What Is Bill Gates IQ?

What Is Bill Gates IQ?

From Elon Musk to Warren Buffet, the richest people in the world have always shown exemplary intelligence; and Bill Gates is no different. For 15 consecutive years, i.e., from 1995 to 2010 and later from 2013 to 2017, he topped the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. His main achievement, however, was joining the self-made billionaires’ club at 31, making him the youngest person in the three-comma club at the time.

Many know him as the founder of Microsoft, the company behind several computer solutions, including the Windows operating system, office applications, browsers, gaming consoles, computers, and more. What is interesting is that he supervised the programming of all the products. In fact, he stepped down in 2008 from running the company to being its product’s chief architect.

But how did Bill Gates achieve this? The simplest and the most common answer is that he has a rare high IQ score of 160.

What does this mean? Let’s start with the basics.

What is the Intelligence Quotient?

Bill Gates
Success is not always just a factor of intelligence.

IQ is a measure of a person’s reasoning, which is the ability to use information and logic to solve problems and predict outcomes. The IQ tests measure short-term and long-term memory as well as solving puzzles. The aim is to determine the intellectual potential of a person.

The oldest use of IQ scores was to evaluate mental disabilities. It is also applied in job recruitment, especially in the army. However, over the years, it has proven useful in the placement of learners in school programs.

Generally, those with a high IQ have a high potential for success. It explains why the IQ of Bill Gates and the others on the Forbes top 10 list is one of the top questions people ask about these specific individuals, possibly after asking about their net worth.

Which IQ Test Did Bill Gates Take? What Did He Score?

Well, there is no record of Bill Gates taking an IQ test. Therefore, many have had to resort to comparisons and evidence of a genius mind to conclude how high Bill Gates’ IQ might be, with many settling for 160.

Most IQ tests use a scale of 100 to score individuals, with the highest possible score being 145 and the lowest 61. The average IQ varies from country to country, with the US standing at 98. Anything above 130 is high.

Here are some of the glimpses of genius that attest to Bill Gates’ high IQ, even to the point of being a 160 score.

A Child Prodigy

The documentary Inside Bill’s Brain shows that Bill Gates had a high intellectual potential even from a young age. Gates points out that from a young age, he knew he was smarter than other kids as his mind was going “really fast.” This became evident in the eighth grade, when he took a math test and scored the highest in the entire state. In high school, he scored 1590 out of 1600, just slightly lower than his long-term friend and business partner, Paul Allen, who got a perfect score of 1600.

Programing a Mainframe Computer

Bill Gates learned computer programming at the age of 13. While this might be too old for modern-day computer kids, he did this at a time when the only computer available was the mainframe. Bill had no programming teacher, so he had to learn it by reading the manual. Within a few months, he was able to develop the game Tic Tac Toe. People with average IQs take years, not months, to learn it despite having access to several online tutorials.

While in high school, Bill Gates formed a group of programmers with whom they computerized the payroll of their school. At this time, he founded the Traf-O-Data company, through which he developed traffic-counting systems for the local governments.

Hacking in High School

Hacking, whether ethical or not, is the holy grail of young computer geeks. Bill Gates did it too. Not many of his hacking escapades are available in the public domain, except the ones to which he confessed. In high school, Bill Gates and Paul Allen hacked into the school scheduling system to ensure he always sat next to nice girls. With the help of Allen, he even got himself a slot in girls-only classes.

While he admits that he was below average when it came to talking to girls, hacking into computer systems to get the opportunity to sit, even sheepishly, next to nice girls is a genius move for a kid. Rumor has it that he also often hacked his way out of trouble.

When he was 15 years old, Bill Gates chose to extend his limits by hacking into the system of a major corporation but got caught. He got banned from using a computer for a year. That’s right. He was so good that the courts had to keep him away from computers for a year. That officially marked the end of his hacking exploits.

The Testimony of Witnesses

Contemporaries and Microsoft employees have attested to the high mental capability of Bill Gates. Mike Slade, a colleague of Gates at Microsoft, said that Bill almost always knows more than the person he [Bill] is talking to, irrespective of the subject. This is a noteworthy compliment considering that Bill Gates is often surrounded by some of the most brilliant brains in the world.

Bernie Noe, a friend of Gates, noted that Bill spent most of his free time reading books on varied subjects. He then added that Gates retained not less than 90% of what he read. Melinda Gates, Bill’s ex-wife, noted that he read and processed at the same time, which made his retention levels abnormally high.

Another witness is John Browne, a technical product manager who worked for Microsoft for 11 years from 1987. Browne says that even though most people who worked for Microsoft had PhDs in various fields, Bill Gates always quickly figured out the flaws in their plans and strategies.

Speaking of Bill Gates’ memory, Browne further tells of a time when Bill gave an in-depth presentation on a product that he had only heard about for an hour a few weeks before the launching day. What’s remarkable is that he did all that without notes, directly from his memory.

Business Performance

It is not a rule that every successful business person has a high IQ, but most are geniuses. It, therefore, makes Bill Gates’s business success evidence of his probably high IQ, even 160, as many suggest. First, he developed successful businesses as a teenager, and by 31, he had become the youngest self-made billionaire in the world with a net worth of $1.25 billion.

Some had downplayed the genius in this achievement, claiming it was his mother, Mary Gates, who made it possible for Microsoft to land the IBM contract that propelled him to the billionaires’ club. However, less than a decade later, in 1995, he became the wealthiest person alive, a position he held for 15 years. Only a few people have come close to that record.

Money.com places Bill Gates on the top 10 list of the richest people of all time. He is alongside business geniuses like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie as well as history’s great economic leaders such as Emperor Augustus Caesar and Mansa Musa.

Which Factors Contributed to Bill Gates’ High IQ

Bill Gates in Paris, France
Bill Gates during the signing of a partnership vaccination in the Sahel with France at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


When finding the source of Bill Gates’ high IQ, nature and nurture split the wins in half, each taking a large chunk of it. Psychologists have over the years argued that parents with high IQs often sire children with equally high intelligence.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why the psychologist on whose works modern IQ tests are based, Henry Goddard, is infamous. He proposed that adults with low intelligence should not have children. Henry believed that this class of people, whom he called “morons,” would work against the progress of society. On the other hand, he said, children of parents from ‘worthy families’ became upstanding citizens.

Bill Gates fell on the better side of the equation. His father, Bill Gates Sr., is a prominent Seattle Attorney with distinguished business acumen. For example, Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, credits Starbucks’s survival to the ingenuity of Bill Gates Sr.

However, Bill Gates’s mother, Mary Gates, seemed to have contributed more to the genetic equation. She lived to be a director of several companies and a businesswoman of many firsts. She, for example, was the first woman to serve as the director for First Interstate Bank and the first woman to head the board of the United Way of America. Her contemporaries describe her as a smart, strong woman who always got things done. It explains why Bill Gates Jr also always gets things done.


In addition to having intelligent parents, Bill Gates also lived in an environment that fed and encouraged his genius and satisfied his curiosity. As pointed out by Gladwell in his book Outliers, Bill Gates studied at a school that was among the few in the world to have access to mainframe computers. This gave him an opportunity to explore the subject that pleased him most: computers.

It is here where he met Paul Allen, a fellow genius, who helped him learn to program, and, yes, helped him get a seat in girls-only classes. At Harvard, he had some of the best brains around him, which enabled him to extend his mind further.

It has been that way ever since. One of his best friends is Warren Buffet, the investment genius, and billionaire who was, at some point, the richest person in the world. That confirms when it comes to intelligence like always attracts like.

Bill Gates on stage
It’s apparent that Bill Gate’s parents nurtured his high IQ and supported his academic and business endeavors.

Personal Effort

While nature and nurture seem to have conspired in favor of Bill Gates, he worked hard to make the opportunities they offered him count. He showed interest in computers and even sneaked his way into the station to make use of it. He also developed software for the local government and has invested in several business ideas over the years.

His mother used her friendship with John Opel, the chair and CEO of IBM, to get Microsoft the deal that made Bill Gates a billionaire. However, that wouldn’t have been possible if intelligent Bill had not formed the company five years earlier.

Even more, Bill Gates is known to be an avid reader, always having a collection of books whenever he travels. Psychologists have suggested that people who read widely also have higher IQ scores than average readers. 

Bill Gates In the News

Like most high-profile, wealthy individuals, Bill Gates is frequently in the news. In recent years, he has been in the news for reasons ranging from personal to philanthropic, including:

  • His divorce from Melinda Gates: In May 2021, Gates and his wife of 27 years, Melinda, announced their divorce. This news was shocking because the couple had long been considered to have one of the most successful and stable marriages in the world.
  • His work on COVID-19: Gates donated millions of dollars to help fund research and development of vaccines.
  • His views on climate change: Gates has been a long-time advocate for taking action against climate change. He has said that he believes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world.


The life and achievements of Bill Gates testify to a person with uniquely high intelligence. Whether it is due to nature, nurture, personal grit, or a combination of the three, it is evident that Gates made use of them. His philanthropic work and innovations make the world better, and communications easier. Imagine a world without Windows!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a high IQ guarantee success in life?

It is not a guarantee that those with high Intelligent Quotient scores will succeed in life. Hard work, environment, personal choices, and luck will still play their roles.

Was Bill Gates shy when he was young?

His mother described him as a happy but introverted kid who loved to stay indoors. When confessing about his hacking days, Bill Gates said he was not good at talking with girls. Introversion is not the same as shyness.

What is the normal IQ range?

It varies from region to region and test to test. However, it lies between 100-130 for adults.

What is the Flynn effect?

James Flynn, an American Scientist, discovered that overall average IQ scores rise by three points every decade around the world.

Is it possible to improve IQ?

Good nutrition, enough sleep, musical training in kids, and lower infectious diseases are some of the factors that can help improve a person’s intelligence.

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