Editor’s Note: Peggy Drexler is a research psychologist and the author of “Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family” and “Raising Boys Without Men.” She is at work on a book about how women are conditioned to compete with one another. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers. View more opinion on CNN.
President Donald Trump’s latest job qualification, according to President Trump, is not having dementia. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday, in which the journalist told Trump that according to recent polling more Americans believe former Vice President Joe Biden is more mentally fit to serve as president than Trump is, Trump trotted out a brag he’s shared several times over the past few months: that he aced a test. Namely, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test, a cognitive screening test for memory loss or early dementia.
The last five questions “get very hard” he told Wallace. So hard, in fact, that Trump had previously told Fox’s Sean Hannity that doctors at the Walter Reed Medical Center, where he took the test, were “very surprised” and impressed, evidently telling him, “That’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did.”
Acing the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test, which includes such tasks as identifying animals and drawing a clock, determines nothing other than that the taker is not suffering from mild cognitive dysfunction. (Wallace pointed out to Trump that he, too, took the test and thought it was easy.) It’s not even entirely conclusive, designed as a rapid screening test. It takes ten minutes and is not meant to be hard – unless, that is, you have dementia.
It would, it seems, be a test your average fifth grader can pass, and should not, therefore, be used (or cited) as a way to determine one’s capacity for acting as an adult, never mind serving as President of the United States of America. And while no test, other than the real world experience of being President, can really prove that someone’s up to the job, there’s other well-known tests that would be far more illuminating about the President’s capacity than the one he keeps touting.
He might consider taking the SATs – especially considering the fact that in Mary Trump’s new book, the President’s niece alleges that her uncle paid someone to take the test for him (a claim the White House has denied). Many argue that the SAT is a measure of intelligence (some would also say scholastic achievement) and Trump, as everyone knows, is a fan of calling himself “smart.” Who can forget the tweet in which he claimed that winning the presidential bid on his first try “would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”
While few adults would relish the idea of taking the SATs again, studies do correlate SAT scores to those of other standardized intelligence tests. SAT scores are said to remain stable over time, like IQ scores. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have also found that SAT scores can be a predictor of life outcomes beyond college years, including income and occupational achievements. The SATs also offer a great comparison point. The average score for an American student is 1069. The average score for a student entering the University of Pennsylvania, Trump’s alma mater (and where he later in life allowed rumors to spread that he graduated first in his class), is 1475. How does Trump compare?
This is not to say that the SAT is the perfect gauge of intelligence – or that high intelligence corresponds with great leadership skills. Ultimately, on Trump’s ability to successfully lead the nation, the proof is in the pudding. But if the President is looking for a relatively objective metric to prove he’s as sharp mentally as he claims to be, the SAT might be a good place to start.
Or, perhaps the President might consider submitting to the Myers-Briggs test, a personality test often used by companies to determine employees’ strengths and weaknesses. According to Myers-Briggs, there are 16 personality types, including thinkers, entrepreneurs, advocates, mediators; people are typically some combination of a few. One’s Myers-Briggs type determines his or her capacity to make decisions and smartly interpret world events. The only problem: There is no “best” score on Myers-Briggs, and what is Trump if not the (self-professed) top dog in any given context?
Of course, the absolute best way for Trump to prove his competency would be, well, to act competent: to, say, manage a pandemic with any sense of authority or compassion, or respond to protests with any sense of force or efficacy. Instead, he’s too busy boasting and bragging and belittling his way through. This is why, try as he might, it’s unlikely there’s any standardized test that will offer definitive proof that Trump is fit to serve as leader of the free world. That’s up to Trump himself to prove. By my measures and, it would seem, by those of many Americans, he’s failing – spectacularly.