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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
Belfast doctor tests the nation's IQ
Test the Nation is to be broadcast live on Saturday
Test the Nation is to be broadcast live on Saturday
A psychologist from Queen's University Belfast is behind one of the most ambitious television events to be screened on BBC One on Saturday.

Test the Nation is to challenge the public's brainpower with 70 questions to challenge viewers mental agility and reasoning skills.

Dr Colin Cooper, who is based in Queen's School of Psychology, specially devised and verified the multiple-choice questions, which have four possible answers and must be completed within a prescribed time limit.

Weakest Link matriarch Anne Robinson and Philip Schofield will be presenting the two and a half hour live show but it is the work of a Belfast psychologist that will hold the key to determining Britain's brainiest.

There is a lot of confusion in people's minds about the difference between IQ and general knowledge

Dr Colin Cooper QUB

The questions, which cover language, memory, logic, numbers and perception, have been tested on 200 volunteers to ensure they produce a verifiable IQ.

"It may also be useful to help people make informed choices about their lifestyles," said Dr Cooper.

"For example, someone who left school with few qualifications and is unsure about whether or not they could cope with the academic demands of a university course."

Among the celebrities lined up to take part in the challenge are Eastenders actress Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Jackson), music star Dane Bowers and Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards.

As well as being tested on intellectual matters, contestants will be asked questions of scientific merit such as whether they can curl their tongue.

Natalie Cassidy: Eastender's Sonia Jackson
Natalie Cassidy: Eastender's Sonia Jackson is up for the challenge

"These are genetic markers, and it is sensible to determine whether or not the genes that influence these characteristics also influence IQ," said Dr Cooper.

"There is some evidence that this may be the case for both of these variables, but the evidence is not clear cut."

A score between 90 and 110 will indicate average intelligence. Over 110 will place an individual in the highest 25 per cent of the population, while anyone with an IQ of over 130 will be in the top two per cent.

A national IQ score will be announced on the night, after the results from viewers responding on the Internet and digital subscribers have been collated.


More than 30,000 people have already registered to do the test online.

According to some sources Marilyn Monroe had an IQ of 163 making her an intellectual equal to Einstein (160+) and it's quoted that Madonna has a figure of 140, also putting her amongst the top 2% in the population.

Meanwhile six groups made up of identical twins, builders, teachers, blondes, publicans and students will answer the same 70 questions live in the Test The Nation studio.

Results collated from these participants, plus those taking part on the web, will help to determine the current state of the nation's IQ.

Viewers, internet users and digital TV subscribers can all take up the challenge along with the studio groups and celebrities from the worlds of music, sport, politics and entertainment.

Dr Colin Cooper: QUB School of Psychology
Dr Colin Cooper: Devised the Test the Nation questions

"We're always looking for new ways of actively involving and engaging the audience, said BBC ONE Controller Lorraine Heggessey.

"It's a bit of fun but I hope it will be revealing too."

By the end of the night participants will have their own personal IQ score.

By comparing it to the average IQ set at 100, people taking part will be able to rate themselves to the person sitting next to them or to people from all over the country.

"There is a lot of confusion in people's minds about the difference between IQ and general knowledge," said Dr Cooper.

"And it is worth stressing that the BBC's Test The Nation is a unique programme.

"The questions have been properly standardised and carefully constructed so that the results will be extremely meaningful.

"It tests several types of thinking skills and doesn't require any knowledge over and above that which you would pick up at school."

Dr Colin Cooper speaks to BBC Radio Ulster:
"The basic idea is to develop an intelligence test that will allow people at home to measure their IQ"
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