How Standardized Testing Undervalues Men

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IQ testing and research has been around for over 100 years. Though it is often a controversial issue, the fact remains that more than any other psychological trait studied, IQ scores contain a remarkable amount of predictive power with regards to life-time outcomes. One of the most surprising aspects of intelligence that early researchers encountered was that performance on a wide variety of divergent tasks was positively correlated. In other words, if you did well on one type of task, it was very likely you would do well on any task you were given including ones that were nothing like the original subject. This is the origin of the term g or general intelligence. By determining a person’s g on a few tasks, you can predict how they will perform on a variety of others and remarkably how well they would do in terms of lifetime achievement. This finding has withstood 100 years of robust research and a greater amount of heavy criticism, thanks to political correctness, than most other scientific findings.1, 2

Though there is only one g, there are also sub-g abilities that are both positively correlated to each other and with g (meaning their existence does not disprove a general intelligence factor). However, these sub-g abilities do not perfectly correlate with each other, which leaves some room for people with similar IQs to possess individualized intellectual profiles. These sub-g abilities can be divided into verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and spatial/mechanical reasoning. Along these dimensions a large sex differentiated pattern appears which has been well documented since the beginning of IQ tests. Women tend to outperform men on tests of verbal reasoning while men have an advantage in both numerical and spatial reasoning.3,5

Since this is an article about how standardized tests currently undervalue men, I will focus on the male cognitive profile. A recent study that quantified male advantages found that older adolescent men out-performed women on average by 6 IQ points on items involving numerical reasoning and 13 IQ points on items involving mechanical reasoning.  This is about a half standard deviation and a full standard deviation respectively.4 A full standard deviation advantage on spatial reasoning tasks is a LOT and goes a very long way in explaining the dearth of women in STEM and the low numbers of female electricians or mechanics. Having a high spatial reasoning has been shown to be essential to the pursuit of the inorganic sciences among the smartest people.6,7  It should also be noted that brain development continues into the twenties which means that it is very possible that these numbers underestimate the extent of the gender gap in adulthood.

Considering the importance of spatial ability to scientific endeavors and success, it is curious that these types of tasks are conspicuously absent from aptitude tests which are supposed to identify people qualified for STEM; tests including the SAT and the GRE.6,7 In both tests, there is a verbal component, a numerical component, and a writing component. The writing component is really just a more subjective way to measure verbal aptitude. One study7 comments on the current state of the GRE (the SAT shows the exact same pattern) thusly:

Based on approximately 2.5 million GRE test takers assessed in 2002–2005, 30% scored P700 (out of a top possible score of 800) on GRE-Q (ETS data: all examinees tested between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2005, N GRE-V = 1,245,878, N GRE-Q = 1,245,182). The GRE-Verbal was not compromised by ceiling effects, with only 3% scoring P700. Indeed, the GRE-Q mean of 591, with a standard deviation of 148, reveals that the mean is 1.4 standard deviations from the GRE-Q ceiling; whereas the GRE-V mean of 467, with a standard deviation of 118, places this mean at 2.8 standard deviations from the GRE-V ceiling (twice the distance). This results in 10 times as many scores P700 for GRE-Q than GRE-V! Of the two most critical specific abilities for commitment to and excellence in STEM educational–occupational tracks, selection criteria for advanced education and training in the US are severely compromised by ceiling effects for one (mathematical reasoning) while the other (spatial ability) is totally neglected.

What this means is that a large range of ability in numerical reasoning is clustered together in the high range of the GRE quantitative test and is thus preventing the possibility to distinguish high ability students from exceptionally high ability students. By making the top score of the test (the ceiling) low, you can ensure that the very able and exceptionally able have roughly the same score. Individuals who excel in spatial ability are unidentified because that method of mental reasoning is completely ignored. Meanwhile, the verbal ability test is designed such that exceptional talent can readily distinguish itself thanks to a much larger difficulty ceiling. Not only that, but verbal is double weighted by a second exercise which also exclusively focuses on verbal reasoning. (Un)coincidentally, this is exactly how you would design tests if you wanted to obfuscate gender differences that showed men doing better than women. On the GRE-Q, super-exceptional men get the same scores as merely able women because they can’t demonstrate their greater talent with a higher score than the low maximum.  By making numerical tests ineffectual at the upper ranges of ability and ignoring spatial reasoning entirely, these tests ignore two essential factors in creativity and intelligence which are relevant for any field, but especially relevant for STEM. The testing of abilities which women have a sex advantage in are remarkably over-emphasized and makes men and women appear more intellectually equal than they really are. Especially disconcerting is that this test design guarantees that there are a relatively large number of men at both the mean and at the high levels of ability who are having their talent squandered. They are not being admitted to the quality of schools they should be. In public school, they are not being given the type of hands on education that is befitting of their talent in spatial and mechanical reasoning even though it is the men with this particular ability who are most important to our technological development.6,7

There is little doubt in my mind that these tests are purposefully designed this way for reasons of political correctness and cultural marxism  (IE “The Cathedral“). I find it hard to believe that College Board, the company that designs and administers the SAT and GRE, does not understand what effect this kind of test structure has on the resultant scores. They are a professional testing company whose bread and butter is understanding how IQ tests work and designing effective ones. There is simply no way they could miss this glaring problem. However, I don’t think I can necessarily blame them for how they designed the test. They are acting rationally to avoid (false) accusations of sexism and bias that would surely result if the tests openly demonstrated the intellectual superiority males have over females in mathematics and mechanics. The problem is with our repressive and feminist dominated culture which can’t bring itself to admit that men have innate cognitive advantages over women; especially not if the level of male advantage is so large and substantial that it requires surveying an extremely gerrymandered map of cognitive talents to hide. That equalizing men and women in test scores requires two different tests of verbal intelligence (one of which is conveniently subjective), a poorly designed quantitative test, and ignoring an entire dimension of mental reasoning says a lot about just how large the gap between men and women is. If you don’t want to take my word that these tests are geared to emphasize the talents of women at the expense of the talents of men, maybe you will believe the American Psychological Association (emphasis mine):

“Most standard tests of intelligence have been constructed so that there are no overall score differences between females and males”3


A high school student with experience with AP tests (also designed and administered by college board) indicates that the same pattern described above is true for AP calculus vs. AP English tests. see the /r/darkenlightenment comment.

All of the studies below should be accessible from if you search the title or DOI. If you can’t find it there, then please make a request on the subreddit /r/scholar

  1. Just one g: consistent results from three test batteries Wendy Johnson*, Thomas J. Bouchard Jr., Robert F. Krueger, Matt McGue, Irving I. Gottesman Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA Received 8 April 2003; received in revised form 27 May 2003; accepted 15 June 2003
  2. The g facto: the science of mental testing. [book length PDF] Arthur Jensen 1998
  3. Intelligence: knowns and unknowns. American Psychological Association.
  4.  Sex differences on g and non- g  intellectual performance reveal potentialsources of STEM discrepancies Gina C. Lemos, Francisco J. Abad, Leandro S. Almeida, Roberto Colom
  5. Sex differences in mental abilities: g masks the dimensions on which they lie Wendy Johnson, Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. University of Minnisota. 2006
  6. Kell, H. J., & Lubinski, D.  (2013).  Spatial ability: A neglected talent in educational and occupational settings.Roeper Review, 35, 219-230.
  7. Spatial Ability and STEM: A sleeping giant for talent identification and development. David Lubinski. Department of Psychology and Human Development. Vanderbilt University.


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13 Replies to “How Standardized Testing Undervalues Men”

  1. Good article.

    I’ve mentioned this before on other blogs when discussing male/female IQ, but it’s worth repeating here.

    IQ scores are normed for age but NOT for sex. So if you are a man with an IQ of 100, this tells you that half the people (male and female) will score above you and half below you. I have experience administering both the Woodcock-Johnson and the Wechsler, and the norms for both those IQ tests are the same for males and females (but not, of course, for age).

    The reason this is so is because IQ tests are constructed specifically to eliminate differences between males and females. So if a given question shows a large difference between males and females, it is generally eliminated from the test during development. IQ tests literally cannot detect IQ differences between males and female because of how they are constructed.

    From Psychology Today:
    “The first, and in many ways most important fact—and one that may surprise many readers as it did me when I first found out about it—is that items showing large sex differences are always omitted from IQ tests such as the widely-used Wechsler. The result, of course, is that standard measures of IQ systematically obscure sex differences in intelligence”

    Compare that to a test like the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation, which does give separate norms. This is because boys’ speech articulation lags girls’ by about six months.

    I suspect that males’ average IQ would be higher than females’ if IQ tests didn’t by their very design mask this difference.

    1. I am a neuroscience major and female advantage in verbal abilities is consistent with the fact that they have larger brain areas for language such as the prefrontal cortex, brochas and weirnicke’s area.

      1. Women having an advantage on verbal reasoning is real. It is not their advantage there that I am arguing about, it is the test design which relies heavily on areas in which women have an advantage, biologically, and ignores and/or under-emphasizes the areas in which men have a biological advantage.

        1. The IQ tests are in itself biased towards men by a larrgge margin and overestimate male brain capacity. I will tell why:

          Most of the IQ tests consists of spatial and visual problems for example:

          Picture completion
          Block design
          Matrix Reasoning
          Digit Symbol coding
          Symbol Search

          And sections which have tests items labelled as “verbal” are not really verbal for example:

          On the WAIS, the Arithmetic and Letter coding items are labelled as verbal. But this not the case since these tasks incorporate visuo-spatial working memory and mental rotation:

          Letter-number sequencing ://

          Arithmetic – requires mental rotation

          So the on most IQ tests there are only two item section that are really verbal and they are comprehension and vocabulary. All the rest are spatial-visual. You might as well rename these IQ tests as spatial tests because that’s what they measure. Men are already better at spatial abilities but no evidence that they are better at verbal ones. And since spatial abilities are only 1 of 7 items characterized to be the constructs of G (general factor/general intelligence), general IQ tests overestimate male intelligence and underestimate female intelligence. To see what the 7 constructs of G are, read this:

  2. The guy who penned the phrase ‘g factor’ pointed out the difference in IQ between men and women on his blog. (He also posts lots on un-PC science with regards to gender, race, the whole kit and caboodle):


    The finding, to be published in the British Journal of Psychology (the flagship journal of the British Psychological Society), due out 4 xi, was in line with Charles Murray’s (2004) estimate that only 2% of the world’s top 4,000 ‘achievers’ (till 1950) had been women.

    {Males also scored on average 5 IQ points higher than women but this may have reflected well-known higher male spatial abilities — since spatial tests are often used (instead of verbal or numerical tests) to achieve ‘culture-fair’ assessment of intelligence.}


  3. Here are more examples of biased test design and interpretation, from the K-12 level where my kids are now.

    The SAT-2 (formerly known as SAT Achievement Tests) Math Level 2 test is taken by most kids who are on the accelerated track in high school math, ending with some sort of calculus (or even maybe just precalculus) in 12th grade. Math Level 1 (for those kids who aren’t solid on Algebra 2 and Trig) is graded much much harder than Math Level 2, and to my eyes, the Level 2 questions tend to be easier. Math Level 2 grading is such that 8% of the test takers get 800. Yes you read that right. It’s been that way for more than 40 years. So schools will push girls along far enough so they can take Math Level 2 and get their 800.

    These girls may not make it to Calc. BC since their quantitative abilities are already declining by that age, but everything is done to make them look good.

    Now my general observation about College Board tests, for at least the past 40 years, is that the “harder” tests are graded much easier. In other words grades on Calc. BC will be much higher than on Calc. AB. Another example is Physics, where I had a harder time with the Physics B questions than Physics C. The Physics C questions are what you are trained to do in any calc-based physics course (set up the problem and crank it out, the cranking tends to be very easy on this test), whereas the Physics B questions seemed more like odd puzzles requiring cleverness. I don’t recall the grading but I expect Physics C is graded much easier too.

    My last example is the selection process for CTY Intensive Studies summer camps. These are the fairly famous “nerd camps” that require one to do well on a talent search, typically during 7th grade. One of the testing options is to take the SAT then (e.g. in 7th grade), and if you get a score that would already provide college admission, that’s about the level required for the camps, so it’s screening for about the top 1%. The camps are 3 weeks long and students take only one subject for the whole camp, allowing a more engaging experience. Both quant. and verbal subjects are offered, and you have to qualify separately for quant. or verbal. So a girl who does well on verbal but only OK on math would be eligible to take verbal but not math courses.

    Here’s the page of cutoff scores:

    Notice how much higher the cutoffs are for math (what most boys would take) than verbal (what most girls would take). For example you need a 510 on SAT verbal in 7th grade, but a 580 on SAT math, to qualify for a (verbal or math, respectively) course at these camps. The same is true if one takes other qualification tests.

    As a result, the gender ratio is fairly even at the camps, which does provide a probably more enjoyable camping experience all around. The social experience is important because these kids may have trouble finding friends in school. But fair, it’s not.

    (Duke TIP Center is about similarly selective, but as I recall it is equally difficult to qualify in math or verbal — so it’s probably filled with boys taking math courses, but I don’t have data to confirm that hypothesis.)

  4. Hey. I have a question since you seem to know your shit. I heard somewhere that your height affects your intelligence and if a female and a male is the same height–female is more intelligent.(5’5 female and a 5’5 male). Is this true or bullshit?

    1. I haven’t studied height specifically, but height is correlated with overall bigger body size. That means bigger head size which means bigger brains which means higher IQ. I have not seen a study which compares height AND brain size AND gender all at the same time. However, I have seen studies which merely compare skull volumes. Men have on average 200 cubic centimeters larger brains than women, albeit there is a lot of variation in both genders. Here is a excerpt from my soon to be released book on the subject tentatively titled “Smart and Sexy.” There is also a table in this section which I am unable to include in a comment section. Sorry, but I am too lazy to copy over the source studies at the moment. They will be available in the book.

      “There are significant sexual dimorphisms in brain tissue, most saliently in structure, but also in neuron firing rates and neurotransmitter systems.141 In humans, male brains are 8-10% larger than female brains on average, and have about 15-16% more neurons. Men have an even more profoundly increased density of synapses; the connections between neurons. A recent study found that men have 33% greater synapse density than women when all brain layers are averaged (12.9×108 vs. 8.6×108 synapses per millimeter). When specific brain layers were considered, the increased synapse density of men ranged from 18% more at minimum up to 52%. Brain cells communicate with each other through synapses and these connections are expected to be very important in cognition. Controlling for body size differences does not eliminate the finding that male brains are larger.151 In studies which address gender differences in brain size and IQ, the correlation between IQ and brain size ranges between .1 to .45, and studies with the most accurate brain size measurements tend to find greater correlations between brain size and IQ. A study considering only males, and using more accurate MRI brain volume data (as opposed to estimates based on skull measurements), found the correlation between brain volume and IQ to be .35. Statistically correcting for the restriction of range in the study boosted the correlation to .51. The same study also found that the more g loaded a given test, the more it correlated to brain volume up to a correlation of .59. This finding is consistent with those which consider racial differences in brain size and IQ and also find substantial correlations. Over a multitude of studies, the consensus for correlation between brain size and IQ is about .4. It has also been demonstrated that cranial capacity is highly heritable (i.e., it is genetically determined) through identical twin studies.”

      1. Again these are all misrepresentation in science. Women’s smaller brain size is compensated by greater cortical folding, thickness and convulation as well as greater neuronal density.

        1. I would need to see the study on cortical folding, but the neuronal density claim is just plain wrong. I did write a whole book on this topic and researched it heavily. Here is a quote, the relevant papers to this discussion are cited at the bottom. I don’t know what they are teaching you in your classes, but if they told you those things then someone is blowing smoke up your ass.

          There are significant sexual dimorphisms in brain tissue, most saliently in structure, but also in neuron firing rates and neurotransmitter systems.141 In humans, male brains are 8-10% larger than female brains on average52, 132, 149, 150 and have about 15-16% more neurons.150, 151, 152 Controlling for overall body size differences does not eliminate the finding that male brains are
          larger.151 Men have an even more profoundly increased density of synapses; the connections between neurons. A recent study found that men have 33% greater synapse density than women when all brain layers are averaged (12.9×108 vs. 8.6×108 synapses per millimeter). When specific brain layers were considered, the increased synapse density of men ranged from 18% more at minimum up to 52%.153 Brain cells communicate with each other through synapses and these connections are expected to be very important in cognition.

          141 Pilgrim, C., Reisert, I. (1992) Differences between male and female brains:
          developmental mechanisms and implications. Horm. Metab. Res. 24, 353–359 (1992).
          149 Giedd J. N., Vaituzis A. C., Hamburger S. D., Lange N., Rajapakse J. C., Kaysen
          D., Vauss Y. C., Rapoport J. L. (1996) Quantitative MRI of the temporal lobe, amygdala, and
          hippocampus in normal human development: ages 4-18 years. J Comp Neurol. 1996 Mar
          150 Allen J. S., Damasio H., Grabowski T. J., Bruss J., Zhang W. (2003) Sexual dimorphism
          and asymmetries in the gray-white composition of the human cerebrum. Neuroimage.
          151 Rabinowicz, T., Petetot, J. M., Gartside, P. S., Sheyn, D., Sheyn, T., De C., Gabrielle, M.
          (2002) Structure of the Cerebral Cortex in Men and Women. Journal of Neuropathology &
          Experimental Neurology: January 2002 – Volume 61 – Issue 1 – p 46–57
          152 Packenberg, B., Gundersen, H. J. G. (1997). Neocortical neuron number in humans:
          Effect of sex and age. The Journal of comparative Neurobiology, 384, 312–320.
          153 Alonso-Nanclares, L., Gonzalez-Soriano, J., Rodriguez, J.R., DeFelipe, J. (2008) Gender
          differences in human cortical synaptic density. PNAS. September 23, 2008 vol. 105 no. 38

  5. Here found the source.

    “So one possibility is that men are more intelligent than women, not because they are men, but because they are taller.

    Our analysis of a large representative American sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that this is indeed the case. In fact, once we control for height, women are slightly but significantly more intelligent than men.”

  6. “Considering the importance of spatial ability to scientific endeavors and success, it is curious that these types of tasks are conspicuously absent from aptitude tests which are supposed to identify people qualified for STEM”

    Yes, this is very important point. Spatial ability is important for STEM, and especially for pilots.

    “Performance on image rotation tasks is known to predict success in fields such as airplane piloting, engineering, physical sciences, and fine arts better than does general intelligence, and especially verbal ability”

    Studying SAT or GRE scores can not predict the fact that women are only 5 percent of civilian and only 2 percent of combat pilots, studying sex differences in spatial ability can.

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