What the heck is intelligence—this ‘thing’ that even animals and plants have?

We tend to think that the people who do well in exams—who seem to know a lot—are ‘clever’ or more intelligent. And that may be true.

Intelligence has traditionally been measured using IQ testing—with a genius getting a very high score and people with intellectual disabilities scoring quite low. But there is also genius in drawing, in composing, in creating stories or making a beautiful piece of furniture.

And then there are those ‘geniuses’ of relationships: your friends.

Still, VCE, VET and VCAL might be easier if your brain—and your academically-focused intelligence—was in peak condition.

Did you know that you can increase your intelligence?

Because our brains are plastic—they can change and adapt—studies repeatedly show that you can change how smart you are and you can learn to learn faster if you want to.2

So what are the ingredients for the intelligence that leads to easier learning?

We know that plenty of aerobic exercise is important. Studies on mice revealed it wasn’t mentally stimulating activities that spurred the biggest cognitive improvements; it was running on treadmills. So exercise is really important.

A healthy diet, sufficient sleep and some meditation are also fantastic for the brain.

And, if you are really keen, there is a remarkably unpleasant brain-training game called the ‘dual n-back’ (You can try it at: soakyourhead.com). It’s based on the discovery that getting smarter entails doing things that feel uncomfortably hard. 3

(For example: if you’re a crossword champion, by all means carry on doing crosswords for fun. But if you want to get smarter, try a sudoku. Becoming brainier needs to feel a little tough.)

Next time you’re sitting there, head in your hands, glaring at an impossible mental challenge, take a pause and smile. You are about to get ‘cleverer’… and you don’t even have to ‘get it right’. It’s all about having a go.

Still need more inspiration? Check out the following YouTube clips:

The boy with the broken brain

What the boy with the broken brain says about 10 ways to improve your memory