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Mensa is the world’s largest high IQ society. I’d always been in awe of so-called geniuses like Stephen Hawking, Leonardo Da Vinci and Marie Curie. I wanted to be like them – able to make scientific breakthroughs and better understand our world. Plus I really enjoyed that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa joins Mensa.
Requirements to Join
The requirements to join Mensa are simple: be in the top 2% on an approved IQ test. There are a variety of tests accepted by Mensa, including the Stanford–Binet, the Cattell and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). Interestingly, each of these has a different score for the top 2%.
Mensa also administers their own test, which is the Reynolds Adaptable Intelligence Test (RAIT). Although it produces a score eligible for Mensa membership, I’ve heard that due to laws in the US (or at least in Texas – not where I am), they are unable to share the specific score with you. If you hit the top 2%, however, you’re in.
Note that top 2% is NOT genius-level IQ. It is more accurate to say that it is a highly gifted IQ.
I decided that I wasn’t too concerned about my specific IQ, only whether my IQ was in the top 2%. So I decided to pay the $99 and complete the RAIT. I filled out the form online to create an account and in about 8 hours I had a code in my inbox that I could use to schedule the RAIT nearby.
The closest testing center to me was about an hour and a half drive so I booked a day off work and scheduled it for about 2 weeks away. I decided not to do anything specific to prepare, other than to make sure that I tried to eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, and get lots of sleep the night before.
The IQ Test
You need to bring your ID and the candidate letter they give you. I don’t want to damage the test integrity so I won’t say too much about the test itself other than that it is designed to test your pattern recognition and similar skills that are associated with intelligence. Any online IQ test will have similar items, though the validity of the score is not guaranteed.
I had heard that they administer the Wonderlic along with the RAIT but I did not experience that. I think the Wonderlic is administered if you do a proctored Mensa test with a group while I did a private session at a PearsonVue center. (The security there was tight!) They wanded me with a metal detector, made me empty my pockets, videotaped the entire session and even took my scratch paper after.
Once I completed the test, I waited. I had heard it can take a few days for the test to be graded, but I think this might apply to paper and pencil tests administered in groups with a proctor. Instead, in a few hours I received the email telling me I qualified for membership! I immediately filled out the form and paid the dues ($79 at the time of this writing.)
In the next 10 business days, I’ll get my new member packet and will then pursue getting a certificate and frame.
Criticism of Mensa
I haven’t been to a meeting yet, so it’s hard to say if the criticism of Mensa – for example, that it is full of people who have no actual achievements – is justified or just sour grapes from people who couldn’t get in. There’s also an argument that Mensa is just set up to collect dues from people and doesn’t provide value.
For what it’s worth, I paid Mensa about $180 ($99 for my private IQ test, $79 for a year of dues.) In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable price to be among a select group for networking, learning and skill-building.
If you’re interested in Mensa, definitely give it a try. The worst they can tell you is no!