The definition of "genius" according to American Mensa, is scoring in the top 2% on a standardized intelligence test, such as the SAT, Stanford-Binet, or Wechsler scale tests.

Having only ever attended one Mensa function (Philly Phrolics, quite impersonal), I can't testify either way about the interesting-ness of my fellow Mensans. According to a recent article in my local group's newsletter, the great majority of members (myself included) are virtually inactive. It's like subscribing to a magazine, and never making time to read it. As P.Robst suggests, below, the most "interesting" members are also most likely to have an existing social network beyond Mensa. Hmm.

This problem is offset by the hundreds of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within Mensa. These various clubs and cliques cover everything from the mundane (needlepoint, sex), to the fringe (UFOlogy, etc.) Most publish periodical newsletters, similar to the local groups. The SIGs are probably a much richer social resource than the local groups, if that's what you're looking for.

Every friend I've had who's joined Mensa has quit it within a year, muttering darkly about wishing there was an organization for interesting smart people.

My own experiences with Mensans have not spoken well for the group, either. I was at an anti-Valentine's day party thrown by and attended by highly creative, intelligent friends. As I moved from conversation to conversation, I was followed by a mensan whose idea of a pickup line was You should join Mensa so you can be with people who are as smart as you are.

I told him that I already do hang out with intelligent people. I challenged him to walk around the party and find anyone who didn't meet Mensa's IQ requirements.

He was shocked. Only 2% of the average population meet Mensa's intelligence requirements.

Having to explain to him the difference between a party of people hand-picked by our hosts and an average population was not a good advertisement for Mensa.

Mensa is Mexican slang for slut.

ok, a bit of inside information about Mensa, I'm a member. I passed one of the requirements by accident, and am by no means a genius. All human beings are total morons because we are not able to answer the more important questions in life, and look at the mess we have created, and still create, in the world; maybe the score makes me less of a moron, but still a moron.

To "pass" for Mensa, you have to have a score within the 2% range of at least one of the three tested areas: general analytical skills (the pictures test), verbal skills and/or numerical. So it is possible to score excellent on say the numerical skills passing the requirement, but have an average score on e.g. verbal skills and still becom a Mensa member.

Yes, a group of members are those typical moaning people who "want to have a deep conversation on their own level" and blame every problem in life on their HIQ. As if the organization is one of those self-help groups. But not all of them are like that, and I've to say that sometimes it's nice to talk to people who don't get jealous and angry with me when I've done several things in a shorter timespan than "the average person" would do and of which I was sort of proud of because I had put a lot of effort in it; that I want to share that experience with at least one person. But for this, you certainly don't need to be a member, a good friend may even understand you better: intelligence is not neccesarily about that "magic 2% mark", but about how you use your brains. Think for yourself.
BTW: I became a member with the idea to give them the benefit of the doubt. IMHO it is like any other group you share a common interest with, like when going to the rugby club on sundays.
Victor Vladimirovich Serebriakoff, the co-founder and late Honorary International President of Mensa, has said on record in rebuttal to a similar claim to robwicks' above: "You must not use the word `genius'. If we are geniuses then there are over a million geniuses in Britain, which rather devalues the term".

Mensa is an organisation for those with an IQ score in the top two percentile, i.e. 148 or over on the Cattell B scale (IIRC). As such its members, on the whole, have absolutely nothing else in common.

I tend not to tell people I'm a member of Mensa because it sounds like bragging: "my IQ's higher than yours". The node on IQ goes through all the reasons why this is a virtually meaningless statement.

Update: I am now no longer a member of that august body... twenty quid a year to do nothing wasn't my idea of fun.

Contrary to some noders' proclamations, Mensa does not claim that its members are geniuses ... because Mensans know better than that, of course. Genius I.Q.--depending upon the individual test--is generally considered around 160 or better; the top 2% is generally around 130 or better, again, depending upon which test is doing the measuring.

Mensa is a club whose only requirement for inclusion is a score in the top two percentile on any of several standardized intelligence tests. That said, Mensa is populated for the most part by: (a) lonely people; and (b) financially unsuccessful people desiring verification that there is something worthy about them, ie, their intelligence. Many Mensans just haven't fit in very well with the world at large.

Before you point and laugh, consider for a moment a life in which social assimiliation--despite valiant efforts--is simply not happenin'. Like rollerbladers, quilters, and alcoholics, the Mensan is merely gravitating toward a place where he will innately belong, where fitting in is not an issue, because all the group's members have a common, inalienable, characteristic. Ahh, sweet relief.

While there certainly is a healthy smattering of physicists and lawyers at any given Mensan function, it cannot be denied that janitors, receptionists, and the unemployed comprise a head-scratchingly-large piece of the pie. This is most likely because highly intelligent people typically have an ample supply of peers, rubbing elbows in medical and law school, given the bare modicum of emotional nurturance in youth. These types have no need to seek social contacts with whom they might converse naturally, and not be monosyllabically restrained. But the emotionally fucked smarty-pants, raised in trailer parks or by psycho parental units, finds himself at a place in life where his social peers tend to be double digits below him in brightness. Would we blame this poor, under-encouraged fellow for his unfortunate and lonely lot in life? Of course not. And it is just such a person who eventually--if he's lucky--finds his way to a Mensa roundtable, where he is immediately interrupted and challenged and hugged and fed ... and at home.

Testing for Mensa

General Information
The only eligibility requirement is scoring in the top two percent on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered. Mensa has its own test, which is given on specific dates by local groups. It is also allowed to submit officially-written scores (supplied by the agency that provided the test) on an approved test, chosen from a long list. Because most IQ tests are not valid for children under the age of 16 (though Mensa has members as young as 4 years old), a local office should be contacted. There are no online tests that are valid for membership (all tests must be proctored), but the "Mensa Workout" is available online and may be taken as a pretest to help individuals figure out if they should apply to the group.

American Mensa's Testing Information
Tests of achievement are not accepted, only tests of aptitude or ability. No matter how long ago the test was taken, its scores are still valid. In addition to Mensa-provided exams, more than 200 other scores are permissible, including those from the California Test of Mental Maturity, Stanford-Binet Form L-M, long form Wechsler scales, the Miller Analogies Test, and the LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, and GRE tests.

About College Entrance Exams
In the past, American Mensa accepted scores from the SAT and ACT. Because the focus of both tests shifted away from something akin to IQ testing, scores after certain dates became invalid. PSAT scores after May 1993 are not accepted, nor are SAT scores after January 31st, 1994. ACT scores from after September 1989 are also invalid. Because scores are valid forever, any test results from before those dates may still be submitted for membership. The GCT tests from the Army and the Navy were also valid until those tests changed, so only scores from before October 1980 are acceptable.

Source (for Nanosecond's writeup and portions of mine):
Additional sources: and

Mensa is Latin and means "Table" (from mdn's write-up which has since been deleted). It is also what they call the large food halls in a lot of (if not all) universities in Germany that provide food for inhabitants of said universities. Their prices are lower than those of the average eating establishments, and therefore (some people argue), so is the quality of their food.

The Mensas in Germany are run by the Studentenwerk.

It's quite ironic, but in Chile, mensa is the feminine form of the slang menso, which means dumb. Example:

Ella es muy mensa

Means "she is very dumb". That's why you probably won't ever find a Chilean in mensa society, or at least not any one that makes it public (which is, of course, the whole point on joining).

A personal thought: it's very easy to be in the top 2% of the population. Just look at the list of the best-selling artists, TV shows, magazines, fast-food chains and politicians that are, obviously, chosen by the other 98%.

The requirements for joining Mensa can be found at The primary requirement is being a good test taker. Meeting this requirement generally means having a higher level of intelligence than your bad test takers. However, having a high IQ doesn't indicate any other characteristics about an individual. I had been somewhat of a disestablishmentarian during what should have been by college years and ended up with a lot of fond memories, but no degree and no test scores that met requirements. I had heard about the idea Mensa was founded on, and decided to try it out. I took one of their entrance tests and passed. After being a member for just 4 months now, I have observed several things.

Having intelligence does not mean you will use it. Or that you have a desire for wealth, fame, or power. It seems Mensa is full of mostly ordinary people from all walks of life. The difference is the level of conversation you can have. At gatherings, I find it much easier to find someone to talk to on just about any subject. And I know that if the subject changes to pop culture, the WWF, or even the weather, it's not what you would expect from most people, or is it what you would expect from arrogant know-it-alls. And it's a pleasant change for me.

At a gathering, I might talk with a retired physicist about field theory, and then turn around and talk with someone 30 years old, still living in their parent's basement, but who never the less has some interesting ideas about encryption technology. And then I might talk to a "career housewife" about the condition of public school education and discuss the advantages and pitfalls of home schooling. It all depends on who shows up.

Which brings me to my next point, Mensa, like most other voluntary organizations, operates with about the same percentage of activity. 30% are 'active members' and go to gatherings on occasion. 20% are regulars. And 10% are active enough to participate in the governing and administrative duties of the organization. This varies from org to org and when the big events come around (like Easter for Christians) the church is sometimes quite full. But there are still lots of people in Mensa that sit around waiting for things to happen not understanding that they have to make them happen. Just like in real life. :)

On the whole, Mensa is full of people that can appreciate higher level concepts. They wont be as influencable by mass marketing techniques, they generally don't position our societies precious "celebrities" on as high of a pedestal as most icon worshipers do, and they usually prefer a good discussion to a donnybrook. These are just tendencies that any group of intelligent people would have, and each member has to a greater or less degree. There are exceptions, and I do know of at least one "out of the closet" racist in the local organization I am a member of. So obviously with intelligence does not necessarly come morals or common sense or whatever ingredient is lacking in racists. But any good Mensan would be glad to discuss with you statistics on the matter.

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