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Can you increase your IQ by 20 points?

Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a score derived from standardized tests designed to measure human intelligence and cognitive abilities. The average IQ score is 100, with most people scoring between 85 and 115. So can you increase your IQ score by 20 points or more through deliberate practice and training? Here is a look at what IQ tests measure, factors influencing IQ, and methods that may help boost your score.

What Do IQ Tests Measure?

IQ tests aim to measure two types of intelligence:

  • Fluid intelligence – the ability to solve new problems, use logic, and identify patterns.
  • Crystallized intelligence – accumulated knowledge and experience.

Tests focus on several cognitive skills including:

  • Verbal comprehension – vocabulary and reading comprehension.
  • Perceptual reasoning – visual puzzles and spatial awareness.
  • Working memory – attention, concentration, and mental agility.
  • Processing speed – the time taken to solve simple problems.

Performance on IQ tests reflects a combination of innate cognitive ability and knowledge acquired through education and life experiences. While IQ is relatively stable across the lifespan, test scores can be improved to some degree through practice effects.

What Factors Influence IQ Scores?

Research shows IQ is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors including:

  • Genetics – Intelligence has an inherited component, with studies estimating it accounts for 50-80% of variance in IQ scores.
  • Education – Access to schooling, particularly at young ages, correlates with higher IQ later in life.
  • Nutrition – Proper nutrition is linked to cognitive development and test performance.
  • Socioeconomic status – Children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to score lower on IQ tests.
  • Testing skills – Familiarity with test formats and question types can boost performance.

While genetics clearly play a role, environmental influences still leave room for improvement through learning and practice. Next we look at techniques with the potential to raise your IQ score.

Methods to Increase Your IQ Score

For most people, dramatically increasing IQ by 20 points or more is unrealistic. However, research suggests training in the following areas could lead to modest IQ gains:

1. Use It or Lose It: Practice Testing Skills

Since IQ tests assess a narrow set of cognitive abilities, practicing the specific skills tested is likely the simplest way to maximize how well you score. Strategies include:

  • Take multiple practice tests to improve familiarity with the format and timing.
  • Learn testing strategies like how to quickly size up verbal analogies or visual patterns.
  • Focus practice on personal weak areas to address gaps.
  • Reduce test anxiety and nervousness through mock exams.

Research shows practice with feedback raises IQ scores by 3-5 points in adults. Gains are larger for lower-scoring individuals, and results are short-term unless practice is repeated.

2. Exercise and Reduce Stress

Physical activity and stress management have well-established cognitive benefits including:

  • Improved concentration, memory and ability to learn.
  • Higher blood flow to key brain regions.
  • Stimulation of new brain cell growth.
  • Reduced anxiety and mental fatigue.

Aerobic exercise like running combined with yoga, meditation or music therapy to curb stress can optimize mental acuity and test performance. These lifestyle changes may translate into an estimated 1-2 point IQ bump.

3. Train Your Brain With Games and Puzzles

Activities requiring active thinking and problem solving build connections between brain cells. With regular practice, benefits may include:

  • Improved memory and concentration.
  • Higher reasoning, verbal fluency and mental processing speed.
  • Enhanced ability to filter key information and make quick decisions.

Brain training games, strategy puzzles like chess or sudoku, and challenges like juggling can yield mild IQ gains around 2-4 points according to current evidence.

4. Learn a New Skill Like Playing Music

Learning new skills stimulates the brain and builds intelligence:

  • Musical training develops auditory processing and fine motor skills.
  • Learning a language improves verbal ability and memorization.
  • Studying math boosts logic, critical thinking and spatial skills.

Developing expertise in a cognitively demanding skill-set like playing a musical instrument could enhance specific mental capabilities measured on an IQ test by an estimated 5-10 points.

The Bottom Line on Raising your IQ

For most adults, increasing IQ dramatically and permanently would be an unrealistic goal requiring intensive, long-term effort. However, research suggests practicing core cognitive skills, reducing stress, learning challenging new activites and getting enough exercise and nutrition can provide an IQ boost of 3-10 points.

While a handful of interventions may deliver modest IQ gains, spending time productively applying your existing intelligence is likely a better use of energy. Focusing on acquiring job skills, expanding knowledge applicable to your career, or developing expertise in hobbies you enjoy will do more for your professional and personal success than chasing a higher IQ score.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to increase IQ by 20 points?

Increasing IQ by 20 points or more is highly unlikely for most people. The average person has an IQ between 85 and 115. Gains of more than 10-15 points through training are rare in adulthood due to the stability of cognitive abilities over time. An increase of 2-5 points is more realistic through practice and learning new skills.

What is considered a genius IQ?

130 and above is considered a gifted or genius-level IQ, achieved by only 2-3% of the population. 145 is genius or near genius IQ. 160 is a level attained by only 1 in 30,000. Anyone with an IQ of 180 or above is considered to have an extraordinary genius level of intelligence.

Is IQ fixed at birth?

No, IQ is not completely fixed from birth. IQ has both genetic and environmental influences. About 50-80% is attributed to genetic factors while the rest depends on nutrition, education, socioeconomic status and cognitive stimulation during development. IQ can increase gradually over childhood into young adulthood.

Can practicing for IQ tests really raise your score?

Yes, practicing and training specifically for IQ test skills can improve your score, especially if you consistently work on areas of personal weakness. Research shows practice leads to average IQ gains of 3-5 points, with results strongest for tests similar to those practiced. Benefits are larger for people starting with lower scores.

What is the maximum IQ possible?

There is no scientifically established maximum IQ score. Theoretically, IQ has no upward limit. Practically, IQ’s are normed with 100 as the average and 200 being the highest recorded score. Most experts estimate the realistic ceiling to be around 200 to 225 when considering the range of human cognitive capabilities.


Substantially increasing IQ is challenging but modest improvements are possible through practice and learning. While genetics limit most people to IQ gains of 10 points or less, focusing efforts in areas of personal weakness and engaging in new mentally demanding activities can yield incremental benefits. However, time is likely better invested applying one’s natural cognitive talents than relentlessly pursuing a higher IQ score.