A few weeks ago, my friend Chris was studying for the LSAT, and he asked me for some help with the logical reasoning section, my specialty. After we tore through some sample questions together, he began to tease me about joining Mensa, “the high IQ society.” Every now and again this genius group creeps into the human interest section of the newspaper, or some trivia question pops up about celebrity Mensa members. But I hadn’t paid much mind (pun intended) to the organization outside of its fringe place in pop culture. I had never investigated whether I might be eligible to join or exactly how they go about sizing up their prospects’ brain power.
As it turns out, the Mensa test criteria, while stiff, aren’t as stringent as you might expect. Using one of the many acceptable tests, you simply provide documentation to prove that your intelligence (as conventionally defined) falls in the top 2% of the general population. According to their website, American Mensa has only 50,000 members, but they estimate that around 6 million Americans are probably eligible to join. For reference, that’s approximately the total population of the state of Indiana. When put into those terms, Mensa membership seems quite attainable – it’s apparently not the elite, hard-to-join club that you might expect. You don’t need to be a multilingual rocket scientist who wins chess championships and writes with both hands; you just need to prove that you’re a little more than two standard deviations above the norm.
So, how do you do that? Well, you may qualify on the basis of standardized test scores – even the SAT. In other words, over the course of your life, you may have taken what amounted to a free Mensa test without realizing you did. It sounds a bit like those Publisher’s Clearinghouse “You may already be a winner!” advertisements, but it’s true. I was qualified based on tests I took years ago.
Free Mensa Test: Did you get a free Mensa test without knowing it?
Over 200 tests can be used to document your intelligence for the purpose of joining Mensa. In addition to exceptional scores on common IQ tests like the Stanford Binet and the Otis Lennon, many academic standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, ACT, LSAT, MAT, and GMAT can – depending on when you took them – serve as your free Mensa test. Because Mensa strictly reviews its entry requirements on a regular basis and because these tests have changed over time in how they are scored and what precisely they measure, you need to look up the specifics at www.us.mensa.org.
For example, the minimum SAT score required for Mensa membership on tests given before October 1974 is 1300. For SATs administered between October 1974 and February 1994, the minimum score is 1250. However, scores earned after February 1994 cannot be used for admission because Mensa no longer feels that the SAT necessarily measures intelligence.
If you can’t get in based on your old SAT scores (perhaps you’re too young to have taken it before 1994), there are plenty of other options: GRE scores from September 2001 or prior will work, for instance. And tests like the LSAT, GMAT, and MAT are always accepted, though the cutoff scores may be different depending on the date of administration. At any rate, the point is that there’s no shortage of ways to demonstrate your preordained worthiness to Mensa, if you so choose. And should none of your certified IQ tests or standardized test scores serve as your free Mensa test, there’s always Mensa’s own supervised test, which is administered locally by volunteers for a cost of $30.
Perhaps the more important question – beyond whether you unknowingly qualified by virtue of a so-called free Mensa test – is whether you actually want to join. While Mensa offers its members an “annual gathering,” various volunteer opportunities, a newsletter, and a general social network, qualified applicants must decide whether it’s worth schlepping together the documentation and paying a membership fee just to learn something they already know: how smart they are.