High stakes IQ testing: The flynn effect and its clinical implications

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

JANZSSA - Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association


Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association


School of Education


Black, S. C. (2017). High stakes iq testing: The flynn effect and its clinical implications. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, 2017(49), 3-14. Available here


Intelligence testing has become ubiquitous in many sectors: In the education sector it is frequently used for determinations of learning disabilities and giftedness. Intelligence testing is affected by the Flynn Effect (FE), the highly debated long-term trend of rising average intelligence test scores within the population. The FE has been observed in many nations and varies with regard to ability, intelligence types, age, location and prosperity. Recent observations of a potential reversal have added to the complexity. FE research centres on four hypotheses: testing artefacts, biological factors, environmental changes and multi-driver models. The FE affects the periodical re-norming of intelligence tests and the comparability of IQ scores over time. This has clinical implications for the assessment of intellectual ability for various client populations, including forensic, disabled, juvenile and ethnic minority clients, as well as social implications concerning ethical intelligence, developing nations and the concept of age-related cognitive decline. Examples of high-stakes decisions based on IQ tests include fitness to stand trial, access to social disability services and, of particular interest for the education sector, access to special education services and accelerated programs. The present article underlines the importance of clinical practitioners and staff in the education sector being aware of how the FE affects the determination of intellectual ability for diverse client populations and ensuring that the most current editions of IQ tests (i.e., correctly normed versions) are used. Given the high stakes involved in IQ testing, there needs to be greater awareness and more research on the FE. Areas for possible future research include optimised methodologies, novel factors, diverse cultures and older participants.

Access Rights