

    Its strange that you had this experience. I’m a member of Mensa India, and there are so many different sub-cultures and languages within it, that it is imperative that the test be both language and culture free, and I think it succeeds in this pursuit to a large extent. Your first set of examples is quite shocking, something like the animals question would never appear on the test here. The second set, regarding number sequences, is quite common though, and yes, you do provide some good counter examples there. However, I think it is partly by design, since the test, by its explicit name, suggests that it is meant to test whether people can see any pattern at all, rather than whether people can see a more complex pattern than others. Usually, it is the case that one answer is more ‘obvious’ than all of the others, but yes, I can see how this obviousness could be a subjective matter. However, for the first section of questions, that really should be fixed.

    As for the arguments questioning why people would want to join Mensa and about us members just being insecure show-offs, thats a whole different rant with too long an argument. It was quite interesting watching David Mitchell follow this line of argument, when he went to Cambridge as I currently am, which I would argue is similar in many ways – individuals restricted to high standards of entry, who join partly for the challenge, sometimes for the bragging rights, but mainly because they want to be in a peer group that has similar aptitudes and thus use the various learning opportunities that arise from this situation.

  49. Berhan SOYLU:

    “How would you continue the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9?”

    Are you serious? The next must be “,” (comma)

    An Engineer (Yes an absessive one)

  50. vadim:

    @berhan I am curious what makes you think it must be comma but not a period.

  51. Generic Male:

    Like a couple of previous commenters my brain first landed on sheep as it’s the only one that satisfies both a singular and plural context. It really seemed to me like that was the obvious answer.

    I guess I’ll never be *officially* smart :(

  52. thomas:

    I had the same problem when applying to a prestigious university in England back in 1989. I spent several minutes of the test musing about how ambiguous some of the ‘questions’ were and how alternative answers could all be valid, there being no reason to prefer one over the other. Somehow one is supposed to ‘induce’ the correct answer. But, if so, that is impossible because induction is a fictitious process (see the work of the philosopher Karl Popper). So I think such tests are flawed and IQ itself may be a misconception.

  53. Jesse Briggs:

    I once read that answers on an IQ test are not valued on “correctness,” but rather on how other people with high IQs answer them. If your answers align well, you score well.

    I didn’t take the time to read slew of comments, maybe this has already been mentioned.

    I certainly don’t think this is a matter of creativity. Most people can come up with several ways to distinguish four animals, that doesn’t mean they can’t arrive at a best response.

  54. Aharon Alexander:

    Hen is the only non-featherless biped.

  55. John Cho:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. In multiple choice tests where various reasonable assumptions are plausible, I tend to write the assumptions directly on the exam so I can defend my answer later. I’m not sure you had that option though. Oh, and I chose hen as well, it being the only animal listed without a hoof.

  56. rr:

    sheep, has two vowels

  57. fred lewis:

    An aside to Assaf: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” is, I think, the correct aphorism.

  58. Ian H:

    Cow and hen are both female. Pig and Sheep are either. This annoys me. The list should surely be either {cow, hen, ewe, sow}; {cattle, chicken, sheep, pig} or {bull, rooster, ram, boar}. The last fits better with the nature of the question. Especially the bull.

  59. Nathan:

    I too am a member of Mensa; I no longer pay dues to be an active member. I attended a few meetups, but found many of the members at those events to be creatively bankrupt. This post and the questions used as examples are indicative of that.

  60. Rob:

    @Assaf – Obviously you aren’t smart enough to know what IQ is and the closest you will ever get to Mensa is what you read about it on some forum somewhere.

  61. Karen:

    I had a similar issue with an item on an IQ test. Which of these items does not belong: Shovel, Spoon, Screwdriver

    The “correct” answer is “spoon” because it is not a tool it is a utensil.

    But if you are kinesthetically oriented, the shovel and the spoon do exactly the same thing: They scoop materials up. The screwdriver, however, twists.

    But evidently that is WRONG.

  62. artp:

    Ryan Fox:
    When you decide to milk that pig, let me know. I REALLY want to watch that. I’ll bring my own paramedic in case I die laughing, and might be willing to share the paramed with you after the pig rips you to shreds. Pigs can be fairly dangerous, and trying to milk one if going to really torque off the pig. Their teeth and hooves are very sharp.

    Besides, pigs are omnivores. That means that I REALLY want to see you DRINK the pig milk. Cow’s milk can be “tainted” so as to be undrinkable by something as simple as feeding it alfalfa instead of clover. Chicken eggs have the same problem: don’t ever throw the garbage out to the chickens – it will make the eggs taste funny if it contains onions, cabbage, or anything strong tasting. Pigs will eat anything. They even eat their young on occasion. That is why we get milk from herbivores, not carnivores or omnivores. Ask your wife (if married with children) about diet restrictions when she was nursing.

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  63. GrayGaffer:

    Every single one of the analyses for the odd one out here relies on cultural or ethnic or lingual specific knowledge. hen is correct because it is the odd one of three mammals and a dinosaur – a fact not dependent upon where or how you were brought up, or what language you speak.

    Which is too simple an answer. My failing in these test s is also tht I see the subtle analyses first when it is the glaring factor that is wantedfor the answer. At my college interview I was given a diagram of a heatstone bridge and asked if it would balance. I said No because the values of the resistors given made it impossible. The prof looked at me stangely and said “oh. er. well. No, the battery is connected in reverse.”.

    IQ tests are not scored by a human empowered to decide if your answer is a clever but obscure one. Each tick box has a score. The scores are totalled and used as a lookup into a range table whch maps it to deviation. Different tests use diferent numbering for graduating the deviations. For example, the one MENSA uses in the UK requires a score of 148 to be in the 98th percentile, whilc in the USA the WAIS test scores 98th as 125. So you should always qualitfy your score with the test that provided it. The test-independent score is rather based on sigma std deviations. MENSA is at about 1.5 sigma. 166 (UK) / 150 (WAIS) is three sigma, or 99.9th percentile. If you find yourself out in the woods at that end, then you know it is good news / bad news too. Not because of IQ, but because to be out there your brain has to be wired strange and that makes it really hard to communicate. Throw in ADHD – more common out there than the general population – and things can get realy wierd.

  64. John Bastian:

    @Karen — Before I read the rest of what you wrote, I thought ‘screwdriver’ too—for the same reasons you gave. Alternatively, a shovel is the only device that requires two hands to use (as opposed to a spoon, a trowel, or a screwdriver).

  65. ZS:

    Check Mensa site and their workout test DOES contain 30% of language oriented questions.

  66. Michael Roberts:

    For the record, I guessed hen – not because of biological category but because today’s American vernacular commonly calls these animals cow, pig, sheep, and CHICKEN – “hen” is the only marginally obsolete word in the list. I’d say vocabulary nuances are at least as important as biological category for animals that represent such an integral part of human society.

  67. Andersd:

    “IQ tests actually measure how standard and narrow your mind is.”

    Thank you very much for these words, they express exactly how I feel about those tests!

  68. Casey:

    > And, look, sheep has five letters while the rest have three.
    If you were taking a version of the test that does not require knowledge of the English language, why would you assume an answer that requires knowledge of the English language?

  69. David:

    @Andrew Geng:
    “Without dying, a cow can give milk, a hen can give eggs, and a sheep can give wool. What can a pig give?”
    Bacon;)

  70. Rams:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

    Answer is “HEN” all others are mammals (cow, Pig Sheep) This is the simple answer they are looking for.

  71. anon:

    @Karen & John – I too immediately associated the shovel and spoon with scooping and saw the screwdriver as the odd one out.

  72. Tim:

    Am I the only one who thought “Hen, because it’s the only non-mammal on the list”

    Or is that what the standard answer of “bird” means?

    I wonder how many people actually associate “Bird” with “Not Mammal”

  73. Leon:

    I took the Mensa test and made it but decided not to join because those people seemed like pricks to me. It was basically a circlejerk about “look how intelligent we are and other people are idiots”. (That’s for Mensa in Germany – maybe your group is different [better]).

  74. Derek:

    Note: I do not believe that I am a genius, nor particularly creative. However, I do vividly remember hating being called on to answer some questions in school, because I just knew that there was an obvious answer (obviously it’s the hen, it’s the only bird!) and I simply would not be seeing things the same way as everyone else. It was always embarrassing, as well as extremely frustrating to have an answer that may be correct, but was not the accepted answer.

  75. Francis Ryan:

    The more academic credentials you have the harder people without those credentials work to devise their own set of tests, with their own expected self determined set of responses, to undermine your credentials. “Joe who has a degree in “X” is not as smart as everyone says he is as I asked him a simple question about “Y” and he said he did not know.”

    The European methodology of having standardized academic tests (UK A-levels for example), at least at the secondary / high school level, goes a long way to obviate the need for ad hoc aptitude tests (ACT/SAT for example). Tellingly SAT is now an empty acronym – from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAT “It (SAT) was first called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, but now SAT does not stand for anything, hence it is an empty acronym”

    The disgraced Jimmy Savile was a member of Mensa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Saville).

  76. Vickie:

    cow, hen, pig, sheep:

    the hen is the one that is different, in a very basis respect: The hen is not a mammal. The hen’s method of reproduction is to lay eggs (Oviparous) and newly-hatched chicks do not obtain sustenance (milk) created by the mother. The cow, pig, and sheep are all mammals and reproduce through live birth (viviparous) and the offspring are nourished by drinking milk produced by the mother until weaning.

  77. david:

    @Michiel –just a quibble, no offence meant… but cow is also a gender specification. There is no common correct singular designation for cattle in English. Bovine is most nearly correct, but is technically a dangling adjectival modifier. “Cow” is an adult female of the species, after its first calf. If I remember correctly from my “intro to animal sciences” class, “pig” also refers to a subset of the collective more generally referred to as a “hog” in English, leaving “sheep” as the only answer that does not refer to some subset of animals of these particular species.

  78. billybob:

    Hen is also a sex specific name (female) the others are gender neutral.

  79. Django:

    I thought the animal question was “Hen” as well. The reasoning is because hens do not have cloven hooves.

  80. Fred:

    I joined Mensa years ago and got a nice ego boost but found local meetings dull and uninteresting and local newsletter horrible, national magazine very bad too, I quit for 10 or so years and rejoined in the hope of seeing some improvement, sadly no, all still bad, maybe a bit worse. Still, the high one gets from acceptance goes a long way and nagging thoughts that the test itself is fake only occur occasionally.

  81. AM:

    You explained clearly a problem I always had with tests when I was young — there were often many different answers I could give to a question, based on different rules/approaches. I often didn’t understand why one answer was “obviously” more right than another. Luckily, I learned to figure out how I was supposed to think during tests (usually based on the outlines given through class lectures), and I ended up graduating summa cum laude from my university (after almost failing out of high school). I’ve been in a well-paying job for many years that requires me to figure out ways to do things, sometimes brand-new issues that crop up suddenly. Now the answers are always obvious because they are based on _my_ rules.

  82. Pete:

    The Mensa puzzle books turn me off. I find them even more self-indulgent than the regular tests. By this I mean their choice of answer often reaches into the obscure and/or arbitrary, at least from my low perspective.

    And of cow, sheep, hen, pig: Clearly cow does not belong. The other animals fit in my van.

  83. Lemon:

    Cow. Since this is a list of animals and not a sentence – it’s the only animal in the list that has a capital letter. Or perhaps ‘sheep.’. As it’s the only animal with a full stop.

  84. utilibre:

    An absolute beauty! Great article!
    This also reminds of tests the governments pose in order to test us whether we are eligible to go to a university…

  85. Christian:

    Tanya, I think the correct answer is “Cow” because that is the only word that begins with an upper-case character.

  86. Dick van Dyke:

    I do enjoy leople giving their opinions on what animal is the odd one, while completely missing the point of the article.

  87. Ivy Mike:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

    Cows give milk. Hens give eggs. Sheep give wool. Pigs give only ham’n’bacon. Therefore, pig does not belong, because it is the only animal which a non-meat eater cannot ethically utilize.

    Actually, cows don’t belong, because they’re the only animal in the list a smallholder can’t haul on a bicycle or small car.

    No, wait, sheep don’t belong, because they’re the only name whose singular and plural spelling is identical.

  88. Steve:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep … and no comments about a corkscrew shaped … hmmm … private parts.

  89. tomek:

    Cow, hen, pig, sheep

    sheep – the only one that has two vowels,or..

    Cow – the only one which starts with upper case

  90. The problem with standardized tests - Claire Boonstra | Claire Boonstra:

    [...] set of very interesting examples were given by Tanya Khovanova in this blog post, where she described the array of potential answers for the Mensa (IQ) test: This test is similar [...]

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    [...] Tanya Khovanova schrijft in haar blog over de gevolgen van gestandaardiseerde tests en het uitsluiten van creativiteit. Laten we testen [...]

  92. gaussian:

    I disagree. You are creating unnecessary confusion. Seeing more than one alternative is good only if you take the next step to evaluate these alternatives in terms of reasonableness. Otherwise, you just turn your mind into soup, which is the opposite of intelligent.

    1. Hen is obviously the odd one out, because it is the only non-mammal in that list. “Kosher” argument is not very good, because it would make the question culturally specific and narrow. You are not supposed to be distracted by small possibilities when there is a big and strong one that’s obvious. Do you think it’s reasonable to expect the test-maker to be Jewish and to expect test-takers to answer an IQ test from Jewish perspective? That fails reasoning from context. Similarly, deciding according to the number of letters is also not very good. That takes away meaning from the question.

    2. Same with the sequence of natural numbers. All other explanations are more complex, and Occam’s razor principle requires you to eliminate them. Again, thinking of them is not bad, but getting stuck at that stage, and repeatedly telling yourself you are just too creative for IQ tests, and denigrating the test-makers is a fail.

    3.I completely disagree with your 30, 31 sequence example as well. IF the sequence only contained 12 elements, and they mimicked the number of days per month per year, THEN I would agree with you. But there are “…” at the end of the test. So, Occam’s razor demands not to add unnecessary confusions. It is POSSIBLE that the test-taker intended you to see that, but do you have any EVIDENCE for that? Why would the test-maker give you question you would not be able answer based on evidence provided in the questions? To give you an analogy, if you have taken high-school algebra, you know infinite number of polynomials can pass through 6 points. But when you are asked to best-fit the points using a polynomial, you know you are being asked to find a 6-th degree polynomial, not a 7, 8, etc degree polynomials, even though they most certainly ALSO will do the job, but since there are an infinite number of 7th degree polynomials (and same with 8th, 9th, etc), it is non-sensical to argue the question is punishing creativity. Do you see my point?

    Creativity is not an ability to make up endless possibilities willy-nilly in a manner that’s detached from the context/reality. That’s delusion/self-confusion. Creativity is thinking up APPLICABLE alternatives, which requires you to evaluate each alternative based on its reasonableness and applicability to the situation you are thinking them up FOR. Your criticisms fail at this second step.

  93. ben:

    I totally agree with “gaussian”. The winner (smartest) is the one who can not only entertain the extra-creative options, but can also then apply sufficient contextual reasoning to pick the most likely one. Making it impossible to be “too creative to fail their test”. Creativity (coming up with alternatives) is orthogonal to critical thinking (evaluating the alternatives). You could be I sufficiently creative and just not see the alternative. But once you see many alternatives, the test is of your ability to eliminate the right ones.

  94. Wendy:

    Without having read all the others’ viewpoints (so, forgive a possible redundancy), one could guess
    cow, as it is the only word where the second letter doesn’t descend.

    I’ve been frustrated with the ambiguity of Mensa’s practice tests. Looking for the “best” among two
    or more correct answers is ludicrous and purely subjective, leaving me wondering whether Mensan’s are
    among one mindset. What other reason would such a ‘high IQ society’ allow a flawed test to serve
    as a viable indication of superior intellect?

    Hmmmm .