Raven's Progressive Matrices


The Raven's Progressive Matrices can be described as "tests of observation and clear thinking". Each problem in the Test is really the mother or "Source" of a system of thought while the order in which the problems are presented provides training in the method of working. Hence the name "Progressive Matrices".

The first form of the Progressive Matrices test to be developed was the Standard series. This was designed to cover the whole range of ability from low-scoring respondents and young children, through high-scoring adults, to those of old age. To spread the scores — and thereby facilitate analysis — at respectively, the lower and upper ranges of ability, the Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM) and the Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) were developed. Together, at the time of their development these three tests enabled most needs to be met.

As we have seen, by the late 1980s the cross-cultural increase in scores had meant that there was a marked ceiling effect among youths and young adults on the SPM, while the APM was yielding an excellent distribution across the entire adult population. In addition, some users felt that the existing CPM and SPM had become too well known for the scores to be trusted. Accordingly, work was put in hand to develop versions of the tests which would (a) parallel the existing tests, both on an item-by-item and total score basis (so that all the existing normative and research data would be applicable). and (b) restore the SPM and APM's discriminative power at the upper levels of ability.

However the decision about what to do about the increase in scores was not, straightforward because, while resulting in a lack of discrimination among able young adults, it also resulted in the SPM offering excellent discrimination among less able older adults. In the end, it was decided to publish both exactly parallel versions of the SPM and CPM and a version of the SPM which, while retaining most of the easy items, restored its discriminative power among more able young adults (SPM Plus).

The Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM)


The Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM), from which Sets C, D, and E of the Standard series have been omitted, but into which an additional set of 12 problems (Set Ab) has been interpolated between Sets A and B, is designed to assess with greater precision the intellectual processes of young children, mentally retarded persons and the elderly. The colored backgrounds on which the problems are printed attract attention, make the test spontaneously interesting, and obviate the need for too much verbal instruction. Success in Set A depends on a person's ability to complete continuous patterns which, towards the end of the set, change first in one, and then in two, directions at the same time. Success in Set Ab depends on a persons ability to see discrete figures as spatially related wholes, and to choose figures which complete the design. Set B contains just sufficient problems involving analogies to show whether or not a person is capable of thinking in this way. The last few problems in Set B are of the same order of difficulty as the early problems in Sets C, D, and E of the Standard Test. To facilitate transition from the Colored to the Standard series, the last few problems of Set B are printed in the Colored version exactly as they appear in the Standard Test. In this way, a person who succeeds in solving these problems can proceed without interruption to Sets C, D and E so that total capacity for intellectual activity can be more accurately assessed. When appropriate, the score on the intermediate Set Ab can be omitted, and the total score on Sets A, B, C, D and E used to assess the percentile grade in accordance with the norms for the Standard Test. This will usually agree with the percentile grade on Sets A, Ab, and B. but where the intellectual capacity to form comparisons and reason by analogy has matured, the SPM score is likely to be the more reliable and psychologically valid. Before the capacity to form comparisons and reason by analogy has matured, or in cases where it has become impaired, the CPM will indicate the degree of development or deterioration, of a person's capacity for observation and clear thinking. After this capacity has matured, the SPM will assess a person's intellectual capacity relative to other people of the same age.

Answer Sheets for the Parallel CPM and SPM and SPM Plus

As has been explained, the parallel versions of the CPM and SPM were developed to foil respondents who have memorized the correct answers. To help to ensure this, the position of the correct answer among the options on each item differs from that in the Classic versions of the tests. This is also the case for SPM Plus. It is therefore essential to ensure that the Answer Sheets and/or Scoring Keys selected correspond to the test used.

Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM)


The Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) offers a means of: (i) enquiring into the nature of high-level educative ability (ii) spreading the scores of the more able — which has become particularly important in the light of the previously documented increase in scores over the years: and (iii) assessing speed of accurate intellectual work. Set I consists of only 12 problems. It is generally used to establish a field of thought for respondents and provide them with training in the method of working. However, it can also be used, under timed or untimed conditions, to obtain a rapid index of educative ability or efficiency. Set I is normally followed immediately by Set II, although respondents can be allowed to take the first set away several days before testing in order to practice. Set II consists of 36 problems, arranged in ascending order of difficulty. As a result, it is not necessary for everyone to attempt every problem before stopping. By imposing a time limit, Set II can therefore be used to assess "intellectual efficiency". Although this is generally closely related to capacity for orderly thinking, this is not always the case and the two must not be confused with each other.

An index of intellectual efficiency is particularly useful when assessing suitability for work in which quick, accurate, judgments are needed, or when, as in some kinds of clinical work, one requires an assessment of a person's slowness of thinking.

Despite the fact that the APM now yields an excellent discrimination across the entire adult ability range, it cannot be unreservedly recommended for general use. This is partly because the cyclical format of the SPM offers five successive opportunities for those taking the test to acquire a sense of what is required and develop an appropriate method of working. The SPM is therefore to be preferred if it is considered that some respondents would benefit from practice. Other advantages of the SPM are:

Lower-scoring respondents encounter fewer problems that are too difficult for them, and, as a result, have a more positive experience.
There is more research data for the SPM, including separate norms for different sub-populations.
As an untimed test, it is less stressful for respondents.

Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM)


The Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) is divided into five Sets of twelve problems (Sets A, B, C, D, and E). Each Set starts with a problem which is, as far as possible, self-evident and develops a theme in the course of which the problems build on the argument of what has gone before and thus become progressively more difficult. This procedure provides the respondent with five opportunities to become familiar with the field and method of thought required to solve the problems. Administered in the standard way, the test therefore provides a built-in training programme and indexes the ability to learn from experience or learning potential". The cyclical format also provides an opportunity to assess the consistency of a person's intellectual activity across five successive lines of thinking. The test length was carefully constructed to be just sufficiently long to assess a person's maximum capacity for coherent perception and orderly judgment without being too exhausting or unwieldy.

It has unfortunately proved impossible to fully retain this structure in the SPM Plus, although it is hoped that a reasonable compromise has been reached by retaining all the items in the first two Sets, introducing more difficult items, and eliminating many items from the third to fifth Sets in the original.

Sometimes it is important to know a person's speed of accurate intellectual work, as distinct from the total capacity for orderly thinking. As the SPM is arranged into five Sets, each of which begins with simple problems and grows increasingly difficult, a person's speed of intellectual work cannot be measured from the number of problems solved in a fixed time. Use of the SPM with an overall time limit results in an uneven and invalid distribution of scores because some people devote a great deal of time attempting later problems of, say, Set D while others skip over them and greatly enhance their scores by correctly solving the easier items of Set E. This problem can be overcome by timing each Set separately. Until recently, this was the normal way of administering the test in Australia. However, the procedure is cumbersome, and the desired information can be obtained more easily using the Advanced Progressive Matrices.

Answer Sheets for the Parallel  and SPM and SPM Plus

As has been explained, the parallel versions of the CPM and SPM were developed to foil respondents who have memorized the correct answers. To help to ensure this, the position of the correct answer among the options on each item differs from that in the Classic versions of the tests. This is also the case for SPM Plus. It is therefore essential to ensure that the Answer Sheets and/or Scoring Keys selected correspond to the test used.


The following is intended to keep you and the rest of us on the right truck!!!

Victor Serebriakoff: Swollen Head of Mensa

Victor Serebriakoff, who ran Mensa for years, was fond of word-play. He wrote that Mensa is “a think-link, a brain-skein round the fat world. It is interdisciplinary, non-factional, unbiased, uncommitted, anti-racial; and that means just one thing: it is free; a world agora, an agorasphere; free of all constraint, free to grow into something the world needs but does not yet know it needs …”

But what is Mensa really? It is an international club that admits anyone who scores in the top two percent of IQ tests. Reading Mensa materials, it becomes evident that outside of occasional dating opportunities at local meetings, it is virtually nothing. The organization vaguely supports gifted child programs, but other than that it is basically a bunch of backpatting buttscratchers. The world does not yet know that it needs Mensa. It never will.

The organization was born of the same post-WWII optimism for the power of thought and amity to change the world that produced the United Nations. But unlike that parlous and frequently futile organization, Mensa has accomplished nothing whatsoever. Mensa makes a point of not taking any positions as an institution because members cannot agree on anything. Even, or perhaps especially, the question of what constitutes intelligence is avoided. They leave the whole thing to the testing experts, discredited as they might be, and chop off the bottom 98 percent. A group that can’t even agree on its criteria for membership thinks it will save the world.

Famous Mensans include a former president of Ford, a professional domino toppler, the actress Geena Davis, the cartoonist Mel Lazarus, the authors of What Color is Your Parachute and of Clan of the Cave Bear, and a Florida judge nicknamed “Maximum Morphonios” for her harsh rulings. Now there’s a motley brain trust to rule the world. It is not surprising to find Mensans online debating the clarion call of Ayn Rand, the validity of memes, and the relationship of God to alien civilizations. But, most fittingly, the thing that really seems to unite Mensans is a devotion to “brain teasers,” puzzles that are the basis of the tests that qualify members.

Serebriakoff was by all accounts an amusing fellow. He was by profession a timber man who introduced the metric system to British sawmills and developed a computerized system for the quality control of lumber grading. His magnum opus in the field of lumber was British Sawmill Practice, and it remains a scintillating read.

Serebriakoff early felt the sting of being an egghead. “I was chased home from school every day because I was the kid who put his hand up at every question,” he recalled. After he tested high on an Army intelligence test during WWII he was assigned to train recruits in the teaching corps. Still enamored of his smart-alec ways in later years, he published a book titled The Future of Intelligence in 1987. Predicting the future of humanity he wrote, “The next plateau will be a stable, durable biosphere on the earth supporting a world culture which, not at the command of some central control, but because of its polyhedric inner dynamic, pushes on up the improbability and negentropy slopes toward more intelligent people, societies, and artifacts.” He meant, essentially, that people would become smarter and richer, the world would become peaceful, more integrated and less polluted, and there would be a lot of cool stuff around for people to play with. It would be a utopian ecological technocracy heaven. Serebriakoff actually included an appendix of neologisms and unusual words in his book. How irritating.

He continued: “In the very long term I see contact with other intelligences, competition, strife, then cooperation and a resumption of expansion along the continuum.” But there was a negative scenario too: otherwise, “This biosphere will be just one more seed that fell on rock.” It was like an agglomeration of Carl Sagan and the Star Wars movies.

Apart from Serebriakoff’s maunderings in the domain of the future, his leadership of Mensa was crucial to the organization’s institutional success, such as it is. The first meeting he went to, in 1950, had an attendance of four, including his wife. Founded a few years earlier by the eccentric Roland Berrill as the “High IQ Club,” membership had plummeted because Berrill tended to represent his eccentric views to the press as those of the organization as a whole. Once Serebriakoff was in place, Mensa ceased to take positions and downplayed its original mission of advising governments. He contacted universities and the press, and Mensa began to grow. Today it claims a global membership of at least 100,000 with local chapters in dozens of countries.

“This is the question Mensa asks itself again and again,” he wrote. “Now we’ve got it, what are we going to do with it?” He never found an answer, and it is doubtful that Mensa will either, now that he is gone. They will continue to meet, discuss a multitude of issues, and dispute the history of the organization. (Sir Cyril Burt, notorious today for faking intelligence studies of identical twins separated at birth, was the first president. He wrote the foreword to Serebriakoff’s 1963 history of Mensa.)

Even though Mensa often functions as a sort of dating service for high scorers, Serebriakoff took no position on whether the intelligent should try to mate with each other. “You have to realize you’re also saying dim people will be left only with other dim people to marry – and is that desirable?” he pointed out in 1964. “Of course nobody can think straight on the subject because sooner or later Hitler’s name comes up, and then all thinking stops.”

Serebriakoff died at age 87; his own I.Q. had been tested at 161 – really smart.