Skip to Content

Is 120 a high IQ for a child?

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a score derived from standardized tests designed to measure human intelligence and ability to solve problems. An IQ score of 100 is considered average, with about 68% of people scoring between 85 and 115. An IQ of 120 puts a person in the superior intelligence category and is higher than about 91% of people. For a child, an IQ of 120 is considered high.

What is IQ and how is it measured?

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and it is a score derived from standardized tests designed to measure human intelligence. The most widely used IQ tests today are the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) and the Stanford-Binet test.

These tests measure different components of intelligence like logic, reasoning, visual-spatial perception, working memory and problem solving. The tests are normalized so that 100 is the median score, with a standard deviation of 15. This means about 68% of people score between 85 and 115 on IQ tests.

IQ scores are calculated by comparing a child’s mental age, as measured by the test, with their actual chronological age and multiplying by 100. For example, if a 10 year old child scores at the same level as the average 12 year old on an IQ test, their IQ would be calculated as (12/10) x 100 = 120.

IQ Classifications

IQ scores are typically classified into the following categories:

IQ Range Classification
130 and over Very superior
120-129 Superior
110-119 High average
90-109 Average
80-89 Low average
70-79 Borderline impaired
Under 70 Extremely low

As can be seen, an IQ of 120 falls into the superior range and is higher than about 91% of people based on the normal distribution of IQ scores.

Is an IQ of 120 high for a child?

Yes, an IQ of 120 is considered high for a child of any age. Here are some key points:

– It is 2 standard deviations above the mean IQ of 100, putting the child in the top 6% intellectually among their peers.

– It exceeds the IQ scores of over 90% of other children the same age.

– It meets the threshold for giftedness used by many school districts and qualifies the child for gifted education programs.

– Children with IQ scores in this range are able to learn faster and master more complex material compared to average students.

– An IQ of 120 indicates superior verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed.

– Intellectually gifted children with IQs over 120 may exhibit traits like intense curiosity, rapid learning, excellent memory, advanced vocabulary and reading skills.

– Longitudinal research shows that gifted youth with IQs over 120 tend to perform at the top of their class academically and many pursue higher education.

So while IQ is not a perfect measure of intelligence or future success, a score of 120 does reflect strong intellectual abilities well above the average child. The higher IQ meets most traditional criteria for giftedness in children.

What percentage of children have an IQ over 120?

Only around 6-7% of children score above 120 on IQ tests, making it very rare intellectually. Here is a breakdown of the percentage of children at different IQ levels:

IQ Range Classification Percentage of Children
130+ Very superior 2.2%
120-129 Superior 6.4%
110-119 High average 16.1%
90-109 Average 50%
80-89 Low average 16.1%
70-79 Borderline impaired 6.7%
Under 70 Extremely low 2.2%

As shown, only around 1 in 16 children score at or above 120 IQ, demonstrating it is an exceptionally high score relative to the general population of children. Significantly fewer children score in the very superior range above 130. An IQ of 120 is around the 93rd percentile for children.

What are the abilities of a child with a 120 IQ?

A child who scores a 120 IQ possesses strong cognitive abilities and will likely exhibit some of these characteristics:

– Excellent memory and recall for facts, numbers, details.

– Advanced vocabulary and verbal skills; reads above grade level.

– High level of abstract thinking and problem solving skills.

– Quickly learns new topics and makes connections between concepts.

– Strong ability to focus, concentrate and pay attention.

– Highly imaginative, creative and inventive in approaches.

– May have intense, varied intellectual interests.

– Asks thoughtful questions and enjoys learning how things work.

– Does well academically, often at the top of their class.

– May have high ability in certain domains like math, music, art, etc.

– Gets bored easily if not challenged and may act out.

– Strong critical thinking and ability to evaluate information.

– Perceives subtle cause-and-effect relationships.

– Enjoys complex games, puzzles and activities.

Of course, not all children with a high IQ will exhibit all these traits, as intelligence has different facets. But in general, a 120 IQ indicates very strong intellectual potential.

Does a 120 IQ guarantee giftedness or genius?

While a 120 IQ is considered superior and reflects strong intellectual potential, it does not necessarily guarantee giftedness, genius or high achievement later in life. Here are a few key points:

– IQ only measures certain types of crystallized and fluid intelligence. There are other forms of giftedness and talent not reflected in IQ, like creativity, spatial skills, leadership, emotional intelligence, etc.

– Very high achievement and eminence requires more than just a high IQ. Factors like motivation, hard work, opportunity and personality influence outcomes.

– An IQ of 120 means the child is capable of gifted academic performance, but they still need educational support and enrichment to reach their potential.

– IQ is generally stable across the lifespan after the teen years. But a child’s maturity level and executive function skills are still developing.

– Some children with IQs under 120 can still exhibit giftedness and genius ability in particular domains that IQ tests do not fully capture.

– While IQ tests have value, they have limitations and cultural biases. Multiple methods should be used to identify gifted children.

– Genius level IQs of 140+ are very rare. Most geniuses do not have IQs above 150. Hard work over time is necessary to produce genius level accomplishments.

So while a 120 IQ signals great intellectual potential, many factors influence ultimate high achievement. Parents and teachers need to provide enrichment and motivation to transform ability into talent.

Should parents encourage a child with a 120 IQ score?

Yes, if a child scores a 120 on an IQ test, parents should absolutely encourage and nurture their abilities. Here’s how:

– Let the child know you are proud of them and their capabilities. Praise their efforts and achievements, not just innate ability.

– Advocate for enrollment in gifted education programs, advanced classes, and accelerated learning opportunities.

– Expose them to a rich learning environment full of books, experiences, cultural activities.

– Engage them in creative problem solving activities. Ask open-ended questions that make them think critically.

– Limit excessive screen time and mindless entertainment. Push them to take on challenges.

– Find intellectual peers and mentors to avoid social isolation and build confidence.

– Support their passion projects and interests with resources and guidance.

– Teach organizational skills, grit and growth mindset to support high achievement.

– Work closely with teachers to adjust curriculum to match their level and learning style.

– Consider enrichment activities outside school like academic clubs, summer programs.

– Discourage arrogance about abilities and remind them intelligence takes hard work to fulfill.

Nurturing the abilities of a gifted child requires proactive efforts but allows their intellectual potential to flourish. Understanding and supporting their advanced developmental needs leads to positive outcomes.

When to get a child’s IQ tested?

There are different situations when having a child’s IQ formally tested can be beneficial:

– If a child is performing far above grade level or exhibits signs of giftedness. Testing can confirm advanced abilities.

– To check for signs of intellectual disability, such as the child falling far behind peers.

– If admitted to a gifted program or special school requiring IQ testing.

– To set an objective baseline to compare future progress against.

– To qualify for special accommodations at school like accelerated or individualized learning.

– If a child has a neurodevelopmental disorder like autism and testing can aid intervention.

– To evaluate impact of traumatic brain injury, disease or condition affecting cognition.

– To gain insights if a child is struggling academically for no apparent reason.

– If a child seems extremely advanced or delays raise concerns about intellectual disability.

– To determine the right level of academic challenge and avoid boredom or frustration.

Ideally, testing should be done by an experienced psychologist or therapist who can properly administer tests and interpret results. Consulting with teachers can also provide insights before deciding to test. IQ scores are just one data point – multiple assessment methods give a fuller picture of a child’s intellect.

What are effective ways to nurture a gifted child?

Here are some effective ways parents and teachers can nurture the abilities of a gifted child:

– Provide learning materials and resources above their age level matching the child’s interests. Give access to advanced subject matter.

– Assign projects and open-ended activities that involve creativity, analysis and problem solving.

– Encourage participation in academic clubs, competitions and summer enrichment programs.

– Foster growth mindset so they value effort and persistence. Praise hard work, not just innate talent.

– Find intellectual peer groups to avoid social isolation and build self-esteem.

– Set high expectations but break learning into achievable goals and provide support.

– Help organize their environment, schedule and tasks to match their learning style.

– Expose them to culturally enriching experiences – museums, travel, concerts, lectures.

– Give choices in learning to increase motivation and engagement. Incorporate their passions.

– Limit non-productive screen time and mindless entertainment. Guide internet use toward learning.

– Ask thoughtful questions. Have regular discussions on ideas, current events, philosophy.

– Advocate for appropriate academic accommodations – acceleration, differentiation, ability grouping.

– Partner with teachers trained in gifted education to provide curriculum enhancement and differentiation.

With the proper nurturing environment, gifted children can fulfill their high abilities and reach remarkable levels of achievement as they mature.


In summary, a child with an IQ score of 120 has superior general intellectual ability exceeding around 91% of other children their age. While not a guarantee of future genius, an IQ this high indicates the child is capable of gifted academic performance and sophisticated thinking. To nurture their potential, parents and teachers need to provide enrichment, avoid social isolation, set high expectations and give access to advanced learning opportunities suited to their abilities. A 120 IQ meets the threshold for most gifted programs and constitutes a high score, but is not extraordinarily rare among children. About 1 in 16 children score this high. But when recognized and cultivated early, a highly intelligent child can thrive and contribute at levels matching their abilities.