Evaluate the correlation between IQ and GPA.  Is it positive or negative? Does the correlation prove that a high IQ causes a high GPA? What is the connection between correlation and causation? Is...

Evaluate the correlation between IQ and GPA.  Is it positive or negative? Does the correlation prove that a high IQ causes a high GPA? What is the connection between correlation and causation? Is correlation a good test for predicting GPA? If not then what is? Please explain.

Expert Answers
caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, correlation does not equal causation. In fact, if we really want to get epistemological about it, we could even argue that a true link between A and B is almost impossible to prove in a finite number of steps; no amount of correlation will ever make it absolutely certain that causation is the binding factor (look up Agrippa's/Munchausen's trilemma for more on this). That said, we usually operate on a basic level of common understanding, to avoid ridiculous degrees of skepticism that prevent us from reaching any conclusions. 

This is important because it reminds us to self-critique both our methods and our logic when investigating a question. In the case of an IQ/GPA correlation, it reveals several assumptions that must be challenged and satisfactorily answered in order for a causation to be demonstrated.

Consider, for example, the role of IQ itself. IQ is highly contentious because it is an artificial and arbitrary evaluation of intelligence (or so some might say). It also implies that intelligence is quantifiable and can therefore be inherited or taught, depending upon its source. The same goes for GPA; grades are not insulated from extenuating circumstances or the occasional unjust teacher, but are instead arbitrary and quite fallible. Thus, the subtext implied in this investigation could be twisted to read, "an arbitrary evaluation of intelligence is tied to a separate but equally arbitrary evaluation of performance". This would be akin to asking if my postman's opinion of my shoes is correlated to the number of steps I will take in them; it provides no real useful information about either factor.

A high IQ will not necessarily cause a high GPA. I have plenty of students with high IQs but various personal, family and social circumstances prevent them from achieving a high GPA. One student, easily the best in his class, who always scored the highest on tests, ended the year with a D+ because he never did any of the other assignments; he stated he was simply too lazy to do them. Likewise, a low IQ will not necessarily cause a low GPA, although this depends on how teachers weight their grades.

To the extent of my personal research, I have found no definitive positive or negative correlation between IQ and GPA; I have provided links below that point to research that supports either side. This could imply several things, such as;

  • attempting to correlate IQ and GPA is too much of a hot-button issue for many researchers, and thus insufficient research has been performed for a majority answer to reveal itself
  • the use and application of IQ and GPA change depending upon the people and circumstances involved, obscuring the results

And so forth. It's also worth considering how this sort of correlation would fit, or not fit, into our current educational model. For example, if research suggested that IQ was positively linked to GPA, and IQ was largely genetic, would this sit well with the academic establishment? How would we approach educating students when research suggests that they are born into success or failure? Our revulsion to this idea would probably muddy the conclusiveness of the research, or perhaps even bury it.

rachellopez | Student

I don't believe that IQ and GPA correlate with each other. Just because someone has a high IQ doesn't automatically mean they have a high GPA or vice versa. Someone could be very smart but if they don't try hard in school, they can have a low GPA. You could also do really well in school but when it comes to IQ tests you do poorly.

The small correlation that IQ and GPA have is the intelligence factor. In order to have a high IQ, you have to have some general knowledge. The same goes with GPA because you cannot rely on intelligence alone to have a high GPA. A high score in one area will not cause a higher score in the other. I think that IQ is more knowledge, while GPA is some knowledge but mostly effort. You have to try very hard to maintain your grades and you can do well whether you are really learning or not, as long as you try.

Wiggin42 | Student

There is probably a positive correlation between IQ and GPA. However, I don't think this implies a causation. Ignoring the fact that the IQ test is riddled with flaws in measuring intelligence, there is simply no reason why a high IQ will lead to a high GPA. A person can be intelligent but lazy. A person of low IQ can have a high GPA by simply taking easier classes.

parama9000 | Student

To put it more neatly, GPA is arguably a combination of your IQ and how well you can understand/study/cram the knowledge in your head.

IQ is a natural intelligence factor that is made quantifiable by the concept of IQ itself, which is still debated upon as such a concept implies that IQ can be taught.

By having a naturally high IQ, one still might not excel as one might not put the necessary work to achieve that high GPA. However, with a relatively lower IQ, but a greater attitude towards learning, such a person will have a better chance at getting the high GPA.

Essentially, IQ and GPA both attempt to determine one's intelligence, but GPA serves more to determine one's proficiency/aptitude in a specific subject then general knowledge.

clyoon | Student

Typically one would think that the higher the GPA, the higher the IQ. But this is in fact, not true. It's just a general observation, in my opinion. I believe it's more like a stereotype. To some, GPA is only an indication of how hard someone works, not their intelligence. Many believe that a high GPA is achievable by anyone as long as one works hard for it. But not all are intelligent/smart. Grades don't prove how smart someone is. Thus, I believe there isn't a legit correlation between IQ and GPA. Like others have already said, correlation does not equal causation. A high IQ does not cause a high GPA because a person may be a genius but can refuse to do schoolwork or turn in assignments, resulting in a lower grade in a class and a lower GPA. Correlation is not a good test for predicting GPA. When it comes to predicting GPA, I would just not predict it. Each individual is unique and different. One cannot use generalized methods for one person.