Trump’s test scores have been in the news a lot lately. It started over a year ago when Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told congress that he threatened Trump’s university Fordham not to release his SAT scores (which is illegal anyway). An official from Fordham confirmed this.
More recently, Trump’s niece Mary Trump has said that when Trump transferred to the University of Pennsylvania he hired a boy named Joe Shapiro to take his SATs for him. The White House denies this.
More recently still, Trump has been bragging about acing the Montreal Cognitive Assment (MOCA) during a screening for dementia.
Trump may sound like an idiot to most liberals but remember that IQ is scored on an age based curve and many people in their 70s can barely string together a sentence, so the mere fact that he can argue with the press in a fast and entertaining way should put him comfortably above IQ 100 (the population mean). But how much much above 100?
Trump claims to have scored 30 out of 30 on the MOCA but given Trump’s history of exaggerating personal accomplishments (net worth, TV ratings, etc) that’s highly suspect. His doctor confirmed that, but when it comes to presidential politics, even medical reports can’t be trusted.
But assuming he’s being truthful, I emailed Dr. Ziad Nasreddine (the test’s creator) to ask what percentage of non-demented elderly people score perfect on this test. He replied “10% of normals score 30/30”.
Of course the MOCA does not call itself an IQ test, but aside from the brief administration time, incredibly low ceiling and bias towards memory items, it’s content is virtually indistinguishable from one. It includes general knowledge “What’s today’s date?”, picture vocabulary “identify pictures of common animals”, spatial reasoning “draw a cube”, arithmetic “count backwards from a 100 in multiples of 7”, short-term memory “repeat words”, and verbal abstract reasoning “state how common objects are alike”.
Still, I wouldn’t recommend using this as an IQ test in above average populations. A Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist could have a verbal and mathematical IQ in the stratosphere, but because they lack the spatial IQ to draw a clock at a given time, they’d end up with a score lower than Trump’s.
On the WAIS-IV, if an elderly person scores in the top 10% of the “healthy population”, they’re assigned an IQ of 119, however by excluding the demented from the norms, I’ve long felt the WAIS-IV underestimates elderly IQs. IQ is supposed to reflect your cognitive rank within the range of cognitively normal variation so it makes sense to exclude people with gross chromosomal abnormalities (i.e. Downs syndrome) from the norms, but dementia is arguably just the low end of normal elderly cognitive variation.
Research suggests 13.9% of Americans aged 71+ have dementia, so about 86.1% do not. So if Trump scored in the top 10% of the non-demented, that puts him in the top 8.6% of the general population which equates to an IQ of 120.
That sounds quite plausible. On a scale where (white) Americans average about IQ 100, U.S. presidents average IQs of 130, but the heart of Trump’s base (Birthers) probably average IQ 90. So just as Trump’s base averages about 10 IQ points lower than (white) voters, Trump himself is likely 10 points lower than U.S. presidents.
Some might argue that if Trump hit the test’s ceiling, he could in theory be much higher than 120. This is somewhat unlikely given that Trump failed to correctly multiply 17 by 6 (something half of North Americans in his age group at the time can do). If 17 times 6 were added to the MOCA, Trump’s score might be 30/31 instead of 30/30.