Are Good Grades Really A Sign Of Intelligence?


Students navigate through the stress and anxiety of final exams annually, with the aftermath of receiving grades being particularly daunting. Grades are often viewed as a measure of a student's intelligence, prompting parents and teachers to emphasize exam preparation from the start of the academic session.

While some students review course material during vacations, others may avoid studying until the last moment. Does this imply that the former group is more intelligent than the latter? Students who familiarize themselves with the syllabus during vacations are more likely to participate in class and perform better on tests compared to those who open their books for the first time in class.

This raises an important question that parents often overlook: Can intelligence be defined by exam results? Society tends to answer in the affirmative. However, we propose a different perspective.

Do Grades really reflect intelligence?

The grading system is used to place students on different levels through standardized testing. However, they fail to take into account the diversity among students. They categorize students as only one characteristic, ignoring all others. This does not give the cumulative intelligence of the children. By testing the intelligence of a child on only one aspect, we may harm their self-confidence.

We tend to push our children towards academics rather than letting them excel in other fields. We often do not let our kids follow their passions since we see other parents asking their kids to focus on academics. The student’s chosen field may also have a lot of struggle to succeed. It is natural that we prefer that they take the path most traveled. The thought of them struggling makes us uncomfortable. Studies start to look like the easy way out.

What we fail to understand is the fact that our kid is suffering every day. We can severely harm their personality development by not allowing them to exercise their potential. They study reluctantly and do not get good grades. They do not aim high in any field. They attain only passing grades. As a result, the child is not perceived to be intelligent. We harm their talent development and do not let them reach their full potential in other fields.

The reality is that the child is as intelligent as any of his/her peers. This intelligence is displayed in other fields. For example, they may excel in sports, music, or art. It is a matter of finding out where the child’s passions lie, and you will see they are most brilliant in their field of choice.

The Debate

There have been countless arguments on whether a good grade can accurately represent intelligence. In these, we see two theories of intelligence - the Entity theory and the Incremental theory.

Entity Theory of Intelligence

This theory suggests that intelligence is stable throughout life. It implies that someone who is intelligent in his childhood would remain so throughout his/her life. It also states that if someone is not intelligent, he or she cannot become so later on. Entity theory implies that such students who are intelligent do not have to work very hard compared to the students who are not.

Incremental Theory of Intelligence

This is a theory contrary to the above argument. It implies that as a person grows older, he/she tends to become more intelligent. According to this theory, the intelligence can grow, if the person is working on it. An example of these can be given by the education systems of the United States of America and Finland. Studies suggest that the students in the U.S.A are over-tested and graded. Finland follows a very unique and liberal education methodology.

In Finland, the formal education of a child starts at the age of seven. There is no grading system. Students in Finland barely get homework. They are expected to learn by doing things practically. They do not get graded on their work on a standardized platform. Instead, they are encouraged to follow their passions and show their talents. In comparison, the USA follows a grading system. All students are graded on how well they perform on tests and homework. The work is the same for everyone, and there is not much distinction in where a student’s talent lies.

What Should Parents and Teachers Do?

Here are a few tips for you to understand your child’s talents better:

1. Understand your child

You might think that your kid is not intelligent if he/she is not doing well in academics. Sit and talk to your kid about why they are not into the studies. If he works hard and still cannot achieve the desired result, you must pinpoint the problem. Your child might need attention to specific subjects. Alternatively, they might have issues understanding it the way the teacher teaches. In this case, you can help your child learn at their own pace.

2. De-stress

Kids today are under a lot of pressure to get good grades. However, overstudying might also be not good for your kid. They might be under a lot of stress which could impact his/her mental and physical health. If you see your kid immersed in books all the time, ask them to take a break.

3. Ask about their interest

Having a good academic record is helpful in building a career. However, you must encourage your child to follow their passions. For instance, if your kid is interested in learning music, you can put him in a good music institute. They would be thrilled to pursue their passions after a grueling day at school. They would not feel trapped and that studies are suffocating him.

10 signs that you are Intelligent

We doubt whether or not we are intelligent. Some of us even feel that we are not intelligent because we never did well in academics. However, grades are not the only parameters for success. The founders of tech giants like Apple and Facebook were not people with high grades.

Intelligence is not established by whether or not you have excelled in academics. Academic intelligence is just one of the many different types of intelligence criteria out there. Ranging from interpersonal to spatial intelligence, there are many parameters which define one’s intelligence levels.

There are signs that hint at your intelligence level. We might be unaware of what they are. Let’s take a look at some of the signs:

Oldest sibling

The eldest siblings in the house are usually the smartest. According to the study, IQ scores and health status of approximately 250,000 men (aged between 18 and 19), the average firstborn had an IQ level of 103. In comparison, the second-born had an IQ level of 100, while the third-born had an IQ level of 99.

Thin is intelligent

Another study was conducted on approximately 2000 adults for five years. The conclusion was that the cognitive ability of the person is directly correlated to the waistline. This means that intelligence is high if the waistline is small.

Recreational Drugs

In 2012, a study was conducted on British students. It stated that there was a link between high IQ and the use of illegal drugs. The study revealed that kids who have a higher IQ have a high likelihood of using illegal drugs Higher IQ at the childhood level is associated with abusing drugs.


Researchers have often linked left-handedness with “divergent thinking.” Divergent thinking is the behavior that leads to prompt ideas and different thinking.

A New Yorker reporter stated in a 1995 review paper that more left-handed men exhibited more divergent thoughts. They are said to be able to do out-of-the-box thinking. They are more likely to find new and innovative solutions to their problems. Left-handers have more creative ideas.

Good Height

In 2008, Princeton conducted a study on many people. It led to the conclusion that taller people attained higher scores on various intelligence tests. It also showed that they were financially more successful. The research negated the role of school and education in this. It stated that since the age of 3, kids who are taller perform better on cognitive tests.

Regular Alcohol Consumption

The famous psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa found something startling. American and British adults who scored higher marks in IQ consumed more alcohol as they grew up. This is a similar case to drug abuse. One of the reasons might be the pressure they face. People with higher IQs tend to take more stress. This can cause them to look for relief from drugs and alcohol.


Research in 2007 stated that babies who have been breastfed by their mothers are more intelligent. The study was conducted on British kids. Children who were breastfed scored at least seven points higher. However, the result did come with a rider - these kids should have had the FADS2 gene. The relationship between breastfeeding and this gene is not yet known.

Curious heads

Those who want to explore and learn new things are said to be more intelligent. Various studies have found that kids with a high IQ are more curious. They are always in pursuit of knowledge, especially in their chosen fields. Curiosity is not a definite indicator of intelligence.

However, intelligent people are always curious and want to learn. The curiosity quotient, more popularly known as CQ, remains mysterious. Studies have concluded that individuals with a higher level of CQ are more intelligent. Further, a person with a higher curiosity quotient tends to make more sound investment decisions. They are said to excel in the fields of art, science, and education.

Smartness comes easy

People who are smart generally tend to get things done easily. They might even be perceived as lazy. It takes them very little time to get things done. Compared to those who try harder, they do not put in much effort. However, laziness does not indicate a sharp mind. People with high IQs find quick and smart ways to get things done. They do not avoid work.


In a study, 48 participants were asked to describe the unusual uses of a ping-pong ball. Individuals who worked in a neat room came up with fewer creative ideas than those who worked in a messy room.

It is important to let children learn the things that interest them. A kid who gets an F in Mathematics might be a genius in Music. Everyone is born with a unique talent. They should have full freedom to carve out their path of success. One path may be more difficult than the other. A person’s passion for achieving something will always make you ask yourself—Do good grades really predict success?


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