In The Big Bang Theory the characters' IQs are frequently given to show how clever they are. They're usually some ridiculous number like 187 or 173.

However, my understanding of IQ is that this figure is dependant on the test which is taken (Cattell III B and Cattel Culture Fair III A for example all give different results for the same percentage of population). In fact the only way to equate IQs from people across different tests is by percentage of population.

Do we know which IQ scale the characters from The Big Bang theory are using when they share their IQs?

  • 6
    Uh...hate to break it you, but I'm 99% sure TBBT just, well, made up shit anyway. ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Aug 22, 2022 at 19:00
  • @NapoleonWilson isn’t it all!?
    – Liath
    Aug 22, 2022 at 19:41
  • 2
    Personally I’m struggling to see how this relates to TV understanding or appreciation. Scripted fictional TV has no reason to use any IQ scale. Any number above 100 spoken with enough awe will communicate to almost every audience member that the subject is “smart” or “a genius”. This question strikes me as being similar to asking about the real world physics of Star Trek teleporters. Aug 23, 2022 at 3:12
  • Thanks for the feedback everyone, I've updated the question to specifically ask what scale TBBT characters talking about when discussing IQs
    – Liath
    Aug 23, 2022 at 10:53
  • 1
    I’m sorry to say your edit does not address my comment or concerns at all. Aug 24, 2022 at 3:20

1 Answer 1


I think it's just that people recognise that numbers >150 mean someone is 'smart', whether they know the testing method or not.
It's not important to the plot that any particular method was used, only that these characters have 'unusually high scores'.

Mensa used to use actual numeric 'scores' - I joined them in 1985 [to win a £10 bet;), but never kept up the membership. I 'scored' >150, though I would get a different score now as it's a sliding scale, changing every year.
Mensa only consider you must be in the top 2% of test candidates. The numbers are no longer used as absolute reference & it doesn't seem they even insist on any specific examination type, only that it is 'approved'.

The general public still believe the numbers are important, though - so they're a quick shorthand for a TV show. The characters, based on Mensa's structure, may even each have taken different tests. We'll never know.

Ref: Mensa - Getting your IQ Tested - FAQs
On their online test page it says this…

This online test gives an indication of general cognitive abilities, represented by an IQ-score between 85 and 145 where 100 is the population average.

So perhaps they still use numbers for each test, but they don't compare across test types.

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