The Mega Test

NOTE: In late November and early December of 1999, the Mega Test was compromised in high-visibility public forums, such that I no longer feel it is appropriate to host the test on this website.

Most intelligence (or I.Q.) tests are designed so that average people get average scores, clustered around the midpoint I.Q. of 100. The tests are most powerful at their middle ranges, where the difference between an I.Q. of 100 and 105 may be a matter of several questions on the test itself. But at their upper ends, the tests don't seem to discriminate nearly as well -- the five-point difference between I.Q. scores of 145 and 150, say, may translate into raw-score differences of only one or two test questions.

There have been various tests devised over the years that make fine distinctions in the intellectual stratosphere. The idea is to make a test so difficult that geniuses will get average scores, and only supergeniuses will be able to achieve the highest scores.

Various high-I.Q. organizations have been established over the years. Mensa, the most famous group, is open to one person in 50 -- that is, people in the upper 2 percent of the population (98th percentile). The Top One Percent Society and Intertel have cutoffs at the 99th percentile, and the One-in-a-Thousand and the Triple Nine Societies have cutoffs at the 99.9th percentile. The Prometheus Society shoots for 1 in 30,000. But the most restrictive group is the Mega Society, which is theoretically limited to one person in a million (the 99.9999th percentile).

The founder of Mega and the author of one of its admissions tests is Ronald Hoeflin, of New York. At Omni Magazine's request, Hoeflin split his original long-form test into two parts of 48 questions each. One part, called the Mega Test, originally appeared in Omni (April, 1985, Games column). The other part appeared in the Omni I.Q. Quiz Contest, complete with answers (Marilyn Mach vos Savant, 1985; Published by McGraw-Hill Company, New York; Copyright by Omni Publication International, Ltd., and Marilyn Mach vos Savant, ISBN 0-07-039377-X).

Hoeflin estimates that the Mega Test has a floor of 100 (which means that if you get no questions right, your I.Q. is somewhere below 100) and a ceiling of 190+. At Omni's request, prior to its publication in the magazine, the test was administered to more than 150 people -- all members of the major high-I.Q. societies, in order to show, for example, that Mega members score higher than members of Prometheus, who score higher than members of Triple Nine, and so on.

1Of the test's 48 questions, 10 correct corresponds to an I.Q. of 133, the cutoff for membership in Mensa (although Mensa does not accept results of unsupervised tests like the Mega); 14 right, an I.Q. of 138, qualifies one for membership in the Top One Percent Society; 24 right, an I.Q. of 150, qualifies for the One-in-a-Thousand Society, 36 right, an I.Q. of 164, qualifies for the Prometheus Society, and 43 right, or an estimated I.Q. of 177, is the cutoff for joining the Mega Society.

One of the Omni readers who scored one of the highest on the Mega Test was Andrew H. Card, and current Chief of Staff under President Bush. His score of 44 correct gave him an estimated I.Q. of 180 (achievable by approximately one in 3 million). Actress Uma Thurman scored 45 (I.Q. of 183) on her first attempt. Two others have scored 48 on their first attempt (Note that Ron now specifies that only one attempt is allowed). About 9 people have scored 47, but only on a second attempt. This includes John Harter. "John Harter" turned out to be a pseudonym for an individual who scored 42 on his first attempt of the Mega Test [Ron Hoeflin, in a letter to me, made the distinction between first and second attempts of John Harter]. About 13 people have scored 46 right, including Eric Schuesler (who worked at NASA). Card 's score of 44 has been tied by 7 or 8 other people so far, including Richard Bosner, who edited the Mega Society journal, Noesis.

In reply to a letter I wrote to him, Chris Langan, the alter-ego of John Harter, has written that he sees no reason to conceal his identity any longer. It is his contention that his score of 47 could (or should) be counted as a first attempt, since his test-taking strategy was to minimize the effort and time required achieve the mega-level, which was 42 right in the original Omni magazine introduction to the Mega Test. One of my comments to him was:

"Your explanation of John's test-taking strategy is interesting; I suspect that few people who scored in this range followed the same strategy of maximizing the score-to-time-spent ratio with the goal of achieving a score of at least 42 correct. For those who are able, I would think there would be a powerful motivation to achieve the highest score possible, period."

His response was:

"As you speculate, the same mathematics [game or decision theory] can also be used to justify trying for the highest possible score. Mathematical expectation, as expressed by the gain/cost ratio, allows "gain" and "cost" to be defined in various ways. If one takes great pleasure in the solution of IQ test problems or in (meaningless) competition with other testees, then one might regard every minute spent on such a test as emotionally "gainful." And if one has nothing better to do anyway, the cost to one's other pursuits may be small. This can result in a higher perceived gain/cost ratio for solving as many problems as possible, at least for idle puzzle addicts."

1 The raw score equivalent IQ's are from Ron Hoeflin's sixth norming. The original column by Scot Morris read as follows:

Of the test's 48 questions: 8 correct corresponds to an I.Q. of 134, the cutoff for membership in Mensa; 22 right, and I.Q. of 150, qualifies one for membership in the Triple Nine Society; 33 or above, corresponding to a 164 I.Q., qualifies one for membership in the Prometheus Society; 42 right, or an estimated I.Q. of 176, is the cutoff for joining the Mega Society.

The Titan Test

The Titan Test is a more difficult twin to the Mega Test. It consists of the best problems from six preliminary tests that were tried out on volunteers between 1985 and 1988. The May 14, 1997 issue of The Wall Street Journal reports that "Rick Rosner, a TV writer, bar bouncer, nude model [is] the only person to get a perfect score on Dr. Hoeflin's latest test [I am informed that the test referred to is the Titan, which is no longer the latest test -- DTM]."

The Ultra Test

Third in the series of tests that Ron Hoeflin has designed. First indications are that this test has a floor of about 100 I.Q. and a ceiling of about 180, which makes it slightly easier than the Mega or Titan and accessible to a wider group of people.

The Hoeflin Power Test

Combines the best problems from the Mega, Titan, and Ultra Tests, while omitting the verbal analogies and number sequences. Non-native English speakers may thus prefer this test to the others (and it can be more readily translated, if needed). Also, this test provides a legitimate avenue for resubmitting answers to problems on the other tests (as long as the test taker believes the Hoeflin Power Test is still a valid measure of his intelligence). So far (as of January 2001), the high scorer on the Power Test has been David Fabian.


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