We know. Ranking nations by something as arguably arbitrary as IQ is always going to be considered controversial; the original source of this data was faced with controversy upon its initial publication. Indeed, it would probably be wise to take the information supplied with a pinch of salt. For a start, not every country in the world was included, as there was not enough research material for the authors to make a conclusion about the omitted states. Further, some of the research methods by the authors were also criticized, as they came up with some figures based on the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) levels of neighboring countries and even took some from very small and focused local studies (for example, the average IQ for Egypt was apparently taken from a test of 129 six to twelve-year olds).
With that in mind, this list should be used more entertainment than purely informative purposes, and it’s a good starting point to encourage discussion on perceived discrepancies; it’s not advised that these statistics be interpreted as either scientific or academic. The US does not feature on this list, sitting in joint 19th place on 98 points (just below the median IQ score of 100). Canada fares worse, on 97 points, whilst the UK and China manage to score slightly better, at 100. No country scores especially highly; not a single nation ended up with an average score equal to the intellectually gifted level (IQ 130+). However, that is hardly surprising, as a country populated largely by people with an IQ over 130 would be utopian.
The authors of the original study surmised that IQ was affected by the country’s GDP, so it comes as no surprise that the entries on this top 10 are all considered wealthy nations; there are no African or South American countries listed in the top 25. A populace heavily involved with technology and engineering appears to be a key indicator of a high IQ, with the top 5 positions all occupied by Far Eastern entities renowned for high levels of production and education. The No. 1 position is taken by a place that is not a country in its own right but warrants inclusion simply for having gained the unequalled highest average IQ.
10. Switzerland and Sweden: 101 average IQ
The Swiss and Swedish populations are slightly brighter than the IQ median level of 100. Switzerland is renowned for its generations of watchmakers and bankers, professions that require a high amount of academic study. The Swedish are studious types; they have one of the highest percentages of population holding a tertiary qualification in the world. Interestingly, the two countries at the very top of the percentage of population to tertiary level education table are Canada and the USA respectively, neither of which appears on this list.
9. Austria: 102 average IQ
The next four countries all have a listed national average IQ of 102, so they are all in effect joint sixth. But for the purposes of this list, they have been placed alphabetically. Austria is a small landlocked nation that shares borders with countries like Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Education is free and compulsory for Austrian children for at least nine years, with many going on into higher education.
8. Germany: 102 average IQ
This European economic powerhouse enjoys a tie for sixth place in this top 10 list. Germany has one of the highest GDP’s in the world, beating out European rivals France and the UK with an astonishing nominal GDP of $3.4 trillion. It has some of the oldest and most highly rated universities in the world. For example Heidelberg University, which was established in the south-western city of Heidelberg in 1386, has been associated with 55 Nobel Prize winners. It has been ranked the 50th best university in the world by QS World University Rankings.
7. Italy: 102 average IQ
The next nation to share sixth place with 102 points is Italy. Italy has arguably one of the richest histories in the world, thanks to periods such as the Roman Empire, the Regnum Italicum and the Renaissance. Italian painters, sculptors, poets and writers are renowned throughout the world, with the world of academia and art honoring a nation that produced geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante Alighieri and Galileo Galilei.
6. Netherlands: 102 average IQ
Twelve years of compulsory education likely help lift the Netherlands to the higher echelons of countries rated by average IQ. Tied for sixth place along with Austria, Germany and Italy, the Netherlands has an education system that has been ranked as the ninth best in the world by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Heading that particular list for quality of education is Finland, which ended up in joint 25th place for the IQ rankings (the USA comes a lowly 29th in the OECD chart). IQ is generally viewed as something that is less teachable, more inherent so this is not a particularly anomalous observation.
5. Singapore: 103 average IQ
Standing alone in fifth place is the first of the Asian locations that fill the top five spaces of this list. Singaporean students are frequently highly ranked in various charts for subjects such as science and mathematics. This small state that encompasses just over five million people has an incredible GDP of $270 billion, or GDP per capita of around $52,918 (USA: $52,839). Exports outstrip imports considerably, meaning the city-state is independently affluent and can afford to spend more money on social projects that involve education and learning. Singapore has been ranked by the World Bank as the place with the greatest ease of doing business.
4. Taiwan: 104 average IQ
Continuing with the Asian contingent is the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. Education is important in this island nation, with many students indulging in extra-curricular tuition, frequently learning to speak English. The USA is one of Taiwan’s largest trade partners and having a common language is obviously convenient for both partners. Taiwanese students strive for success and the economic climate here fosters a desire to compete in an ever-increasing global market.
3. Japan: 105 average IQ
For a nation so intrinsically linked to technology and electronics, it’s hardly surprising to find Japan having one of the highest national average IQs in the world. The University of Tokyo is considered the best university in Asia and is in the top 25 of the world’s highest-ranked universities. Literacy rates stand at 99.0 percent and like Singapore, the country frequently scores well in studies based on scientific and mathematical excellence.
2. South Korea: 106 average IQ
Pushed into second place by a single point is the advanced nation of South Korea. South Koreans enjoy the fastest average Internet connection speeds in the world, thus contributing to the ease of accessing research and information compared to other connected countries. The education system in South Korea has been highly praised, but due to its competitive and strict structure, the same system has been cited as a factor in high suicide rates which apparently peak during exam periods. It is not uncommon for a South Korean student to spend 14 hours a day involved in learning activities.
1. Hong Kong: 107 average IQ
Hong Kong is not strictly a country, but as a special administrative region of China, it is often included in country comparisons published by recognized organizations (including the UN and the IMF). Hong Kong is ranked highly in mathematics and science, and is just behind Finland on the OECD’s list for quality of education. ‘Cram schools’ have become big business in Hong Kong, as students spend their free time enrolling in crash courses to improve their grades. Culturally, Hong Kong places a lot of importance on success and achievement in education, with over 1,000 schools serving a population of 7.1 million.