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What is Genius on the IQ Scale: Average, High and Einstein-level Scores

Last updated on April 24, 2023
Genius man with high IQ and lightbulb that represents that the man scored better than average on the intelligence scale.

What if we told you that you can turn into a genius like Einstein even if you are classified with an average IQ level, miles away from people who score high on the intelligence ranking scale?

To be more precise, we found out that being a genius is not about reaching a high IQ and having incredible academic results.

Instead, it’s much more about your inner calling and the warrior spirit you follow it with.

Shortly said, graving your name in the history books and contributing with something that will inspire the world for generations to come is all in your hands.

Read on to learn if you’ve got what it takes to be a genius yourself, how an IQ test can help identify your giftedness, ways to develop your intelligence, who are the highest-performing minds of all time (Einstein winks), and more.

What does being a genius mean?

According to the dictionary, we should use genius to describe:

  • A single strongly marked capacity or aptitude;
  • Extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity;
  • A person endowed with extraordinary mental superiority, especially a person with a very high IQ.

Despite the last of the above definitions, a high IQ (intelligence quotient) is not enough for someone to deserve being called a genius.

The three conditions for being a genius

First of all, a study transformed into a psychology book claims that a minimum IQ level of 125 “is strictly necessary for genius”, but this score needs to be combined with two other qualities:

  1. Opportunity for talent development;
  2. Drive and persistence.

Everyone can be a genius

Another psychologist, Charles Spearman, claimed that intelligence is made of “general factors” and “special factors”, the latter ones being specific to particular mental tasks.

This means that if you do one activity often enough, you will get better at it. 

Test this by picking up an activity you’ve never done before or in the latest period (e.g. start solving Sudoku or do crosswords). A properly kept to-do list will help you practice your chosen activity daily.

Given the above, Spearman got to the following conclusion:

“Every normal man, woman, and child is, then, a genius at something, as well as an idiot at something.”

- Charles Spearman

A very similar conclusion was reached by Hungarian psychologist Laszlo Polgar.

Polgar “had studied hundreds of people who were considered geniuses in one field or another, and he’d concluded that with the proper rearing any child could be turned into a genius.

Moreover, there’s a psychologist who argued the so-called myth that says “genius is born not made” and demonstrated the contrary with real-life examples, like Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Michael Faraday, and Albert Einstein.

Einstein had one of the highest estimated IQ levels of all time, according to the genius ranking you’ll find at the end of this article.

The psychologist’s conclusion was that:

Genius is “the product of a combination of environment, personality, and sheer hard work.”

- Michael J.A. Howe, cognitive psychologist

Takeaway: meaning of genius

All in all, genius doesn’t seem to be just the quality of someone who does well in an IQ test – although this feat is considered necessary by some mind researchers – but rather of a highly driven person that puts focus and hard work into developing a skill.

Pro tip: it’s preferable that your chosen skill is also your passion. And if you don’t know what activity you’re passionate about, our life purpose guide will surely help you out.

What does an IQ test show?

Variants of tests meant to measure intelligence started to appear since the late 19th century. Yet, the most prolific breakthroughs were made in the 20th century.

Ingenious people like Alfred Binet, Lewis Terman, and David Wechsler, along with other minds have contributed to what IQ tests represent today.

According to Mensa, a high IQ society with over 145.000 members across the world, an IQ test is a method of comparing your mental ability with other people in your age range. Their example goes as follows:

“If an individual of 10 years of age had a mental age of 10, their IQ would be 100. However, if their mental age was greater than their chronological age (e.g., 12 rather than 10), their IQ would be 120.”

- Mensa

IQ tests measure your cognitive abilities by putting your brain in the face of calculation and logical reasoning problems, often while you’re under the pressure of time, and your results are catalogued using a scale.

Thus, it’s important to know that these tests focus more on examining your fluid intelligence (tied to the reasoning and flexibility of your thought patterns) and less on your crystallized intelligence (accumulated knowledge and learned skills).

How do you take an official IQ test

It’s quite simple. There are different official IQ tests you can take, some of the most well-known being the Stanford-Binet and Cattell tests, each using a faintly different scale.

You can take an IQ test by:

  • Consulting with a psychologist;
  • Scheduling a Mensa admission;
  • Asking your school’s functionaries if they can offer the opportunity for you or your child to take such a test.

To give you an idea of how these intelligence examinations look like, here are some Mensa approved test exercises shown by Toby Hendy, a numbers enthusiast with an undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics.

What is the average IQ score

The score of your IQ test is interpreted with the help of a scale or a chart and a bell curve with percentiles that give meaning to your performance. But let’s not get tangled into statistical theory.

What is important to know that each type of test has a slightly different range of IQ scores and classifications.

However, the average IQ score for these human intelligence tests is the same – 100.

IQ range breakdown

Wechsler IQ Range

  • 130 and over: Very Superior
  • 120-129: Superior
  • 110-119: High Average
  • 90-109: Average
  • 80-89: Low Average
  • 70-79: Borderline
  • 69 and under: Extremely Low

Stanford-Binet IQ Range

  • 144 and above: Very gifted or highly advanced
  • 130-144: Gifted or very advanced
  • 120-129: Superior
  • 110-119: High average
  • 90-109: Average
  • 80-89: Low average
  • 70-79: Borderline impaired or delayed
  • 55-69: Mildly impaired or delayed
  • 40-54: Moderately impaired or delayed

Woodock-Johnson IQ Range

  • 131 and above: Very superior
  • 121-130: Superior
  • 111-120: High Average
  • 90-110: Average
  • 80-89: Low Average
  • 70-79: Low
  • 69 and below: Very Low

As we can see above, what is over 110 is considered a high IQ score, but not even one scale names the top ranges using the term “genius”. But guess what? One of them did this in the past.

Original Stanford-Binet Test IQ Scale with genius being the top range.

However, Terman, the founding father of the above IQ test, changed the “genius” level after acknowledging that achieving this quality requires something more than just a high IQ score – drive, persistence, and gateways for someone to develop their talent.

In conclusion, an IQ test doesn’t show if you’re a genius, but it can unravel your potential of being one. 

And if there’s any range we would classify as “genius IQ”, we can only follow one of the psychological studies already mentioned that says that one must score at least 125 in a test.

So, if you were to score 126, 130, 146 or 198 on your IQ test, then, congratulations, you may just be a 21st century Einstein.

But what if you don’t?

How can you achieve genius IQ level

Graph showing where the minimum for genius stands on the IQ scale

Science has not yet concluded if someone can increase their IQ, or better said, intelligence, because of the lack of a proper measuring scale.

However, a 2008 study claims that people can increase their fluid intelligence by training their working memory (short-term memory used for everyday tasks, reasoning, and more).

One of the best ways to do this is by playing any of our selection of 18 brain training games on a constant basis.

Besides this, researchers found that music lessons enhance children’s IQ – although in small proportions – and that teenagers can increase or decrease their intellectual capacity, much of this depending on how much effort they put in learning.

Given the above, there are 3 ways for you to increase your IQ and achieve the minimum score of 125 that’s required for you to be a potential genius:

  • Play brain training games;
  • Take music lessons when you’re a child;
  • Keep learning during your teenage years.

Pro tip: as high IQ personality Albert Einstein once said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”, so a genius has to take care of his creativity too.

You can feed your imagination in many ways, but watching animated movies and looking at art are two great options.

Humans get smarter

The IQ levels of humankind increased from generation to generation during the 20th century. A researcher studied this trend and found the reason behind it. He called it: the Flynn effect.

Graph showing gains in average IQ for world regions (Flynn effect)

The theory behind this phenomenon puts the constant IQ ascension mainly on the back of changes in our way of living, like better education, nutrition, new technology, and less on improvements in areas such as mathematical skills and vocabulary.

Famous geniuses and their IQs

We’ve already learned that IQ alone can’t tell if you’re a genius or not. So, to find the most brilliant minds that ever existed we need to seek persons who took certain skills at skyscraper levels and also proved that their intelligence is out of the ordinary.

Luckily, a ranking of geniuses was published in an online encyclopedia. The hall of fame was established taking into account their lifetime works and estimated IQs.

1. Johann Goethe (IQ: 210)

All-time IQ high-score holder Johann Goethe's genius quote

Lifetime: 1749-1832 (83 years).

Goethe was a German with many occupations and talents. He made important scientific claims, especially in chemistry, with his novel Elective Affinities, in which he described the role of chemical reactions in human relationships.

Yet, he was the most appreciated for his literary work, including famous works such as Faust, a drama which is considered his masterpiece, and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.

Moreover, Johann Goethe was named one of the six great “representative men” of the world for his writing talent, along with names like Plato, William Shakespeare, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

2. Isaac Newton (IQ: 205)

Isaac Newton and his quote about standing upon the shoulders of giants

Lifetime: 1643-1727 (84 years).

You all know the apple fallen out of the tree story, don’t you? Many of today’s knowledge is indebted to Isaac Newton’s work.

The English physicist and mathematician is best known for establishing the laws of motion – basics of modern physics – for studying the white light composition, and for his mathematical discoveries, especially in calculus.

3. Albert Einstein (IQ: 205)

High IQ Albert Einstein and his quote about one of the most important things in life.

Lifetime: 1879-1955 (76 years).

Mr. Einstein’s estimated IQ is very high, but we don’t actually need this to know that he was a bright mind. After all, Einstein became a synonym of “genius” in everyday language.

Albert Einstein is most famous not for his IQ level but for his contributions in the field of physics.

In this domain, he introduced the mass-energy equivalence formula (E = mc2) and discovered the law of photoelectric effect, for which he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.

4. James Maxwell (IQ: 205)

James Clerk Maxwell Quote about God and philosophical systems.

Lifetime: 1831-1879 (48 years).

Scottish mathematical physicist James Maxwell is famous for coming up with the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. This led to his prediction of the existence of radio waves.

And if this wasn’t enough, even Einstein, number 3 in this IQ ranking, acknowledged Maxwell’s genius level work.

When Albert was asked whether his successful theories were vastly influenced by Newton’s discoveries, he responded: “No, I stood on the shoulders of Maxwell.”

5. Willard Gibbs (IQ: 205)

High-IQ Willard Gibbs genius simplicity quote

Lifetime: 1839-1903 (64 years).

American scientist Willard Gibbs is best known for his theories in thermodynamics. He created the notion of statistical mechanics and used Maxwell’s work to contribute to physical optics. In terms of mathematics, Gibbs invented the modern vector calculus.

The next 5 places in the genius ranking are occupied by:

6. Leonardo da Vinci (IQ: 200)

7. Rudolf Clausius (IQ: 200)

8. Democritus (IQ: 195)

9. Aristotle (IQ: 195)

10. Galileo (IQ: 195)

The smartest people on Earth

We saw above ten of the geniuses that remained in history through their works, but wouldn’t you be curious to find out who scored the highest on the IQ tests that we can take nowadays?

To do this, we checked The World Genius Directory, which features a ranking of people who scored the highest score on the IQ scale after they got tested.

Keep in mind that these people are not necessarily geniuses, but rather people that achieved the genius IQ level.

Top 10 IQs in the world

  1. Evangelos Katsioulis: 198

Dr. Katsioulis is a Greek general practitioner, an oncology and psychiatry resident, and a private psychiatrist and psychotherapist. On top of all, he describes himself as a “life enthusiast”.

  1. Heinrich Siemens: 195

The lifetime work of Heinrich Siemens revolves mainly around his passion for the Plautdietsch language, a spoken language that translates to “flat German”.

  1. Rick Rosner: 192

Rick is an American television writer, who wrote, among others, for Jimmy Kimmel Live. He is also famous for suing “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, after accusing the show that the answer to a question was mistaken.

  1. Mislav Predavec: 192

Croatian professor Mislav Predavec is teaching math in Zagreb and is known for founding the high IQ society, GenerIQ.

  1. Kenneth Ferrell: 190

Kenneth is an American physician and a member of multiple IQ societies. Mr. Ferrell was also one of the founding members of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).

  1. Dany Provost: 190

Dany Provost is a financial expert and the author of a book about retirement.

  1. WenChin Sui: 190

Sui is a student of Business Management at Nanjing University. His hobbies include piano, guitar, basketball, and travel.

  1. Marios Prodromou: 190

Marios is a postal officer in Cyprus and some of his passions are helping children (as a mental coach), football, and philosophy.

  1. Cuong Dong: 190

Some of Hanoi-based Cuong Dong’s interests include football, watching movies, music, philosophy, stock markets, strategy games, drawing, and swimming.

  1. Mahir Wu: 190

Mahir Wu is a computer enthusiast from China who has scored high-scores in multiple intelligence tests.


To wrap up, what we found out by looking at expert studies, brilliant minds like Einstein, and the way intelligence is measured today, is that scoring well on an IQ test – a target everyone can achieve with the right training – is just a tiny part of what a person needs to meet to be considered a true genius, the most important factor being the manifesting of true dedication, hard work, and passion in a certain field.

Have you taken an official IQ test before and how did you score on the scale, was it at least 125, the minimum requirement to level up into a genius? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

Additional sources:

  • Ericsson, Karl Anders, and Robert Pool. 2016. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Howe, Michael J. A. 2001. Genius Explained. Reprint. Canto Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Kamphaus, Randy W., and Randy W. Kamphaus. 2005. Clinical Assessment of Child and Adolescent Intelligence. 2nd ed. New York: Springer.
  • Kaufman, Alan S. 2009. IQ Testing 101. The Psych 101 Series. New York, NY: Springer Pub. Co.
  • Prince, Dandre. 2018. Measurement and Evaluation in Psychology and Education. EDTECH.
  • Sattler, Jerome M. 2008. Assessment of Children: Cognitive Foundations. 5th ed. San Diego: J.M. Sattler.
Written by
Claudiu Pop from Unfold Today, face portrait.
Claudiu Pop is a nutritionist, medical writer, journalist and the founder of Unfold Today. He also has Master level studies in social psychology, which have helped him cover mental health topics.

3 comments on “What is Genius on the IQ Scale: Average, High and Einstein-level Scores”

  1. I have a friend (80 years old, and yes alert and oriented, and generally intelligent, she was a volunteer librarian everywhere she has lived, an actress, singer and dancer in small local troupes, and caterer), who one day told me she had a 170 IQ. I think she just fancied herself this smart. And yes she is smart but not THAT smart. I am a nurse and take great joy in reading complex biology and science. Her favorite books, I was sad to find out are what are termed the "cozies". Fictional mysteries of a certain genre. It's fine to say you are smart and think you are smart but to lie to me and tell me your IQ is 170, that's a LOT. According to this article, it's more than taking a test. It takes motivation and drive and persistence. I know I'm not so smart BUT I AM PERSISTENT, and that is what gets me through.

    1. Hello! Regarding your friend, first of all, I think you can't really tell how smart she is or whether she was lying about her IQ or not. Instead, the best thing you can do to compare yourself with her is to look at what she has accomplished until now and in what field. As our Spearman says: "Every normal man, woman, and child is, then, a genius at something, as well as an idiot at something.” That is to say, you could be a genius nurse, but a terrible actress, if doing that doesn't align with your inner qualities. Loved your last line: "I'm not so smart but I am persistent, and that is what gets me through."

  2. This was an entertaining article. I tested at 160 in 1969 a little later at the same college different test I was 166. Later at another college I tested 172 and later 178. I never felt like a genuis. I flet I was smart and had a hunger for knowledge. I have always felt the need to feed that hunger and still read fast and asorb as much as I can daily even though I am now 71. The best way to describe how I have led my life is one of interpretation. My wife or friends come to me to get explanations for information or science they do not understand. I enjoy making it possible for them to get an understanding of what some things mean in life. I have passed on my level of inteligence to my children. That is somehting I feel good about.

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