A reader asked:

What are the real-world implications of an exceptional score (say, 170 – 190) on tests of the Mega Test type?

While conventional IQ tests are administered in a single sitting, and supervised so that you can’t rely on books or calculators to “cheat”, Mega Type tests include problems so complex, they’re solved over dozens of unsupervised hours in many sittings, with the use of reference books and other aids.

Chris Langan stated:

…by virtue of their difficulty, these problems take longer to solve… sometimes days or even weeks. Accordingly,
power tests are untimed and unsupervised. This opens the door to factors like motivation and persistence, which are not
among the factors primarily measured by standard IQ tests. On the other hand, virtually every significant intellectual
achievement of mankind has involved these factors in great measure.

From Discussions on Genius and Intelligence Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen pg 23

Arthur Jensen stated:

…Such tests would have little practical use, although they could be of scientific interest in studying the nature of high-level problem solving. But people even capable of taking such tests could be identified with some conventional tests, such as a combination of the Advanced Raven Matrices and Terman’s Concept Mastery Test. People with high scores on such tests can demonstrate their problem solving ability in their careers. What is the need for prior selection? They can make it into college and graduate school if they’ve got high IQs, and it will be their virtually unique constellation of traits (g + special abilities + motivation + character, etc.) that will determine whether they will, first of all, identify important problems, and secondly, be able to solve them or at least materially contribute to their eventual solution.

From Discussions on Genius and Intelligence Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen pg 24

So Langan and Jensen seems to feel that Mega type tests measure a combination of traits useful for high level intellectual achievement. Cognitive traits (g, special abilities) + personality variables (persistence + motivation). Jensen seems to feel that the cognitive component can be sufficiently measured by combining conventional psychometric tests (eg RAPM + CMT), but what about the non-cognitive component?

Jensen writes about a trait called Typical Intellectual Engagement (or TIE) :

Most people perform at near their maximum level while taking a cognitive test. However, even among persons who show exactly the same level of g, there is great variation in TIE, which is assessed with a fifty-nine-item self-report questionnaire. The TIE inventory assesses the degree to which the individual typically engages in g-demanding activities, vocationally and especially avocationally, and has what would ordinarily be regarded as intellectual interests (reading, learning, thinking, a wide range of interests, particularly in literature, science, and mentally challenging activities, such as chess, being absorbed by the subjects of one’s interests and delving into them in depth).

The g Factor by Arthur Jensen pg 574

Jensen continues:

TIE is much more a personality factor than an ability factor. It does not correlate at all with G f (or a third-order factor g), but has significant but small correlations (r = + .3 to +.4) with verbal IQ and Gc. (Tests for IQ and Gc involve specific knowledge content and hence reflect intellectual achievement as well as the information-processing capacity that is measured more purely by Gf.) For a given level of g, a higher level of TIE in adulthood leads to somewhat higher levels of real-world intellectual achievement. But TIE itself clearly belongs in the personality domain, as shown by its correlations of about + .60 with
two of the “ Big Five” personality factors (“ Openness” and “ Conscientiousness” ), as well as with another personality factor, “ self-directed activity,” which reflects energy level, absorption, and lack of distractibility.

The g Factor by Arthur Jensen pg 574

Given the 0.57 correlation between IQ and academic success, I’d expect someone with about + 5 sigma score on a conventional IQ test (top one in 3.48 million) to on average, have real world intellectual achievements of about +5(0.57) = + 2.85 (top one in 482). In other words, an adjunct professor who never gets tenure. That’s not to deny that some +5 sigmas achieve far more academically, perhaps even winning the Nobel Prize, but the overall average would be dragged down by all the +5 sigmas who don’t even graduate from college, either because they have more lucrative options, or because they don’t have the luxury.

I would expect, if we could get a representative (rather than self-selected) sample of people with +5 sigma Mega scores, they would be about as academically successful as their counterparts on conventional IQ tests. Because the Mega Test likely loads more on personality variables than conventional tests do (in particular TIE because you have to stay intellectually engaged with a problem for days or weeks), it likely has a lower g loading, but because TIE correlates with academic success independently of g, it’s correlation with real-world intellectual achievement is probably about the same.

I do wonder though whether personality traits like TIE are the only difference between people who perform better on Mega type tests than conventional tests. Could there be cognitive differences too? Conventional IQ tests break big problems down into digestible mini-problems but perhaps the ability to break big problems into small ones is an important cognitive ability in its own right. When faced with big problem in real life, even something as trivial as writing a blog post on a big topic, I’m sometimes overwhelmed with a sense of where do I even begin? Perhaps Mega type tests better assess this kind of big picture planning and hierarchical organizing. It would be interesting to see whether neuro-psychological tests of executive functioning predict Mega test performance independently of both conventional IQ and TIE.