What Exactly Is Mensa? How Smart Do You Have to Be to Join?

Roland Berrill and Dr. Lance Ware founded Mensa in 1946 in England. According to American Mensa, Ltd., the Latin word mensa has several meanings: "mind," "table" and "month." Mensa was created to serve as a round-table society for highly intelligent people to meet on a monthly basis. Now an international organization, there are about 100,000 members in 100 countries throughout the world. The population of Mensans (as members are called) is extremely diverse. Men, women and children of various national, cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds belong to Mensa. Occupational and professional backgrounds are equally varied. Police officers, homemakers, scientists, truck drivers, physicians, farmers, artists and many others hold membership in the organization. Although members' ages range from around four years to 90+ years, the two largest age groups are 14 to 33 and 34 to 53.

There is only one criterion for membership in Mensa: Each member must possess a high IQ. If you've read our answer to this question, then you know that IQ stands for intelligence quotient. Today's IQ tests are designed to measure your general ability to solve problems and understand concepts. This includes reasoning, problem solving, the ability to perceive relationships between things and the ability to store and retrieve information. Mensa sets the high IQ bar at or above the 98th percentile on an approved standardized test of intelligence. This means that your score must be equal to or greater than the scores of 98 percent of the other people who take the test.

To apply for membership, you can either take The Mensa Admissions Test or you can submit test scores from a supervised, standardized intelligence test that place you in the top 2 percent. Some of the tests that have been used for qualification are: the California Test of Mental Maturity, the Wechsler Adult and Children Scales, the SAT, LSAT and GRE.

If you are wondering what the admissions test is like, you can order the Mensa Home Test from American Mensa Ltd. to get an idea of what types of questions they ask. Or, if you are looking for a fun mental drill, try the Mensa Workout. Although this mini-test will not qualify you for membership, it will provide you with about a half-hour of cerebral calisthenics. Thirty questions test your spatial, mathematical and language abilities. And if this isn't enough to sate your appetite, there are dozens of mensa-esque quiz and puzzle books available, some of which were written by Mensa members.

Here are some interesting links:

Here are some quiz and puzzle books: