If two people give you a compliment saying that you’re smart or intelligent, then you may think that they’re saying the same thing.
That isn’t the case.
While the words “smart” and “intelligent” are often used interchangeably, they shouldn’t be.
There are subtle differences between the two that make a greater impact on what it means to be smart versus what it means to be intelligent.
To ensure you’re able to use the terms correctly, you need to know these differences.
Here are some differences between the terms “intelligent” and “smart.”
Intelligent Vs. Smart (What’s The Difference?)
One of the key differences between smart and intelligent is that you can measure one.
Intelligence refers to the mechanical and inherent ability someone has to learn.
It refers to the swiftness and ease that someone displays when learning new concepts.
One of the most common methods of testing and measuring intelligence is an IQ test.
An IQ test measures a large range of different cognitive abilities.
The result is a number psychologists can then use in comparison with other scores.
The problem with IQ tests is that there are several different versions.
They’re all standardized, which means they can easily compare the results to peers of a similar age group, but because there are several versions, it’s difficult to compare one test to another.
There are seven main IQ tests.
- Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children
- Cognitive Assessment System
- Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test
- Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale
- Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
- Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
- Woodcock–Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities
Each IQ test tends to test for different things, but all of them can include any of the specific attributes they’re testing for.
For example, a test can include any of the following or none of the following:
- Mathematical skills
- Spatial perception
- Language abilities
Some even test for emotional intelligence or reading comprehension.
IQ tests are often performed for a variety of reasons.
Purposes Of IQ Testing
Certain employers may ask for an IQ test to determine the best candidate for a job.
They may want to hire an employee who has the capability of learning at a faster rate than someone else.
Some parents or a doctor might want to test a child for intellectual disability.
This can ensure that the child receives the right kind of care and education to support their disability.
Others use IQ tests as a way to perform cognitive research.
It allows them to trace genetic patterns related to intelligence for the betterment of society.
Finally, many parents will give their children an IQ test to determine their educational level.
Some schools may even require it to ensure that they’re placing the child in the correct grade.
They want to challenge the child’s intelligence rather than soften it by placing them in a grade that won’t sharpen it.
The score for average intelligence is 90 to 109.
Those who are above average score between 110 and 119.
If a child receives a score of 120 or above, then they’re considered either a genius or a savant.
People with low average intelligence will score anywhere from 80 to 89.
A score of 70 to 79 means that the individual sits on the borderline of having an intellectual disability.
Any score below 69 means that the individual has an intellectual disability.
There are also some controversies over administering IQ tests.
Some believe that an IQ test is grounds for discrimination.
Others may believe that the score could determine an individual’s path in life unfairly.
Still, other people will argue that IQ tests help support society.
It helps identify those who have difficulty in learning.
As a result, they can receive the care and type of education they need to learn to their best ability.
What About Smart?
While intelligence can use IQ tests as a way to measure it, smart does not have this luxury.
Smartness refers to one’s education.
It extends from formal education to the lessons learned in life.
Being smart is the application of this education in life.
It’s unmeasurable because it’s always evolving.
The brain learns new things and forgets old things.
It’s in a constant state of flux.
Since it’s always changing, measuring it is impossible.
2. Different References
Another key difference between intelligent and smart is what it refers to.
Being intelligent only ever refers to your ability to learn.
When someone says that you’re intelligent, then they’re referring to how smart you are.
They’re referring to your inherent ability to solve problems or provide new perspectives.
However, when some calls you smart, then it could have several different references.
They could be referring to your intelligence.
They may be saying that you’re smart because you solved a problem well or presented an argument well.
However, they may also say that you look smart.
This means that you’re wearing clothes that make you look professional or formal.
You present yourself in such a way that you look respectable.
Smart can refer to both your intellect and your appearance.
Intelligence refers only to your intellect.
When someone says you’re smart, it usually means that you’re using your experiences or formal education to solve a problem.
You’re applying the facts that you know to come up with a solution.
The term “smart” refers to reacting to a situation in the best way possible using the information you’ve gathered in the past from various sources.
This is different from how intelligence applies itself.
Intelligence refers to the ease and quickness with which you solve a problem.
It encompasses your ability to be aware of all the details involved with the problem and how fast you can apply logic and knowledge to solve the problem.
Smart refers to your ability to look back to your education to solve a problem whereas intelligence refers to your ability to recognize the details of the problem and quickly solve it.
What Are The Characteristics Of Smart People?
One way that you can tell the difference between smart and intelligent is by looking at how it applies to people.
The characteristics of a smart person are not the same as the characteristics of an intelligent person.
Because of that, here are some key characteristics to look for in a smart person.
1. Ability To Make Decisions
One of the hallmarks of a smart person is that they’re able to make a decision.
They can draw on several experiences in their past to formulate the best decision possible.
Those experiences may be from their formal education, or they may be from lessons learned in the past.
For example, a smart person might refer to a past failure that they endured and the lessons they learned from that failure.
They then apply those lessons to the problem to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes to gain a different outcome.
They might also apply formulas or new theories that they learned in school or at college to come to a better outcome.
The outcome may not always be correct or reach the results they want.
However, a smart person is always capable of making informed decisions.
They don’t find themselves incapable of making one.
They have the knowledge they need to commit.
Perhaps most especially, a smart person can read the room.
They can look at a problem both in detail and in a general sense and then make a decision.
They react according to their experiences.
2. They Formulate Before Speaking
Another key hallmark of smart people is that they don’t respond quickly.
Whether it’s a debate or a heated argument, smart individuals will take their time.
They know that if they want to make the correct response, they need time to process all the details.
Only once they have considered all the details can they start constructing a valid argument or defense or solution to the situation.
You can quickly tell a smart person from a non-smart person by seeing how fast they are to respond.
The quality of that response tends to decrease the faster that the individual reacts.
One of the reasons smart people are often successful is that they’re opportunists.
They’re able to identify an opportunity before them.
It may take some time for them to decide to commit to the opportunity, but they can recognize a valid one from one that’s a waste of time.
They’ll spend some time analyzing the opportunity to determine if it’s worth the risk.
Then, if they determine that it is, they’ll seize the opportunity.
Smart people are always looking for opportunities to get ahead.
Whether that means finding the right investment to grow their wealth, finding a new solution to grow their business, or simply saving some money by joining a program, smart people are opportunists.
4. Great Senses Of Humor
There’s often a reason comedians are some of the smartest people in the room.
Having a sense of humor and being able to exhibit it is all about emotional intelligence and reading the room.
Comedy is complex.
The individual has to identify key parts of everyday life that everyone can relate to.
They then need to present it in a humorous way.
They have to both make their audience empathize with the story and set up the joke without them realizing it.
This takes an incredible ability of self-awareness and social awareness.
The comedian has to know their audience.
Smart people are also aware that life is short and there’s no sense in letting certain things bother you.
A sure sign of emotional maturity is being able to laugh at yourself or not take yourself seriously.
Emotional maturity is a sign of being smart.
Smart people also know that sharing humor with others is a great way to make them relax.
When people are more relaxed, they’re able to focus better and produce better.
Because of that, smart people will try to use humor to keep everyone in good spirits.
It benefits everyone.
5. Employ Lateral Thinking
There are two main methods of thinking.
Linear thinking refers to a type of thinking that relies on one’s experience alone.
It may not even be your own experiences that you’re referencing but someone else’s.
Lateral thinking includes several different perspectives.
It includes your experiences, someone else’s experiences, and new experiences that you aren’t fully aware of yet.
A smart person employs lateral thinking over linear thinking.
They’re aware that their own experience provides plenty of resources to help them make a decision.
However, they’re also aware that their own singular experience is an extremely limited resource.
They’re open to other ideas and perspectives and employ those new lessons to make better decisions.
A smart person is someone open to learning new things.
Their perspective isn’t enough for them.
What Are The Characteristics Of An Intelligent Person?
Now that you know the characteristics of a smart person, you can compare them to the characteristics of an intelligent person.
Through the comparison, you can determine the differences between intelligent and smart.
Here are some of the characteristics of an intelligent person.
Perhaps the best sign of an intelligent person is that they’re naturally curious.
They tend to read about new things or want to experience new adventures.
This helps them add to their experiences which they can draw on later.
Intelligent people are those who are always asking questions.
They’re never satisfied with simple answers.
They want to know the “why” of something or the “how” of something.
They approach life full of questions and go about answering those questions.
2. Quiet And Observant
An intelligent person is similar to a smart person in that they’re often quiet before they speak.
They’re a bit more observant than a smart person because they often try to observe what everyone says and feels about the matter.
They rely on the spoken word between individuals, on their own experiences, complex body language, and the general atmosphere of the room to make decisions.
Intelligent people may not speak at all.
They instead prefer to process the information they’re receiving through observation for a considerable amount of time.
A smart person may take a few minutes or hours to make a decision.
An intelligent person can sometimes take days to decide.
They prefer not to argue their points.
They instead voice their opinion, then ask questions about your perspective.
They’re more curious about understanding what makes you believe in your perspective and where it came from than shutting you down or discrediting your opinion.
Society tends to say procrastinators are a bad thing, but that isn’t always the case.
Intelligent people tend to be procrastinators because they tend to spend a lot of time analyzing and observing.
They don’t like to feel rushed into a decision.
They want to make sure that they’re making the best decision possible.
Because of that, they may take a very long time to finish something or solve a problem.
When they do finish or when they do solve a problem, then it’s usually worth the wait.
They’re often able to think of something innovative because they were able to analyze and observe the situation for an extended time.
Smart people tend to solve problems faster, but the result doesn’t always work.
Innovation comes from intelligent people who spend a bit more time sitting with the problem.
While not all intelligent people consider themselves introverted, many are.
That’s because intelligence requires an individual to be very introspective.
They have to consider their own perspectives as well as analyze the perspectives of others.
This requires a lot of thought and energy.
Because of that, many intelligent people prefer to analyze and think on their own.
There are fewer distractions in the form of people that way.
By being alone, they can use all their mental energy to think about the problem and solve it.
Whether the individual considers themselves introverted or not, their tendency to draw away and think may make others think that they’re introverted.
5. Night Owls
A night owl refers to an individual who prefers to be awake during the night rather than in the daytime.
Intelligent people tend to be night owls because this is when the world is at its most quiet.
They’re able to think with fewer distractions around them.
While some intelligent people rely on experiences during the day to satisfy their curious nature, many prefer the stillness of the night to contemplate their experiences.
Introversion and being a night owl also often go hand-in-hand.
Intelligent and smart are two words that can sometimes mean the same thing.
However, the usage of those words has distinct differences.
“Smart” can refer to both intellect and appearance and encompasses one’s ability to draw on facts to solve a problem.
“Intelligent” refers to only one’s intellect and is measurable.
It encompasses the ease, quickness, and ability to solve problems.
No matter if someone calls you smart or intelligent, it’s still a great compliment to receive.