For those of us who work with students to achieve their best grades and highest test scores, conversations about intelligence come up as often as discussions of athleticism in a major league broadcasting booth. Certain attributes very clearly connect to success in a specific task without actually being either necessary or sufficient, and intelligence definitely falls into that category. Part of the problem comes with mistaking intelligence with smarts.
The term ‘smart’ seems to be a catch-all for a diverse mix of skills, strategies, and cognitive attributes the elude consensus. I like the spin Seth Godin–a genius in his own right–has on what smart really means these days:
Smart is no longer memorization. It’s not worth much.
Smart is no longer access to information. Everyone has that.
• Situational awareness
• Filtering information
• Clarity of goals
• Good taste
• Empathy and compassion for others
• The ability to make decisions that further your goals
The good news is that smart is a choice, and smart is a skill.
Whether or not you think IQ tests are valid (they are), tests like the SAT and ACT are not technically intelligence tests. There may be all kinds of ways to be intelligent, but, for true success in tests, school, and life, be smart.