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Ryan Johnson, Published September 10 2013

Johnson: Putting pride on the line by taking the Mensa test

WEST FARGO – If Ryan hasn’t taken a math class in 11 years, and math problems make up 15 percent of the Mensa test, can Ryan pass the test?

I still don’t have the answer to that one yet.

I agreed to meet with local Mensa member Sharon Swan last month to put my pride on the line and take the official admission test, which actually is split into two exams.

Scoring in the top 2 percent on either one would grant me admission to the high-intelligence group; scoring below that mark would result in nothing but a thank-you letter to soothe my bruised ego.

The idea of once again filling in bubbles on an answer sheet and responding to a flurry of vocabulary, math and reading comprehension questions was daunting a decade after I graduated from high school and stopped worrying about standardized tests.

But this one also came with a new kind of pressure – knowing that how I did would be in the newspaper, available for co-workers and readers to see.

I got a good night’s sleep and woke up early the day of my test last month, chugging an extra cup of coffee as I drove to the West Fargo Public Library, where Swan would serve as the proctor. I heard caffeine provides a short-lived IQ boost, and I’d need all the help I could get.

The first exam was frustrating as I tried to fill in answers for all 50 questions before time ran out. The questions didn’t seem particularly challenging, but knowing I only had 12 minutes to complete this section didn’t help as I tried to use my rusty math skills to figure out problems that I should be able to solve.

The second test was better, a scaled-down version of the long exams I took during high school that were used to determine which colleges would accept me.

I had time to answer all the questions, and some sections seemed easy. But the analogies weren’t much fun – How does a horse relate to an apple? – and it’s embarrassing for a writer to struggle through a vocabulary quiz.

I finished up the seven sections of the last exam and headed back to the office, glad to be done with the kind of test I was subjected to all the time in high school.

Nothing bad will happen if I get my test results back in the weeks to come and find out I’m not a genius – I’d admit to that any day.

Still, I hope that inevitable letter telling me my Mensa fate goes the other way. I’m always looking for a new group of friends, even if I have to pass a test to break into that social circle.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587