Genes or Intelligence – What’s Most Important Factor For Cracking Top Universities?

Genes or Intelligence – Which of the two plays a more significant role in the academic success and getting your enrolled in top Colleges or Universities? Researchers have found that academic success is determined primarily by the genes of the child, and his intellectual abilities play a much smaller role. 

We remember it very well from school: children learn very differently. And in recent years, researchers have found that success in school – in elementary school, on exams at the end of high school and even in the study of individual subjects – almost two-thirds depends on genes.

Scientists selected 6,000 pairs of twins participating in the British Program for the Study of the Early Development of Twins and analyzed their assessments from elementary school to the end of compulsory secondary education.

The results of the study showed that the achievements of the twins in school were surprisingly stable . Those who did well in elementary school also had good results on the GCSE exam (certificate of completion of secondary education).

Observing the twins reveal the influence of genes on academic achievement. Identical (identical) twins have the same genetic set, whereas twins, like brothers and sisters of different ages, have on average 50% of the same genes.

If in certain traits of character identical twins are more similar to each other than twins, we can conclude that this trait is determined mainly by genes. The researchers concluded that the stability of academic achievement by almost 70% is due to genetic factors and only 25% – by external factors, the environment, for example, upbringing in one family and attending one school. The remaining 5% are other, yet less understandable factors, for example, the influence of friends or teachers. 

When success in school during the school years improved or worsened, it primarily depended on those external factors that were different for the twins. It seems logical to assume that the stability of success in the study of school subjects is explained, first of all, by the mental abilities of a particular child.

But after the researchers conducted intelligence tests (verbal and non-verbal) among the twins, the influence of genes still remained significant – at the level of 60%. In recent years, scientists have achieved great success in identifying genetic markers responsible for certain personality traits – in particular, for academic success.

However, each genetic marker explains a very small proportion (less than 0.1%) of individual differences. And recently a more effective method has been developed.

Summarizing thousands of genetic markers identified in the course of genome-wide studies (studies of the genomic set of genetic variants in different people, allowing to see the connection of any of the options with a particular trait, scientists create a polygenic assessment scale.

This scale allows you to more accurately predict the variability of certain personality traits (for example, academic success) in people who are not connected by common genes. The polygenic scale method confirmed what the scientists discovered while observing the twins. Namely: certain variants of genes are responsible for why children’s assessments at each stage of education may differ.

The results of this study are very important for both parents and teachers. They indicate that certain problems in studies should be identified as early as possible since they are likely to exist during all the years spent in school.

In the future, such an assessment of genetic predisposition (together with predicting the influence of the external environment, for example, the area of residence, upbringing in the family and school) will help identify “problem students” at an early age.

Individual training programs will help overcome potential learning difficulties. For example, already at birth, we could use DNA tests to identify children who will have problems with reading, and help them at an early stage of development. Preventive measures always have a great chance of success when they are held in the first years of life. Therefore, genetic risk assessment, which can be made at birth, is of great importance for overcoming future problems in learning from a child.

The article was first published on The Conversation website 

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