GMAT and IQ Correlation

Is the GMAT and IQ correlated?  Yes, there’s some correlation. 

There’s a better measured positive correlation between salary and height, but despite this, we all know rich short people and poor tall people. 

Correlation does not imply causality, even for a very strong correlation.   Correlations don’t necessarily speak to anything other than overall statistical trends, and a weak correlation is only something you would observe in an analysis of thousands of data points at once, not in the case-by-case basis of everyday life. 

Thus, even if your friend has a considerably higher IQ than you do, there’s no guarantee her GMAT score will be higher than yours.  Too many other factors come into play.



This is a touchy, complicated, and controversial topic.  Let me begin by saying: my undergraduate degree was in Physics.  There are myriad things in Nature that are exceptionally well suited to being described precisely by a number—length, mass, angular momentum, electrical charge, radioactive decay rate, etc. etc. 

By contrast, it seems to me that intelligence is more a multifaceted collection of skills & processes & perspectives—it’s more a quality than a quantity.  Intelligence doesn’t seem to belong in the same category with the molecular weight of sugar or the price of rutabagas—things which can be described fully by a single number. 

Instead, it seems to belong to a category with things like love, truth, honesty, integrity, democracy, justice, happiness, and a whole slew of other human-type things—we can talk about having more or less of any one of them, but none of them is really described particularly well by a single number. 

For example, Einstein said “Imagination is more important than intelligence,” and his contribution was as much a breakthrough of imagination as anything else.  That strikes me as particularly sui generis, with none of the standardization that quantifiable measurement implies.  That’s my 2¢.

Philosophers (many themselves quite intelligent) have pondered intelligence for a few millennia.  For a little over a hundred years, humans have been interested in the numerical measurement of intelligence. 

The origins of the measurement of intelligence were originally tied up with all sorts of unsavory things, like racism, eugenics, and the inhuman quantization of everything, brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

For over a hundred years, folks in psychometrics have been measuring something—they called it “g-factor”, general intelligence factor, which is known popularly as IQ.  There is quite of bit of statistically sound research behind g-factor. 

Psychometricians have determined that all the varied measure for g-factor are highly correlated with each other, and g-factor is usually reasonably well correlated with standardized test scores, academic achievement, etc.  (Again, correlations are general statistical trends that are not necessarily true in every single case.) 

An individual’s g-factor seems to stay about the same over the course of life.  Definitely g-factor measures something, but whether that something is the whole of intelligence or some aspect or subset of intelligence is hard to say. 

Science and research only measure what can be measured, so the questions about the essentially immeasurable, unquantifiable aspects of intelligence (or anything else!) are virtually intractable to research.



There’s one huge difference between IQ and GMAT score. Whatever IQ is, each one of us seems to have the same value our whole lives, and there’s not much of anything we can do to increase it.  (FWIW, you can decrease IQ quite efficiently with massive head injuries!) 

By contrast, anyone can increase her GMAT score with the right prep. This starts with having a good study plan and using the best GMAT books and resources and not some book that has predetermined you’re not so bright like the GMAT for Dummies book.  

You might be able to find a GRE to GMAT score conversion, but IQ is just not the same.

If your goal is a good GMAT score, or even average GMAT scores, my suggestion is—forget all the mumbo-jumbo about IQ, and just focus on learning the content and strategies you need for GMAT success!


Questions about anything I’ve said here?  Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!  🙂


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  • Mike MᶜGarry

    Mike served as a GMAT Expert at Magoosh, helping create hundreds of lesson videos and practice questions to help guide GMAT students to success. He was also featured as "member of the month" for over two years at GMAT Club. Mike holds an A.B. in Physics (graduating magna cum laude) and an M.T.S. in Religions of the World, both from Harvard. Beyond standardized testing, Mike has over 20 years of both private and public high school teaching experience specializing in math and physics. In his free time, Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Learn more about the GMAT through Mike's Youtube video explanations and resources like What is a Good GMAT Score? and the GMAT Diagnostic Test.