Left: The MENSA logo

MENSA (JAPAN MENSA’s URL: http://www.japanmensa.jp/)

Mensa, in Latin, means table, ‘mens’ means mind and ‘mensis’ means month. So Mensa is meant to imply a monthly meeting of great minds around a table.

MENSA is the IQ society whose membership is restricted to the top 2% of the population (as measured by an IQ score of 132 or above via an accepted standardized test) and includes people of all ages and from all walks of life.  Mensa websites frequently say it has no other eligibility requirements other than IQ testing. However, in the US, having a high enough score on some graduate school admissions exams may be enough to qualify for American Mensa membership. Although, many MENSA tests are not valid for people under the age of 16, but from the news we know very young kids are being tested for their IQs. You should contact the nearest Mensa office for more information. The society offers opportunities to enjoy the company of like-minded people and participate in a wide range of social and cultural activities. Local groups organise pub social evenings, quiz nights, games afternoons, walks, talks and cultural events.

MENSA was founded in Oxford, England in 1946 by Roland Berrill, an Australian expatriate barrister, and Dr Lionel Ware, a scientist working towards becoming lawyer at the time. They previously had met on a train and began talking about intelligence testing, a topic of great interest to Ware, who was working at the National Institute for Medical Research.  They came up with the idea of forming the formation of a club dedicated to intelligence, with members of only the highly intelligent, with the only qualification for membership being a high IQ.  They discussed  Ware subsequently administered the Catell III Test to Berrill, who apparently scored off the charts. Berrill had the first Mensa literature printed on Oct. 1, 1946, the official founding date of the organization.

MENSA celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Today its aims are as the original aims were, to create a society that is non-political and free from all racial or religious distinctions. The society’s official objectives are to:

  • identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity
  • encourage research in the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence
  • provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members

MENSA is a not-for-profit membership organisation and it recruits from all over the world.

The role of MENSA today

“For 40 years, the Mensa Foundation has supported the advancement of education with its scholarship and Gifted Youth programs. The Foundation has awarded thousands of scholarships to college-bound students across the United States and is currently sponsoring the award-winning Mensa for Kids Web site, www.mensaforkids.org, which provides learning resources for parents and teachers of gifted youth.
The Foundation also provides learning tools for adults with its Conversations with Mensa® podcasts and Colloquium events. Listeners of Conversations with Mensa can learn more about topics ranging from attention-deficit disorder to cosmology, but if one prefers the interaction of intellectual discussions, he/she can attend a Colloquium where attendees debate, evaluate, and offer judgment on major societal issues. Colloquiums are held periodically in different cities across the country. Other programs of the Foundation include the publication of the Mensa Research Journal and numerous awards such as the Copper Black, Distinguished Teacher, Intellectual Benefits, and Lifetime Achievement award.“The Mensa Education & Research Foundation has always worked to find innovative and creative ways to cultivate intelligence for society’s use,” said Greg Timmers, President of the Mensa Education and Research Foundation. “This year, on the Foundations 40th birthday, we are celebrating people’s lives we’ve touched through the Foundation’s many programs, and I hope we will continue on this path for many years to come.”

Mensa Education & Research Foundation

Since 1971, the Mensa Education & Research Foundation has been a strong voice in supporting intelligence. The Foundation fosters the best and brightest through scholarships and awards and encourages research and intellectual inquiry through the Mensa Research Journal and various Colloquiums. Governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees, the Mensa Foundation is a 501c(3) organization and is funded by support from American Mensa, Mensa members, and other charitable donations. ” — “MENSA celebrates 40 years of fostering intelligence

MENSA Intelligence Testing is of course, no longer the only kind of testing for intelligence or academic excellence or critical thinking ability, however, fortunately or unfortunately, IQ type questions still heavily underpin most academic exam and scoring systems.

MENSA is still influential today with their research projects and particularly on the area of gifted children research and learning resourcesmensa games, their award-winning Mensa for Kids Web site, www.mensaforkids.org, which provides learning resourcesrecommended reading lists for parents and for teachers of gifted youth as well as the UK web support for teachers of gifted children. Teacher support packs have been developed by the UK Mensa’s Gifted Child Consultant (gtprogrammes@mensa.org.uk) and there is an established Gifted and Talented Support Programme, to assist educators in their work with gifted young people. MENSA’s local chapters are also provide useful information and resources, e.g. the NZ MENSA

Furthermore, an endorsement of educational products and book publications by MENSA obviously carries a lot of weight with consumers and parents. For example, the Reading Detective Series Program and Mensa Mind Games products have such an endorsement:

Mensa Materials for the gifted  Mensa® Recommended Materials for the Gifted

American Mensa for e.g., has programs for gifted youth, including an awards program, community service activities, book lists and tips on succeeding in school. The BrightKids program provides information for parents and teachers about dealing with the gifted child, along with educational materials and other resources. Mensa will also direct parents to scholarships and grants, provide lists of schools for the gifted and furnish information about the special needs of gifted students. [Write to American MENSA at 1229 Corporate Dr W/Arlington, TX 76006/817-607-0060 us.mensa.org]

The BrightKids elist is a discussion group available through American Mensa for those interested in raising and education bright children.  This is a very active list and subscribing is free. The Central Indiana Mensa for Bright Kids Ages 0-18 websiteincludes events, suggested programs or field trip ideas for gifted children,  links to gifted resources, funny videos and game sites, brain teasers, and links to scholarships.  MENSA CANADA has a useful online page for kids.

MENSA testing and relevance

Mensa’s only requirement for membership is that one score at or above the 98th percentile on certain standardised IQ or other approved intelligence tests, such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. Because different tests are scaled differently, it is not meaningful to compare raw scores between tests, only percentiles. For example, the minimum accepted score on the Stanford-Binet is 132, while for the Cattell it is 148. Most IQ tests are designed to yield a mean score of 100 with a standard deviation of 15; the 98th-percentile score under these conditions is 130.82.

Mensa also has its own application exam, and some national groups offer alternative batteries of culture-fair, non-language tests. These exams are proctored by Mensa and do not provide a quantified score; they serve only to qualify a person for membership. In some national groups, a person may take a Mensa offered test only once, although one may later submit an application with results from a different qualifying test.

MENSA and homeschoolers

Many homeschooling families are using MENSA resources and distance online learning programs recommended by MENSA handbooks and organisations, for e.g. the MENSA of W. Washington chapter recommends these resources:

The Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) at Stanford University is a continuing project dedicated to developing and offering multimedia computer-based distance-learning courses.

Since 1994 Clonlara School has provided online accredited high school courses for homeschoolers.

Johns Hopkins Distance Education for K-6, SCAT or PLUS scores are needed for grades 2–6. Students in 7th and 8th grade must take the SAT-I and achieve qualifying scores to remain eligible for CTY courses.

K12® Virtual Academies combine the best elements of homeschooling—flexibility and individual instruction—with the support and accountability of a public or private school.

Texas Tech University offers educational programs to a variety of learners such as K-12 and college students, professionals, and those seeking lifelong learning opportunities.

VSG Enrichment is an online school specializing in enrichment courses to complement and extend the regular curriculum.

Other MENSA recommended resources include:

Iowa Learning On-Line

Iowa On-Line Advanced Placement (AP) Academy

Iowa Department of Education, Gifted and Talented web page

Iowa Talented and Gifted Association

Office of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted at Iowa State University

Finally, MENSA is not the only organization dedicated to intelligence or giftedness, for a list of such organizations, go Teachingexpertise.com.

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More information:

The History of MENSA

MENSA International (Wikipedia)

MENSA for kids resources:

Fantastically Fun Crosswords for Kids (Mensa) by Trip Payne

Mensa For Kids: 75 Word Puzzles by Chronicle Books Staff

Challenge Your Brain Math & Logic Puzzles  by Dave Tuller

Mensa for Kids: 75 Secret Codes by Chronicle Books Staff