This question is related to this post. Please see the comments for more details.

How should we deal with problems like this on math.se? That is, problems coming from an untimed IQ test which is still used for admission into various societies?

Personally, I believe that we should not answer questions that obviously deal with untimed IQ tests. Just as contest problems in mathematics shouldn't be answered when the competition is ongoing, I don't think untimed IQtests should be answered either. An answer to these questions could help people get into high IQ societies without really being qualified, something I find being very unethical. If the person can justify that it is for research (as the creator of the above thread claimed), I believe that it can be argued to be okay , if one can almost guarantee that the answers will only be used for research purposes.

Any comments or opinions would be appreciated.


3 Answers 3


I think the biggest problem with these type of questions is that they don't belong on the site at all.

The question you linked to is not a math question, and it is off topic. It is guesswork at best.


Just because a puzzle part is part of a test doesn't mean the test maker can control the puzzle for all time. Most (all?) of the people here have no intention of officially taking the test or applying to the society - why shouldn't they be able to discuss it for their own enjoyment and benefit?

Eric is right in noting that this is more of a puzzle than a math question, though one could envision a well thought out mathematical answer drawing on machine learning/probability/information theory. While this question is borderline as written, a question about developing algorithms to solve it would, in my opinion, be on topic.


I personally would not attempt to answer such questions for two main reasons.

  • It is unethical to provide answers for "entrance exams" to IQ societies which are currently in use.

More importantly,

  • Inductive reasoning puzzles and pattern recognition questions on IQ tests are rarely even mathematical/logical in nature, and thus off topic for this site.
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the second point. This really is not a math question. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2012 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for Michael's comment. I should also add that the question has a very peculiar +15/-15 balance at this moment, which is probably the most extreme equilibrium I have seen on the main site (and it could probably compete with most meta equilibriums). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Nov 28, 2012 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ If such questions are off=topic here, is it possible to find SE site where they can be migrated? The proposal for puzzling at Area 51 has been closed. (It was mentioned here at meta.MSE.) $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2012 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ Now, soeone has set a bounty and we cannot ven close the question in the usual way anymore. Grr. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2012 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker You have to flag for moderator attention. Mods can refund bounties, which makes it possible to close a bountied question. $\endgroup$
    – user9733
    Nov 29, 2012 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist: I had not noticed that option before. I might have considered that path, but the grace period for the bounty expires in less than an hour, so I'll just let it go. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Dec 4, 2012 at 13:29

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