Harvard is the most prestigious university in the World with an average SAT score in the stratosphere, thus it’s interesting to ask how Harvard students perform on an official IQ test. The best data on the subject was obtained by Harvard scholar Shelley H Carson and her colleagues who had an abbreviated version of the WAIS-R given to 86 “Harvard undergraduates (33 men, 53 women), with a mean age of 20.7 years (SD 3.3)… All were recruited from sign-up sheets posted on campus. Participants were paid an hourly rate…The mean IQ of the sample was 128.1 points (SD 10.3), with a range of 97 to 148 points.”

It should be noted however that the WAIS-R was published in 1981, and that the norms were collected from 1976 to 1980. Carson’s study was published in 2003, so presumably the test norms were 25 years old.

James Flynn cites data showing that from WAIS-R norms (circa 1978) to WAIS-IV norms (circa 2006) the vocabulary and spatial construction subtest (used in the abbreviated WAIS-R) increased by 0.53 SD and 0.33 SD respectively. These gains would result in the composite score of the abbreviated WAIS-R becoming obsolete at a rate of 0.26 IQ points per year, meaning the Harvard students’ scores circa 2003 were 6.5 points too high. This reduces the mean IQ of the sample to 121.6.

However it should be noted that the abbreviated version of the WAIS-R correlates 0.91 with the full version of the WAIS-R which is obviously more reliable. Correcting for the extra unreliability of such a short version increases the IQs of Harvard students from 121.6 to [(121.6 – 100)/0.91] + 100 = 123.7.

However because even back when the WAIS-R was normed circa 1978, America was substantially non-white (though not as non-white as today), the scores differ from IQs normed exclusively on whites. Because the technical IQ literature now defines 100 and 15 as the mean and standard deviation of British & American whites, and not the mean and SD of Americans as a whole, it’s necessary to correct the WAIS-R norms for non-white inclusion.

On a scale where all Americans in 1978 averaged 100 (SD = 15), whites would have averaged 102 (SD = 14.5) so converting WAIS-R norms to a scale where the white mean is set at 100 (SD = 15) results in the Harvard mean going from 123.7 to [(123.7 – 102)/14.5](15) + 100 = 122 and the Harvard SD going from 10.3 to 10.7.

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