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Dr. Sylvia Rimm


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IQ Tests Don't Test Creativity


Q: Can you tell us more about testing for creativity as opposed to just testing IQ?

A: Highly creative children — who tend to over interpret questions or see many possible answers to a straightforward question — may even be disadvantaged for both IQ and achievement testing. They often read more into questions than is intended.

There are many kinds of creativity and different levels of creativity. For example, to be creative in a field such as physics, one would first have to have an extremely high IQ to prepare to work in that field. To be creative in fields like art, music or drama, extreme talents aren't measured by IQ scores at all. Some artists, musicians and dramatic actors have very high IQs, while others have IQs in the average and above-average range. Conversely, some very high IQ adults have excellent talents in the arts, while others don't at all.

There are a variety of ways to test or identify creativity all of which are useful, but none of which are totally accurate or completely valid. One kind of creativity test is the divergent thinking test, which provides an index of how many ideas children or adults can think of as well as the originality of these ideas compared to a norm produced by children on similar tests. The best known divergent thinking tests are the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. There's one that identifies verbal creativity and another that identifies visual creativity. Test results from the verbal and visual tests are unrelated to each other. That is, some children are high in both, but others are high in only one and low in the other.

A second type of creativity test is related to the characteristics of creativity that were found in the childhoods of creative people. For example, creative people tended to be independent in childhood, have reasonably good confidence and many interests. They tended not to be dependent on popularity among peers, but they enjoyed being different.

They persevered despite difficulties and enjoyed complexity. The characteristics of creative types of testing can take the form of self-reports or teacher or parent observations.

Group Inventory for Finding Creative Talent (GIFT) and Group Inventory for Finding Interests (GIFFI) are examples of self-reports for elementary, middle and high school students. Preschool and Kindergarten Interest Descriptor (PRIDE) is an example of a parent report for preschool children. There are many other examples of teacher observation scales that are readily available. You can check out these self and parent reports on my website at or can send for a catalog that describes them. These tests are shortcuts for identifying creativity, which have a valid cross culture and socio-economic group.

A third way to identify creativity is by examining portfolios of material that children have assembled. Although portfolios are much more time consuming to evaluate, they are very effective identifiers in art, creative writing, music composition, and even for evaluating the creativity of science or social studies projects.

The greatest advantage of creativity tests is their ability to discover this talent in children who may not be high achievers in school — thus their talents are often less visible to adults. The only disadvantage to using creativity tests is using them inappropriately. In other words, if a child is obviously a creative thinker, artist or musician, a low test score should not supersede clear observations.

For free newsletters about creative children who march to the beat of a different drummer or information about GIFT, GIFFI or PRIDE, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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