The Intelligence Test
By Amee Lynne Shelley
The yellow flyer was posted outside my History of Western Civilization class. Students who volunteered to take an intelligence test would get lunch and a $25 gift card. It was the perfect incentive for a broke college student. I already knew I was a genius. This intelligence test was nothing to fear. I signed up for it.
I showed up at the designated place and time. The Department Chair thanked us for volunteering and then introduced us to our examiners. Mine was a doctoral student named Steve. He was tall and wore a brown sweater. He had brown rimmed glasses that made him look very smart. I pushed my glasses up a bit on my nose. I was smart too. The intelligence test would prove it. I followed Steve to a small table in the corner of the room. After a few hours, the test ended. I went back to the waiting area.
The pizza came while I was waiting for Steve. The other students and I quickly grabbed the hot slices and put them on our paper plates. I chatted with a cute computer science major.
“It’s taking Steve a long time,” I thought. “Why can’t he just hurry up?”
Finally, Steve walked into the room. I jumped up. “What did you find? Did it prove I’m exceptional and one in a million? ”
My heart stopped. I knew that smile. It was the fake smile. I gave that smile to the annoying neighbor kid that lived next to my parents. He had talked for 20 minutes nonstop about his Lego blocks. I wanted him to just go away, but I couldn’t figure out how to exit the conversation. I had given Lego Kid a fake smile. Steve was now fake smiling me.
“Let’s go back to the testing room,” Steve said.
I walked behind Steve into the room. The walls were brown. We sat down at the table and Steve adjusted his rimmed glasses. I took mine off and nervously fiddled with them.
“The intelligence test was first developed in 1904 by two men named Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. On this assessment, we look at your score and compare it to scores of other people who took this test. The mean is fixed at 100. Two-thirds of the people will get scores between 85 and 115. Your scores fell within the mean range of intelligence.”
I looked at Steve. He gave me another fake smile. I knew what it meant. Steve thought I was average. I must have starred long enough for him to worry that I didn’t understand what he had said.
“Let me explain it a different way.” Steve got up and walked over to the whiteboard. He drew a bell curve. This is all the people who took the test. Steve put a little x in the middle of the curve. “This is you. Your score fell within the mean or average.”
I cut him off. “I know the definition, ” I snapped.
I wanted to cry. Steve ,the future psychologist, thought I was dumb. Those smart people who invented intelligence tests back in 1904 thought I was dumb. My little x was stuck right in the middle of average land on the Bell Curve. Was I even smart enough to be in college? What if Steve was right? What if I really was just average? Could average people grow up to be incredible? My plan for being famous and brilliant seemed to be farther away than when I first walked into the exam room. Maybe I was fraud who had somehow tricked a college into letting her in? I bit my lip and swallowed more tears. I may be average, but I wasn’t going to cry in front of smart Steve. His x was probably way up there at the top near the genius people like Albert Einstein.
“Was it an interesting experience,” the Department Chair asked as he handed me my gift card. “Worth a few hours of your time.”
I looked beyond him and saw the trash can spilling over with pizza boxes and greasy paper plates. I thought about Jacob and Esau from the Bible story. Esau had sold his birthright for some dinner. Had Jacob worn a brown sweater that day?
“Yeah,” I lied as I swallowed more tears. “It was educational.”
I starred at my $25 gift card on the way home. It wasn’t enough. If it had been a $10,000 gift card or a million-dollars, it still wouldn’t have been enough. No sum was worth the discovery that I was just an average girl.