Living in Los Angeles has its perks. One of those perks is meeting incredibly talented actors and comedians on the regular. After a brief show at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theater, I had the privilege of meeting Neel Nanda, a rising stand up comedian who has had already had a number of specials on Comedy Central. In one of his jokes, Nanda implored audience members to stop calling rappers geniuses. This was of course a tongue in cheek request, but his facetious remark was based on the numerous references to Kanye West as a genius. How could Kanye be considered a genius, Nanda wondered, when a line of his lyrics reads “Leave a pretty girl sad reputation/Start a Fight Club, Brad reputation.” Okay. In contrast, Praveen Kumar Gorakavi, a certified child prodigy, derived a mathematical formula for perpetual calendar calculations at age 13 and developed a low cost artificial leg at age 15.  We really have to stop calling rappers geniuses.

But what is Neel really alluding too? Surely we all recognize that Kanye West is a larger than life figure to say the least, achieving musical fame and success at the at the upper most echelons of the entertainment industry. But is he a genius? Well that depends on the definition of the word. The term “genius” is thrown around modern parlance in a cavalier fashion to denote greatness of any kind. When a person writes an excellent book, produces a beautiful song, or solves a difficult math problem, he or she may be referred to as a genius. But is there a concrete rubric we can rely upon to accurately make this assertion? Well, not really. But there is one scale, one metric that is more or less universally accepted as a valid measure of mental horsepower: Intelligence Quotient. Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, is tested in many different ways. The most commonly administered test comes from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. All of the available tests generally measure basic psychometrics using questions that involve math, verbal abilities, and spatial reasoning. The various raw scores are taken and then measured against folks of similar age. The general score bands and their supposed meanings or classifications are as follows (according to

  • Above 200: Unmeasurable genius
  • 180 – 200: Highest genius
  • 165 – 179: High genius
  • 140 – 164: Genius
  • 120 – 140: Very superior intelligence
  • 110 – 119: Superior intelligence
  • 90 – 109: Normal or average intelligence
  • 80 – 89: Below average intelligence
  • 70 – 79: Borderline deficiency
  • Under 70: Deficiency

Using these general ranges, we have an actual numerical score that classifies individuals as geniuses. Do you have an IQ above 140? Then you are a certified genius regardless of the works you have produced. While IQ tests may be imperfect in many ways, it seems that they currently offer the best methodology to identify a genius on a relatively stable scale. Want to know what an IQ test question looks like? I’ll give you two (courtesy of

Which one of the five choices makes the best comparison? PEACH is to HCAEP as 46251 is to:

(A) 25641

(B) 26451

(C) 12654

(D) 51462

(E) 15264

Mary, who is sixteen years old, is four times as old as her brother. How old will Mary be when she is twice as old as her brother?

(A) 20

(B) 24

(C) 25

(D) 26

(E) 28

If you want to know the answers, I’ll provide them at the end of the article. In the meantime, let’s look at an inspiring list of the 10 highest IQs in the world today.  What I love about this list is that the individuals contained herein work in an array of different fields and specialties. Without further ado, I present you with the modern day IQ dream team.

10. Gary Kasparov (IQ: 190) – Gary is a chess wunderkind and is famous for drawing against a chess supercomputer that calculated over 3 million moves per second. Chess is widely considered one of the most intellectual games on the planet. Accordingly, it is no surprise that one of the champions of the mental sport makes this list of intellectual juggernauts.


9. Philip Emeagwali (IQ: 190) – Philip is a Nigerian born engineer and scientist. He famously won the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989 for “price-performance in high-performance computing applications, in an oil reservoir modeling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation.” Not too shabby.


8. Marylin vos Savant (IQ: 190) – Marilyn is the writer of a widely read column called “Ask Marylin.” She is famous for accepting and solving all sorts of puzzles and riddles sent in from her loyal readers.


7. Mislav Predavec (IQ: 192) – Mislav is a math professor in Croatia who also owns a prestigious trading company.


6. Rick Rosner (IQ: 192) – Rick is a pseudo-celebrity of sorts, appearing on several talk shows and game shows, including a short visit on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Rick is well known for practicing and mastering IQ tests by studying myriad practice problems. His past jobs include stints as a dancer and bouncer (among other things).


5. Christopher Langan (IQ: 195) – Chris is my favorite of the bunch. He comes from a tough background where his intelligence was essentially a bane, the cause of many beatings from fellow classmates who were jealous of his mental prowess. But that all ended when Chris began working out and putting on muscle mass to dissuade his would be assailants. He now bifurcates his time between working on a ranch with his wife and developing his comprehensive model of everything called the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe. He also worked as a bouncer once upon a time.


4. Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis (IQ: 198) – Dr. Katsioulis is an esteemed medical doctor, known for his support of gifted individuals in Greece.


3. Kim Ung-Yong (IQ: 210) – Kim is a civil engineer today, but as a child, he was considered a step ahead of all other child prodigies. At the age of 3, he could read Korean, Japanese, German, and English. Moreover, he was capable of solving complex calculus equations.


2. Christopher Hirata (IQ: 225) – Chris was invited to work with NASA at the age of 16, and went on to receive his Ph.D in mathematics from Princeton University at the age of 22. He currently teaches astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology.


1. Terence Tao (IQ: 230) – Terence is the genius of geniuses. He became the youngest full professor at UCLA , and currently works on “harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, additive combinatorics, ergodic Ramsey theory, random matrix theory, and analytic number theory.”


Answers to IQ test questions: E and B.