Sunday, May 8, 2011

The MAT

I took the Miller Analogies Test yesterday because I had nothing better to do on a Saturday and because I wanted to see if I could get into the Prometheus Society. I can't. I fell short by a mile, actually by many, many miles, scoring only a 476. Here's a blog post by a guy who got a 506, and here's another by a gentleman who got a 486.

I took the GRE 3 or 4 times over the years, getting almost identical results each time. There are tables on the Internet that show equivalent scores between different standardized tests, and a 476 on the MAT is almost identical to my old GRE scores.

I've taken a specific work-related test 4 different times by now. One of those times I screwed up the timing and didn't get to the last dozen or so questions. But the other 3 times my scores were almost identical to each other. It's eerie. Also funny, considering the amount of money made by test prep companies and publishers every year. How much of the medical profession operates on the same principle?

About 5 years ago I had a bout with cancer. Half of my hair fell out because of chemotherapy, I couldn't keep any food inside me for a week at a time, and for long periods a weird, chemo-related fog spread over my mind - an amazingly crappy sensation that I've never experienced before or since.

But even that failed to permanently alter my scores. I got pretty much the same result on those professional tests before and after chemo.

Complex mechanisms tend to be fragile, but the mind apparently isn't. Kingsley Amis, my favorite English-language author, drank heavily all his life, and yet his last novel, written in his early 70s, was just as witty as the ones he wrote in his 30s. If hundreds of gallons of whiskey won't screw it up, what can?

By the way, according to this PDF (p.40), the highest MAT score during the 2001-2003 period was 563. Good God! Why is Lady Gaga a celebrity, but the guy who scored a 563 on the MAT isn't? That's supposed to be 6.52σ above the mean, which gives us a right-tailed p-value of 3.515*10^-11, which translates into a frequency of roughly one in 28.45 billion people. Well, perhaps the testing isn't as reliable at the extreme right tail as elsewhere, and perhaps the extreme right tail of the IQ distribution isn't even very normal to begin with. Regardless, my hat goes off to the geek who managed to score that high. Has anyone outscored him since 2003?

The highest level that tests like the LAIT claimed to reliably measure was, if I'm not mistaken, around 175 IQ. 6.52σ, assuming a mean of 100, implies something like 198. Of course the mean here should be higher than 100 because only people who want to go to graduate school take the MAT. The company that operates the MAT has a lot more resources than Mr. Langdon or Mr. Hoeflin. For example, the 563 guy was the best in a sample of 126,082 people. However, since I'm not a psychometrician, I'll stop there.

What of the test itself? I was surprised by how un-PC it was. You had to know who people like Camus, Renoire and Degas were. As far as I remember, all the cultural references were Western and all of the culture referenced was high, not TV-based. However, it was a real IQ test because sometimes I couldn't get the analogies even though I recognized all of the terms in a question.

6 comments:

  1. congrats on the 476. Itook it twice one year apart and got a 476 both times.

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  2. Ironic that the gist of the post by the man who got a score of 506 is a complaint.

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  3. I'm a dummy only got a 393 took it in half an hour and didn't even understand most of the test

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  4. Glossy -

    Thank you for the well-articulated article on a topic that I find fascinating: the MAT and how it correlates to high IQ. If you have gotten a lot of hits lately on this post, I think I might have something to do with it. In fact, I recently wrote my own article on preparing for the MAT--which I have not yet taken officially--and I had come across the blog of John Karavitis during my research, but not that of Al Hsu. I am curious, with your 476, did you apply to the Triple Nine Society or similar societies, or did you already belong? I ask not only because I know that your MAT score would qualify you for TNS, but also because I see a lot of similarity between traits I exhibit and those you write about in this post and elsewhere: taking standardized tests for fun, often repeatedly, and, not least, studying and appreciating language. (I just finished reading Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages and Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, which, although not particularly dedicated to language, is written by a master wordsmith in Richard Dawkins. I enjoyed his many references to Steven Pinker, another playful yet crafty favorite of mine.)

    Getting back to your article, I did find a reference to a supposed MAT score of 592 from a test in 2004, as well as a 578 in 2005, but the source, California State University, Stanislas, is somewhat suspect. I also find it interesting that you chose Lady Gaga as a celebrity to pick on, as it were, since she was identified as gifted in her youth, even attending the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program. (Some other former CTY youth of interest include Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, at least "interest" insofar as you wrote about those two and their highly intelligent spouses in another post.) Still, I agree about the person who scored the 563 on the MAT. Another Eric Hart, perhaps?

    Finally, and to back up a little, I was wondering how everything turned out after your bout with cancer. I do not mean to pry, but since you mentioned it, I found myself curious. I do not know you at all, and I would not have found you without this blog post, but even so, I hope all is well. A lot can change in seven years, and it appears as though you have a lot of brain power to protect.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

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    1. I was admitted to TNS based on my GRE scores sometime around 2000. That was before I took the MAT. At that time TNS was mostly a Yahoo group. There were a lot of bitter arguments there about politics. I participated for a few months, then left because I didn’t want to turn bitter myself. The people there were smart though. It wasn’t disappointing in THAT sense.

      Cancer hasn’t come back since 2006. I’ve been lucky.

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    2. Glossy -

      Thank you for the response, and glad to hear that the cancer continues to be in remission. I cannot speak to the vitriol TNS-ers might have thrown about in the Yahoo! forum in the early 2000s, but I suspect that intelligent people are no different from anybody else in that discussions about politics tend to be circular and heated in nature.

      Good luck to you as you press on in life. I will keep checking in on this blog now and again for your analyses.

      - Andrew

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