Is It Possible to Raise My IQ?

March 10, 2007 by Shawn Smith

According to some doctors, it is possible to raise IQ by “exercising” the brain with challenging activities for the left brain and right brain. Do you agree? – Jane

Dear Jane,

more smarterNot only do I agree, I heartily recommend it.

Those of us in the biz don’t typically think of intelligence in terms of left and right brain. Usually, we speak in terms of verbal and performance abilities.

Verbal IQ includes abilities like short term memory, language comprehension, and sequential information processing. Performance IQ includes spatial reasoning, non-verbal logic, visual-motor skills, and so on.

This division is somewhat arbitrary, but there are advantages to it. For one thing, discrepancies in verbal and performance abilities help diagnose problems such as head injury, developmental disabilities, dementia, and stroke. The verbal/performance division also helps us understand how the mind ages. I hate to tell ya, Jane, but our brains are slowly falling apart.

As we age, performance IQ tends to decline fairly quickly. Processing speed is one of the first things to go. It tends to peak in the early twenties, after which it begins the long, downhill slide. Nonverbal reasoning and visual-motor coordination are not far behind. Working memory, which allows us to do things like remember shopping lists, typically begins to decline during the thirties or forties.

Verbal abilities, on the other hand, tend to stay pretty strong throughout the lifespan. Verbal reasoning, fluency, and language ability show gains through the thirties and forties, as do arithmetic skills. Even though they later decline, they tend to stay pretty strong until approach the finish line. Our long-term recall of concrete information (Who was the first president? What was the name of that sexy teacher in third grade?) also remains fairly strong. That’s assuming you’re lucky enough to avoid dementias such as Alzheimer’s.

As we age, verbal abilities tend to outlast performance. Maybe that’s why there are no 60-year-old fighter pilots while there are plenty of skilled 60-year-old lawyers.

But don’t let this talk of mental decline and plentiful lawyers get you down. There is good news. So far, we’ve been discussing general trends in the population. You, Jane, are not a population. You get to exercise some control over the health of your own brain. Research suggests that not enough people do that. Most people overestimate the effects of aging on IQ decline, and they tend to underestimate the value of regular mental exercise. Exercise makes a big difference. Even if our minds slow down with age, we can easily compensate with greater knowledge, accuracy, and effectiveness.

Barring misfortune, we can keep our brains operating at peak efficiency by challenging them throughout our lives. I wouldn’t waste time on gimmicky exercises. Instead, use your brain the way it was meant to be used: learn a language, join a sports league, get that degree in quantum physics that you’ve always wanted. In short, engage in the world around you, be curious, and have fun. It’s no more complicated than that.

If you want that extra brain boost, take good care of your body. If you can avoid high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems, you will increase the chances of holding on to that mind of yours for as long as possible. Martial arts are a perfect way to stay healthy and work the brain, all in one handy package. Plus, the uniforms look cool.

Speaking of which, I know a wise martial arts instructor who asks his students to learn three new things during each class. Apply that rule to your daily life and not only will your brain age more gracefully, but soon enough your IQ will be off the charts.


Kaufman, A.S. & Lichtenberger, E.O. (1999). Essentials of WAIS-III Assessment. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

13 thoughts on “Is It Possible to Raise My IQ?”

  1. I have struggled with reading, spelling and memorization my entire life. My dad always told me I was just stupid and dont waste time and money on education. Well I just found out my IQ is only 80 wow that hurt, I always wanted a college degree but school has always been a challenge. I am 52 yrs old and still want to get a degree however I dont know what I can do to get my IQ higher. My memorization skis are very poor, it is so embarrassing which causes me anxiety and low self esteem. I would like to know what I can do to improve myself???

    1. How accurate was the I.Q. test? Did you take a second test to check the if the numbers changed? Also look into possibly a learning disability, poor memory, and how about taking some basic classes to sort of start relearning some things and continue from there. I don’t think it is ever too late to start or continue with an education. At least if you try, and when you accomplish something, it will definitely help your self esteem. In conclusion, most people that I know basically have just a great memory…it does not mean that they are naturally intelligent. Get some books on how to improve your memory and how you can develop better studying habits. Good Luck to you.

    2. Cheryl, I happen to have a problem with mathematics. But I refuse to let it get me down. I was always good with English, World History and World Studies, etc. I always swore to myself that I would become an ace mathematician by getting into it. Don’t let your struggle take away your self-esteem. try something such as reading through your favorite book and maybe memorizing your favorite lines or page of the book. Then try seeing if you can increase your reading speed. then start getting into other things(that you know you will also enjoy). Then you will start noticing that you are more confident and that eventually your I.Q. will be boosted up some points.

    3. I would suggest as dumb as it sounds to focus letting go of any negative things anyone has ever said to you. And allow yourself to leave stress as far behind you as possible. stress and negetivity has ben shown to block memory, and derail proper development and function of the briain.when i was younger I took an iq test at school, during a very dificult time in my life. I scored 90. But not long after that I was less stressed and when I took the next iq test I scored 122. it might not seem like much but you are most likely smater then you think.

    4. Hello there i would not worry to much about your IQ i have just done a online IQ test and when i recieved the results i was shocked it was only 52%. I know i am not good at maths and my English is quite good. I worked in Customer service and was made Redundant i have not worked for 4 months even though i have applied for hundereds of jobs so looks like im a thicko

  2. Memorizing stats and dates are not important to me. Knowing where I can access the data is. My thing is ” what is the meaning of life ” and feel I have made substantial headway in the last 51 yrs. Our minds are like biologic computers and I like mine to process data efficiently as compared to speed. My bullshit filter works most of the time which saves a lot of time with non-events or non truths. I am 127 IQ. CAUTION: Ego must be kept in check. We all have something to contribute to our world ( Matrix )

  3. I believe self confidence plays a big part on your IQ. If you have low self confidence, and every time you get presented with a question, a inner voice will question if you are able to answer at all, and when you find the first to mind answer, you might be scared of saying something stupid, and instead you decide to go with something basic, where you know that will be looked at as vague, but at least there is no risk of looking like a moron.
    All this inner battle in your head, takes up valuable process power, so what I suggest is study, study, study and never stop, and its just like working out in the beginning its normal to suck, but with perseverance, you will start to get that confidence that you can understand anything, its just a matter of time, and that in turn will make that IQ clime.

    1. Hi Kent – yes, anxiety is definitely a factor in the way we present ourselves. You just described social anxiety, and you described it well. Psychologists try to take it into account in cognitive testing, but sometimes it slips by and affects outcomes.

      1. Thanks Shawn, I never knew the real concept behind the phenomenon that I was seeing, I just see it everyday in conversation and daily problem solving.
        Fantastic article, thank you!

  4. All i know is that most people with high IQ usually do stupid things, specially in school. Most are also ignorant and self rightious. But i found out that samrt people find things funner like having sex, smart people will enjoy it more than average guys. But also most are lazy, most smart people dont get anywhere in life, usualy th avergae people who try really hard get somewhere. And you know what i dont even know why im saying this…………………. Oh by the way my IQ is 161-166. IQ test arent really accurate specially internet ones, you need too see someone who measures it, forgot what their called and its not that expensive. Also play chess it do alot of problem solving shit to maintain ur intelegence

Comments are closed.