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I took the cognitive test Trump 'aced' — and I have some bad news for the president

Our president really should not have found any of these questions hard

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 21 July 2020 15:08 BST
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Trump just bragged that he 'aced' a cognitive test and admits doctors were 'surprised'

There was always that one kid growing up in school who bragged about their IQ test results. They wanted everyone to know they were a genius, and that evidence of their exceptional brain power was proven by hard science.

Did they ever even take an IQ test? Perhaps some of those kids did. Who were the parents hauling their young children to doctors' offices across the country to test their mental fortitude? I’ve never taken an IQ test. At least, I don’t ever remember taking an IQ test — which may be some sort of red flag.

When President Donald Trump claimed in an interview this weekend that he “aced” a “very hard” cognitive test, I heard echoes of that child in the schoolyard screaming about how intelligent they were to anyone who would listen. How hard could this mysterious cognitive test really be? Could it prove that I, too, am a genius the likes of which this world has never seen?

Since the test the president took was easily accessible online, I decided to take it myself and figure out if I am also radically smart and significantly more intelligent than my peers.

The first thing I noticed when looking at the test was that the president appeared to be inflating his score from the very start.

Trump said he “answered all 35 questions correctly” on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which actually has just 30 questions. That means the president was giving himself credit for filling out the top five lines of the test: his name, education, sex, date of birth and the current date.

It kind of feels like Hermione Granger standing up in the middle of class and shouting “FIVE EXTRA POINTS FOR GRYFFINDOR!” but I guess when you’re the president you can do that sort of thing.

The Independent lifestyle reporter Chelsea Ritschel administered the test via FaceTime, watching as I methodically paired numbers with letters, drew a cube and named several animals. We both cringed as I nearly called the camel a llama, but I recovered quickly enough for it to be considered a point in both of our books.

I did surprisingly well on the memory portion of the test (I say “surprisingly” because I cannot remember what I ate for breakfast most days), recalling the five words my colleague read aloud to me both times: face, velvet, church, daisy, red. Those words will stay with me for the rest of my life.

As we worked through the test, I found myself becoming increasingly excited about doing well on each portion. I had to remind myself that there are significant concerns about the validity of this brief test, and also that it was perhaps the easiest task I have ever completed in my life.

“Trump said it gets hard at the end, the last five questions,” I told my colleague who was administering the test. “How much more is there?”

“We’re at the end,” she said, with a laugh. “There’s one more question.”

As it turns out, I’m a bigly genius: with my colleague as my witness, I, too, aced the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. I scored 30 points, the maximum amount available (unless you are the president).

Then again, Trump was wrong to claim the test proves anything in relation to one’s intelligence. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment and other similar exams are only administered to determine the potential presence of cognitive issues.

As Dr Ankur Dave noted on Twitter: “Docs don't give a cognitive test to measure intellect. We give it to assess cognitive defects. Trump calling questions on this test difficult should raise some red flags about dementia and inability to serve.”

It really should be concerning that Trump is celebrating his score on this test — though I admit I told my entire team on Slack I aced the exam as well.

What’s particularly concerning is how he claimed some of the questions were difficult. Which ones were difficult, Mr President? Was it finding the similarities between a train and a bicycle that stumped you? Did you find it difficult to sit through someone else saying an entire sentence while being forced to listen and repeat it back to them?

If solving the questions on this test is difficult for Trump, imagine how hard it’s going to be for him to grapple with things like the coronavirus pandemic, or systemic racism — if he ever gets around to confronting either of those issues.

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