An inside look at a failed effort to come to be a member of a choose group of people who did fine on a test.

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American Mensa, an organization that admits human being with one IQ in the optimal two percent of the population, claims virtually 60,000 members, including an ext than 2,300 in the Greater new York area (and a bunch the toddlers).

on a Saturday morning in so late May, ns went to view if ns could end up being one of them.

The Mensa join Test expenses $40, takes two hours, and consists of two separate exams: the Mensa Wonderlic® and the Mensa join Test. Anyone scoring in the 98th percentile or greater on one of two people gains the right to salary $70 per year for membership. Benefits include unlimited mile from Alamo Rental Car, access to the Mensa link networking app, and also an
member.mensa.org vanity email address. Membership is not, however, "necessarily one indicator the wealth, ambition, or job success. That simply suggests that a person has higher-than-average thinking abilities." In the 12-month duration before i took my test, 57 percent of the practically 2,400 test-takers—2,368, to it is in exact—passed. (The organization additionally accepts scores from more than 200 other knowledge tests favor the LSATs and offers a "Cultural Fair" test that consists of the Cattell society Fair, the Nonverbal reasoning Test, and also the SRA pictorial Reasoning Test. Over there is no absence of ways to qualify. Still, practically six million Mensa-eligible Americans room not members.)


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The last standardized test i took was the SATs. My ready for that could finest be defined as "whatever." ns did far much more for the Mensa test, which ns hope displayed my growing maturity but is more than likely a far better indication the my choice for goofy stunts in the name of journalism over possibly life-altering bubble-filling-in sessions. Ns took the Mensa workout quiz and also learned that ns was much better at the math inquiries than words ones. This is ironic, considering what I execute for a living. But did you understand that "banalities" is the just other 10-letter indigenous one deserve to make indigenous the letter in "insatiable"? due to the fact that I go not. Ns scored 25 the end of 30, which influenced both confidence and concern. I—more or less—stopped drink alcohol for the two weeks prior to the test. While that decision was virtually entirely the an outcome of a half-marathon i was running, ns made the executive decision to add it right into the Mensa check prep category, too. Ns did a three-day juice cleanse, again not specifically for the test, but it to be healthy and horrible so that counts. (Counter-narrative come the last point: Anyone willing to pay $150 come drink kale, cucumber, and also cayenne for 3 days must be immediately banned from any and also all cultures that celebrate greater intelligence.)


i felt ready once the Saturday morning lastly arrived. (I did no take the Mensa home Test since it expense $18, i m sorry felt choose highway robbery.) i knew the day to be upon me in component because that the no-less-than-three emails I received the week prior to reminding me around my unavoidable test. This was sweet and considerate but maybe also component of the test must be "Can you obtain yourself over there on time on the proper day without a bunch of reminders?" i don't know. I'm no in charge.

THE entrance TO THE anonymous Financial District structure that houses TRS expert Suites Inc., the website of the test, is impressively nondescript. The glass doors sit under scaffolding, between a Blimpie and a shoe-repair business. Unnecessary-neon levels are high. The protection guard in ~ the desk in the lobby can not be much less enthusiastic around directing me come the 3rd floor. Ns can't reprimand him. It's a beautiful late-spring job outside, however inside is dark and depressing. The bright-eyed 20- and 30-somethings that arrive sporadically to salary money to take it a test only improve the tableau.

3 floors up, volunteer Mensa proctors administer both the consistent test and the less-frequent social Fair. I'm command to the correct room, in which about 15 people sit in ~ folding tables. Collectively, they it seems to be ~ nervous, i beg your pardon is both understandable because this is really obviously a testing situation and also absurd because it way nothing. One couple chats conspiratorially or, perhaps, lovingly. Ns wonder if their partnership will gain awkward if one makes it right into Mensa and the other doesn't. Talk about an changed power dynamic. Or, friend know, not.


The proctor, a pleasant, enthusiastic, contempt overweight woman wearing Avia sneakers, checks turn off my surname on a computer printout and also hands me a pencil and a document form ~ above which to fill the end questions including my name, address, day of birth, and credit-card information. American Mensa is adorably analog. I top at the form of the man next come me and also learn the he's 34. Oblivious come my hike eyes, that casually twirls his number-two pencil in that means smart human being learn to perform while bored in 11th grade social studies.

THE WONDERLIC come FIRST, a 12-minute, 50-question sprint. Most people, we space told, execute not finish and also a score the 20 shows an IQ the 100, or median intelligence. Ns take solace in the reality that NFL prospects take the Wonderlic as well, their scores deconstructed by ESPN's talking heads with their perfect, shellacked hair. I additionally worry that ns won't be smarter 보다 a team of guys who have spent their lives devoted to becoming gladiators, not philosophers. But I have the right to worry about that later; the test starts, and also I instantly panic. One price every 15 seconds. Go. This is intense. Is this what it's like being rushed by a lineman? Of course not, however I deserve to see why this is a good test because that football players: a combination of simple knowledge, logic, and also focus. I have to probably mention here the I struggle under pressure.

The questions increase in difficulty as the test progresses. Since of this, us were told no to skip ahead, and also because I'm a moron, ns obey the rules.

The inquiries come in various formats. Mensa rule forbid me native divulging any particular details—a problem to which ns agreed since the friendly testing world asked me unique and also because there's-no-time-to-remember-anything-next-question-oh-man-I'm-never-going-to-finish—but over there are basic categories: space the meanings of two words similar, contradictory, or unrelated?; take 6 words, do a sentence, and say if it's true or false; which among these five words is various than the other four? A few questions, too couple of for my math-loving taste, function geometric shapes or numbers.


The questions rise in challenge as the test progresses. Since of this, we were told not to skip ahead, and also because I'm a moron, i obey the rules. While question 23 can be harder than question 24 once averaged across the whole population, that's not necessarily the situation on an separation, personal, instance test-taker basis. A few times I invest 30 or 45 valuable seconds functioning on a problem, only to ultimately guess, relocate on to the following question, and find I recognize the prize to the one instantly. Pro guideline for future testers: Skip ones friend don't know immediately. I'm on concern 33 or 34 once the proctor phone call time and reasonably confident i got around 26 correct. The rest are educated guesses in ~ best. The adrenaline is still pumping. My heart could explode.


The 2nd test is composed of 120 questions separated into seven sections. Before the first part, the proctor reads a story and informs united state that us will have to answer questions about said story at some point before the finish of the test. Scrap paper isn't allowed, no one is created note-taking of any kind; us are claimed to remember.

I try to listen. I really do. There's a sunrise, dancing in a circle, and a Greek chorus. I recognize that much. Yet pretty soon, I an alert myself no paying attention. Then I notification myself noticing mine mind wandering, thus entering a non-recall vortex. Mentally, i blame the Internet. (After the test, i inquired as to whether remind rates had actually dropped over the previous decade, but a Mensa rep stated they didn't track that kind of data.) A charity person could give me credit transaction for trying to take psychological notes about the story while at the same time attempting to make psychological notes for this story, but that would be invoice Gates—a Mensa member, because that sure!—Foundation-level charitable. Ns am just struggling to focus.


We start Section 1 after being given—again—instructions not to create in our test books. We don't. Instead, we answer questions about how forms relate to each other. 5 minutes later, we move to section 2: 15 or so questions relating come the definitions of words. Or possibly the section entailing the value of coins come first. Or probably the one featuring groups of tiny, thumbnail pictures was second. Over there is a math one, too, which ns enjoy. Yet the very first six sections all operation together: answer concerns for a quick period, placed the pencil down, breathe, change gears, repeat. The format lacks the prompt pressure of the Wonderlic, but it's mentally exhausting nonetheless, an 800-meter race instead of a 40-yard dash. I answer every inquiry in the allotted time, but I gain the sinking feeling that I'm just not quite smart enough. Too frequently, the identify answers lie simply out the reach.

The final section features two dozen questions about the short story. I confirm my previously hypothesis about not paying attention by being almost completely unable to recall any type of information from the middle third. Whoops. However I comprise some answers, to fill in the bubbles, and also we're done.

"You can keep the pencil," the proctor says. "It's a gift indigenous American Mensa." i pocket it, take the elevator under to the lobby, and walk into the sunshine.

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AN email FROM ADMISSIONS Manager mar Burkhead Spencer pops right into my inbox in ~ 6:02:13 a.m. EDT on June 1, 2013. The 2nd paragraph: "As you deserve to imagine, a really small fraction of the populace qualifies because that membership in Mensa. The criterion for membership is a score in the upper two percent. Based upon your recent testing, us cannot market you membership at this time. Over there is, however, an alternate procedure to join Mensa that ns hope you will certainly consider...."


I avoid reading. I can't to speak I'm surprised. Five days later, a small envelope confirms the news and also includes mine scores. I acquired a 32 top top the Wonderlic, great enough because that the 91st percentile, and also a life score of 86 top top the admissions test, which means I did much better than 86 percent that the human being who take it that variation of the exam. It's good enough because that the 95th percentile throughout the basic population. Solid, yet not Mensa-level. That's fine. It to be an experience, and I won't have to pay the $70 in yearly dues. My above-average-but-not-high-enough thinking capacity tells me this result is a win. That sounds smart.