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Mensa - FAQ: What is Mensa? [BiWeekly]

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Archive-name: mensa/faq
Version: 1.3
Last-Updated: Jul 17, 1993

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These are the answers to  some of the frequently asked  questions (FAQ) in Before  posting a  message asking  a question,  read this
article.  Chances are the  answer is in here,  or one of the other Mensa
FAQ articles.

This article includes answers to:

 1) What is Mensa?
 2) Who is Mensa For?
 3) Why Should I Join Mensa?
 4) What are Members of Mensa Like?
 5) What does "Mensa" mean?

Other articles include the answers to:

    Question                                 Archive-Name        Posted
    --------                                 ------------        ------
 6) What are the Qualifications for Mensa?   mensa/join          BiWeekly
 7) How do I apply for Membership in Mensa?       "                 "
 8) How do I Re-Join Mensa?                       "                 "
 9) Where do I get more Information?              "                 "
10) What other High-IQ Societies are there?  mensa/high-iq       Monthly
11) What famous people are in Mensa?         mensa/famous        Monthly
12) What is the Mensa test like?             mensa/test          Monthly

You may retreive  copies of this article  and the other answers to Mensa
FAQs  by  anonymous FTP  from  Those  without  FTP
access should send e-mail to with:
               "send usenet/news.answers/finding-sources"
in the body to find out how to do FTP by e-mail.

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1) Who is Mensa For?

Mensa is for those who rejoice in the exercise  of  the  mind.   If  you
enjoy mental challenges and revel in the interplay of ideas, Mensa is an
organization that will stretch  your  mind  and  expand  your  horizons.
Mensa  is  an international society that has one - and only one - unique
qualification for membership:  you must score  in  the  top  2%  of  the
population on a standardized IQ test.


2) Why Should I Join Mensa?

There are many intelligent reasons to join Mensa.  Whether you  actively
attend  Mensa  meetings,  or  simply relish the intellectual stimulation
that membership promotes, you'll find the benefits of  Mensa  membership
to be numerous indeed.

  Think-two-three, think-two-three!  Mensa provides intriguing  ways  to
  flex  your  mental muscles.  You'll find intellectual resources in the
  Mensa Bulletin, in local newsletters, in Special Interest Group  (SIG)
  newsletters, and at our annual and regional conventions.

  Mensa meetings are anything but dull!   Local  groups  meet  at  least
  monthly...   for  dinner  and  drinks on a Friday night, get-togethers
  featuring a speaker, or a lively, free-wheeling discussion.  All  with
  fellow members who share your intellectual interests.

  Some groups have special get-togethers or  activities  throughout  the
  month.    Others,   especially  the  larger  groups,  have  events  on
  practically every  day.   Of  course,  participation  in  local  group
  activities is always entirely at your option.

  There's also a widely attended annual convention  offering  workshops,
  seminars,  and  parties.   Plus,  some 50 regional gatherings are held
  around  the  country  each  year,  offering  social  and  intellectual

  Whatever your passion, there's almost certain to be a Special Interest
  Group  (SIG)  filled  with  other  Mensans who share it!  Mensa offers
  approximately  200  SIGs,  in  mind-boggling  profusion  from  African
  Violets  to  zoology.   Along  the  way  you'll find microbiology, and
  systems analysis, but you'll also find Sherlock Holmes, chocolate  and
  Star  Trek.   There's  the  expected:   biochemistry,  space  science,
  economics -- and the unexpected:  poker, roller skating scuba  diving,
  UFOs  and  witchcraft.   There  are  SIGs for breadmaking, winemaking,
  cartooning, silversmithing, and  clowning.   Heraldry,  semantics  and
  Egyptology  co-exist  with  beekeeping,  motorcycling and tap dancing.
  Sports SIGs cover the classics (baseball,  basketball,  football)  and
  the  not-so-classic  (skeetshooting,  hangliding, skydiving).  And any
  Mensan who can't find a SIG to join can easily start one.

  Ten  times  a  year,  you'll  receive  our  interesting  and  thought-
  provoking   magazine,   the   Mensa  Bulletin.   It  incorporates  the
  "International Journal,"  and  both  publications  contain  views  and
  information about Mensa, as well as contributions by Mensans on a wide
  variety of subjects.

  Also, you'll get lively local newsletters informing members  of  local
  activities  and  events, and other items of interest and announcements
  of special interest.

  "Interloc" (also published ten times yearly) is free to  officers--and
  for  other active members on request.  It contains news an information
  about various society administrative and internal matters.

  The "Mensa Research Journal," published quarterly by MERF, reports  on
  Mensa-supported  research.   It  also  publishes  original articles in
  diverse fields of interest, and is available for a small  subscription

  "Isolated M" is a popular and informative  newsletter  sent  to  those
  members  who  are  geographically  or  otherwise isolated from a local
  group.  It, too, is available at nominal cost to any other member.

  The Mensa "Register,"  published  every  other  year,  lists  all  the
  members and includes such information as geographic location, areas of
  expertise and/or interest and other professional and personal data.

  In addition, Mensa books, gifts and other materials are  available  to

  Mensa sponsors a  members-only  credit  card  and  insurance  program.
  There's also a program that aids traveling Mensans.

  Mensa members also find opportunities to contribute to the  betterment
  of society through programs such as:

  * The American Mensa Education and Research Foundation (MERF)
    MERF is a philanthropic, nonprofit, tax-exempt  organization  funded
    primarily  by  gifts  from  Mensa  members  and others.  MERF awards
    scholarships,  sponsors  colloquia,  grants  research  awards,   and
    publishes  articles.  Of particular interest to MERF is the study of
    the intellectually gifted.  Research  projects  in  the  social  and
    psychological sciences supported by MERF have included:  measurement
    of the  upper  levels  of  intelligence,  psycho-social  adjustment,
    identification  of  cultural differences, educational strategies and
    neurophysiological attributes of giftedness,  and  intelligence  and

    Scholarships are awarded to  approximately  60  students  nationwide
    each  year.   More than 5,000 students apply for these awards, which
    range from $200 to $1,000.  Awards are made to  applicants  enrolled
    in  degree-granting  programs  at  accredited  American colleges and
    universities based on a competitive essay.  There  are  also  awards
    made  from  several  endowed  funds,  including  awards to women who
    re-enter academic study after  a  period  of  employment  or  family
    management,  and  awards  for the study of engineering, mathematics,
    medicine, the physical sciences, and history.

    MERF  also  sponsors  weekend-long  meetings  on   serious   issues.
    Authorities are invited to speak and discussion follows.  Themes for
    past meetings (Colloquia) have included "Science and  Society:   Our
    Critical Challenges," "The Impact of the Arts on Civilization," "The
    Gifted in Society," and "Forecasting a Valid Tomorrow."

  * The Gifted Children Resource Program.
    Which compiles and provides information for gifted children  at  the
    national and local levels.

  * Mensa groups also get involved in many volunteer  activities  within
    their communities.


3) What kind of people are Members of Mensa?

Mensa:  We Think, Therefore We Are.  Mensans are the kind of people  you
meet  every  day ...  except that they enjoy using their minds more than
most.  And they have IQ scores that would impress their neighbors!

Today there are some 100,000 Mensans in  100  countries  throughout  the
world.   There are active Mensa organizations in 18 countries in Europe,
North America and around the Pacific Rim.   American  Mensa,  Ltd.   has
some  150  local  chapters  with  more  than 50,000 members.  Founded at
Oxford University in 1946, Mensa has three stated purposes:  to identify
and  foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, to encourage
research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to
promote  stimulating  intellectual  and  social  opportunities  for  its

There is simply no one prevailing characteristic of Mensa members  other
than  high  IQ.   There  are  Mensans  for who Mensa provides a sense of
family and others for who it is casual.  There have been many  marriages
made  in  Mensa  but  for  many  people,  it  is  simply  a  stimulating
opportunity for the mind.  Almost certainty most  Mensans  have  a  good
sense  of humor and they like to talk.  And, usually, they have a lot to

Mensans range in age from 4 to 94, but most are between 20 and  49.   In
education they range from preschoolers to high school dropouts to people
with multiple doctorates.  There are Mensans on welfare and Mensans  who
are  millionaires.   As  far  as  occupations,  the range is staggering.
Mensa has professors and truck  drivers,  scientists  and  firefighters,
computer  programmers  and farmers, artists, military people, musicians,
laborers, police officers, glassblowers - you name it.  There are famous
Mensans  and prize-winning Mensans, but there are many, many whose names
you wouldn't know.


  64.4% male, 35.4% female (0.2% won't say)

  54% between 30-49 years of age, 14% under 29, 0.32% over 80

  31.2% in first marriage, 29.82% never married, 13.32% divorced once,
  9.53% in second marriage after a divorce

  Just over half have no children, 12.4% have one child, 18.66% have 2,
  9.95% have 3, 4.37% have 4, 1.29% have 9+

  about 30% earn $20-40,000, 10% earn $50-75,000, 9% earn $40-50,000
  and about 0.5% earn more than $250,000.

  17.93% Master's degree or equivalent, 17.56% four year graduates,
  one in 11 are Ph.D.s.

  41% work in private industry, 13% in government, 13% self employed.

  88% European ancestry.

  49% Christian, 3% Unitarian, 9% Jewish, 7% agnostic, 3.6% atheist,
  9% no religion

  14% only children, 19+% older of two, 12.5% younger of two,
  11.5% oldest of three, 6.8% middle of three, 5.8% youngest of three,
  9.7% oldest of more than three, 10.8% middle of four or more,
  4.4% youngest of four or more

  Computer related occupations 10%, 3.75% own their own business,
  Electrical Engineers are 2.6%, 7.5% are in education, 3% lawyers,
  0.11% judges, 0.02% are in astronomy.


  Country                 Members

  USA                       50483  New Zealand                 327
  UK+Ireland                35608  Denmark                     295
  Canada                     2546  Austria                     287
  Malaysia                   2181  Channel Islands             257
  Germany                    1204  Spain                       251
  Finland                    1107  Singapore                   245
  Yugoslavia                 1100  India                       200
  Australia                   961  Sweden                      146
  Netherlands                 922  Belgium                     117
  Czechoslovakia              715  Japan                       101
  France                      708  Switzerland                 101
  Poland                      700  Hong Kong                   100
  Italy                       400  OTHER                       320
  South Africa                395
  Total Worldwide Membership                                101813


4) What are Mensa's dues?

Current dues are only $45 a year.  There are special student, family and
lifetime  memberships  dues when membership is offered.  This includes a
subscription  to  the  national  newsletter   (The   Bulletin)   and   a
subscription to the newsletter for the your local group.


5) What does "Mensa" mean?

The word "Mensa"  means  "table"  in  Latin.   The  name  stands  for  a
round-table  society,  where  race,  color, creed, national origin, age,
politics, educational or social background are irrelevant.

Officially, Mensa's stated purposes are "to identify  and  foster  human
intelligence  for  the benefit of humanity; to encourage research in the
nature, characteristics and uses  of  intelligence;  and  to  provide  a
stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members".

Mensa takes no stand on politics,  religion  or  social  issues.   Mensa
encompasses  members  from so many different countries and cultures, and
with many different points of view.  For Mensa to espouse  a  particular
point  of  view  would go against its  role as a forum for all points of


The answers in this posting apply mostly to American Mensa.  It  is  the
only  organization  I  have  experience  with.   If you can answer these
questions for any other national Mensa, please send me your responses.

Corrections, suggestions, and additions to

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