IQ Can Be Improved Significantly – Gosh We Knew That In 1980

The Guardian (UK) reports the findings of a study carried out by Sue Ramsden of University College London of teenage IQ. The study was supervised by Prof Cathy Price. The Guardian reports rather breathlessly that “individual IQ scores rose or fell by as many as 21 points, a substantial difference – enough to take a person of "average" intelligence to "gifted" status, or vice versa”.
This is very old. A colleague and I discovered similar results over thirty years ago and published them in a refereed British scientific journal. I am surprised that this is reported as a new finding. Perhaps the researchers were unfamiliar with the extensive body of past research, including mine, which shows the mutability of IQ.
A large scale study by the American Psychological Association concluded in 1995 that “IQ scores do change over time. … the average change between age 12 and age 17 was 7.1 IQ points; some individuals changed as much as 18 points.” This is something Professor Cecil Field and I had showed fifteen years earlier. {Michael F. Petty; Cecil J. Field (1980) Fluctuations in Mental Test Scores, Educational Research, Volume 22, Issue 3 June 1980, pages 198 – 202.}
So the findings of the University College study were already known 31 years ago and these findings were reiterated in 1995; they are hardly new.
The Guardian article also says that: “IQ is thought to be stable across a person's life. Childhood scores are often used to predict education outcome and job prospects as an adult. But the study suggests scores are surprisingly variable.”
In fact it has been some time, at least since 1980, since IQ is thought to be “stable across a person's life”.
The variability of IQ means that such tests as the British 11+ and the American SAT are not legitimate in allocating students to places in higher education. This has also been known for quite a while. According to the Guardian article Robert Sternberg from Oklahoma State University said: "A testing industry has developed around the notion that IQ is relatively fixed and pretty well set in the early years of life. This study shows in a compelling way that meaningful changes can occur throughout the teenage years."
In fact this testing industry that Professor Sternberg describes has been discredited for some time.

IQ and related tests like the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the English 11+ are very bad at predicting performance in university.
Generally, tests designed to predict academic performance are poor predictors of what they are supposed to measure. My friend and colleague at the University of New South Wales, Dr. Phil Mead, found in 1973 that high school graduation scores in Australia had a low 9% correlation with GPA (grade point average) in university.
This finding shocked us and many other people. In the Australian state of New South Wales a test called the HSC (Higher School Certificate) is used to determine admission to university. Almost incredibly, scores on the HSC predicted GPA scores in university with only 9% accuracy and yet the HSC was, and still is, regarded by most people as a fair test for university entrance, as is the SAT.
For many years people have been hoodwinked by the educational testing industry, neither the SAT nor the HSC is a fair test of ability to perform in university though the Australian HSC is a little better than the American SAT.

Research cited by the FairTest organization shows that both SAT I and SAT II together predict less than 10% of college grades.
In psychological terms such tests lack validity – they do not measure what they are supposed to measure, which is intellectual potential, or IQ. If your family doctor could only diagnose 4% of your family’s health problems you would soon be looking for another doctor!
As a result of ongoing studies at the University of California, President Richard Atkinson presented a proposal in February 2001, over ten years ago, to drop the SAT I requirement for University of California applicants.
Bates College, a leading US Liberal Arts college, dropped all pre-admission testing requirements including the SAT in 1990. The College conducted studies which determined that the variable which best predicted success at the college was students' self-evaluation of their "energy and initiative". Self-evaluated energy and initiative was a better predictor of performance at Bates than either Math or Verbal SAT scores. Energy and initiative are of course part of Emotional IQ.
Adopting a voluntary stance to testing for admission did Bates College no harm at all. Bates is still one of the most innovative and highest ranked liberal arts colleges in America.
Despite abandoning the SAT Bates College has been ranked in the top 25 liberal arts schools in U.S. News and World Report for the past 20 years. The Princeton Review named Bates the No. 1 "Best Value College".
The Bates College Department of Economics ranked second among liberal arts colleges for the number of times its faculty's scholarly research is cited by other researchers.
There is nothing new in the finding that teenagers’ IQ scores can vary by as much as 21 points across time, we first discerned this in 1980 and it has been validated quite a number of times since.
I am surprised that The Guardian should be reporting the University College research as a significant new finding, it has been known for at least thirty years since we published our research. And neuroscience has shown that brains are plastic and can grow physically, even in mature adults, and that IQ can be improved by brainwave entrainment and simple learning.

Michael Petty, PhD

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Michael Petty has a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a BA from Durham, UK, and an MA from the University of Calgary. He was a Fellow of The Canada Council and a faculty member at the Centre for Educational Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He taught sociology and multivariate statistical analysis at the University. He is the lead author of Michael F. Petty; Cecil J. Field (1980) Fluctuations in Mental Test Scores, Educational Research, Volume 22, Issue 3 June 1980, pages 198 – 202, a groundbreaking study that showed that IQ is not immutable, as was previously believed. He is the author of many other papers and a number of books including the recent IQ Unlimited, published on Amazon Kindle.
For the past four years Dr. Petty has been CEO of, a company which applies brainwave entrainment to improve learning skills and IQ for students of all ages.