What is the Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test?

Intelligence is a complex construct that encompasses various cognitive abilities. One of the most comprehensive ways to measure these abilities is through intelligence tests. Among the many types of intelligence tests available, the Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) stands out due to its unique design and purpose.

A Historical Perspective

The CFIT was developed by Raymond Cattell in 1949. His goal was to design a test capable of assessing cognitive abilities without being influenced by sociocultural and environmental factors. This task proved to be challenging, as cognitive abilities are often intertwined with the individual’s experiences and cultural background.

Cattell’s theory of intelligence suggests that it consists of two aspects: fluid intelligence (Gf) and crystallized intelligence (Gc). Fluid intelligence is inherent and biologically determined, whereas crystallized intelligence is a result of one’s life experiences, including formal education and cultural exposure.

The Concept of a Culture Fair Test

A culture fair test, as the name suggests, is designed to be unbiased towards any specific culture or social group. It aims to measure intelligence that is independent of verbal ability, cultural context, and educational level. This makes the test universally applicable, as it can be administered to any individual, regardless of their cultural background or language fluency.

The CFIT is one such culture fair test. It is designed to minimize cultural and educational biases, focusing instead on non-verbal problem-solving and spatial reasoning abilities.

Test Structure and Content

The CFIT comprises three scales, each containing non-verbal visual puzzles. The puzzles vary from mazes and symbol identification to completing sequence of drawings and recognizing patterns in matrices. These tasks are specifically constructed to evaluate the individual’s ability to perceive, recognize, and reason with visual information.

The test is designed under a time limit, usually around 12-18 minutes per section, which adds an element of time pressure to the assessment. This further challenges the individual’s cognitive abilities, particularly their speed of processing information.

Scoring and Standard Deviation

The CFIT uses a scoring system based on standard deviations. Cattell incorporated a standard deviation of 16 IQ points into the test. This means that an individual’s IQ score will typically fall within 16 points of the average score, assuming a normal distribution.

The CFIT, like many other intelligence tests, yields a ‘deviation IQ’. This is a score calculated relative to the average performance of people in the same age group. For example, a deviation IQ of 115 indicates that the individual’s performance was better than 85% of the people in their age group.

Current Applications

Presently, the CFIT is widely used in various contexts. Some high-IQ societies, such as the Triple Nine Society, accept high scores on the CFIT as one of the eligibility criteria for membership.

Additionally, organizations like Mensa and Intertel use the CFIT to select members who fall within the top 1-2% of IQ scores.

The test is also frequently utilized in educational and clinical settings to identify learning difficulties or cognitive impairments. Its culture-fair design makes it a particularly useful tool when working with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Test Validity

The validity of the CFIT is supported by a number of factors. The test has a high ‘direct concept validity’, meaning it correlates well with the construct it aims to measure – fluid intelligence.

Moreover, the CFIT also demonstrates ‘convergent validity’ as it correlates significantly with other intelligence and aptitude tests. This suggests that it measures a similar construct to these other tests, further supporting its validity as a measure of cognitive ability.


The Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test is a well-established and widely used instrument for assessing cognitive abilities. Its unique focus on non-verbal, culture-fair assessment makes it a valuable tool in diverse contexts. As our understanding of intelligence continues to evolve, the CFIT remains a relevant and valuable tool in the field of psychological assessment.