High IQs don’t always equal impressive grades

When most people hear about young kids earning high scores on child IQ tests, they assume that the child is all-around brilliant. They may believe super-smart children can do college-level math and read much more complicated novels than their peers. While this may be true, it doesn't mean the kid has or will have impressive grades.

Smarts and grades
No one understands the correlation between intelligence and schooling yet. In an attempt to learn about this relationship, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center studied eighth graders for two years to learn how self-discipline and IQ affect grades, test scores and other academic performance measurements. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, focused on whether a person's initial self-discipline or IQ scores were a better indicator of their academic grades. Just seven months into the study, the researchers found those with better self-discipline were more likely to have higher grades than their peers with higher IQs. 

Researchers assessed the study participants at the very start of the school year. Researchers used the Eysenck Junior Impulsiveness Subscale, the Brief Self-Control Scale, an IQ test, two additional questionnaires that parents and teachers completed in regard to the student, and a form of Mischel's delay of gratification task. These assessments all asked questions about emotions, performance, impulses and thoughts. Researchers gave each student $1 and the option that they could spend it right away or carry it with them for a week and return to get a $2 reward.

The scientists performed the evaluations again at the end of the school year with these same methods of measurement. They then compiled the information, including each individual's final GPA, how students scored on spring achievement tests and the number of hours each person spent on homework. The researchers also looked at whether the student was admitted to the high school they preferred.

The data showed that individuals with better self-discipline had higher final GPAs than those with impressive IQ tests. Those who were self-disciplined scored near the 93rd percentile in academics, while the individuals with high IQs were closer to the 90th percentile. It is clear that students who are smart do not necessarily put in the work to earn high grades. This does not say, however, that those with higher IQs won't get good grades, but that a student's self-discipline abilities may be more telling as to how he or she will perform academically.

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