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Cool Things - Early IQ Test

I.Q. test kit

This colorful kit is an early Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test dating from 1918.

The world's first intelligence test was developed in 1905 by Alfred Binet of France, primarily to identify and classify cases of mental retardation. IQ tests became especially popular during World War I (1914-1918) when they were used to rapidly assess and classify large numbers of soldiers. Non-verbal IQ tests were important during this war because most recruits were functionally illiterate.

This IQ test was printed in 1918 by the C.H. Stoelting Company of Chicago.  It is classified as a "picture context instrument" designed to test cognitive abilities through non-verbal means. 

Close-up of I.Q. test

How the Test Works

The kit includes two square panels printed with pictures depicting a sequence of events in a boy's life. The pictures tell a story in narrative style, each scene building on the previous one. Each illustration has a small pocket for a missing image which completes the story being told by the picture. For example, the first picture in the sequence shows the boy sitting on the edge of an unmade bed, wearing only one shoe, and reaching for an unknown item on the floor.

Along with the two larger picture panels, the kit includes many small pieces to be inserted into the panels' pockets. These pieces have a variety of images designed to complete the story being told on the panels.  The picture panels gradually increase in difficulty, and some of the picture pieces are nearly identical.

The test's original manual, available in the Stoelting company's archives, gives explicit directions on its administration, even suggesting the exact words to be spoken to the tested individual:

Page from Healy I.Q. test manual.

"'Here is a picture - it begins here' (pointing to demonstration picture) 'where the boy is getting dressed. It shows the same boy, remember, the same boy, doing one thing after another during the same day.' (Point along the first row, then along the second, to indicate clearly the sequence in which the pictures come.) 'You see in each picture a piece is missing. Here' (pointing to them) 'are a lot of small pieces, they fit in any of the spaces. But there are more pieces than you can use. The point is to pick out the piece that you think is needed, that is best, to complete the sense of the picture. For instance, What is gone here?' (pointing to demonstration picture). 'Yes, a shoe.' If incorrect answer is given, which is very rare, Examiner says, 'No, he is dressing and he is stooping for his other shoe.' 'Now, which is the shoe that he must have?' If correct shoe is selected Examiner says 'Yes. This one' (pointing to low shoe) 'wouldn't be right because he must have a high shoe to match the other one.'"

Twenty minutes were allowed to complete the test. William Healy, the test's developer, claimed that "one of the most brilliant men in America took the full 20 minutes and wanted more in which to finish . . . finally leaving a piece in place that gave a total score of 90." The perfect score is 100, tallied by adding up numbers printed on the backs of the small pieces.

The Stoelting Company was founded around 1886 and is probably the oldest psychological testing company still in existence in the United States. The company markets a number of different nonverbal IQ tests for those who are speech or hearing impaired, non-English-speaking, or have cognitive disabilities.

This IQ test is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Early IQ Test

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1999

Date Modified: December 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.