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Stencil Design Test by Grace Arthur

Stencil Design Test

The Stencil Design Test ( IQ test) was devised by Grace Arthur in the 1920s. The original shapes – a mix of stencils and solid blocks – were made of die-cut cards. It was used to test the intelligence of children and adults up until the 1950’s.

This test formed part of a set of non-verbal IQ tests that really did change history. Grace Arthur recognised that many of the IQ tests in use at the time weren’t accessible to some people as, relying on verbal or written instructions, so benefitted educated white people. Her tests helped deaf children, native Americans and other disabled people discover their true potential and enabled them to go on to achieve a better quality of life.

Here’s what the IQ test would have looked like. You have a few cards with patterns printed on them – these are numbered 1 to 6.  You have to make each of the patterns using the shapes below. Starting with the one at the back, you have to stack them in the correct order.

If you’re looking at this on a phone, it’ll be too small to do, but you can try it on a computer or tablet.  Grace Arthur’s cards were 4 inches square and spread out on a tabletop. On phones, the shapes are a large button size and there are less of them, so easy to tap.

Today, examples of Grace Arthur’s work are in museums and psychological collections. Stencil Design Test 1 consisted of 18 cards, about 16cm x 16cm, in six colors. Six of the cards were solid, the other 12 had symmetrical geometric shapes cut from the center. Stencil Design Test 2 had only two colors – black and yellow – and was for people with visual impairments, such as color blindness.

Original Stencil Design Tests are held in museums and psychological collections
Examples of Stencil Design Tests 1 & 2 in  psychological collections


Grace Arthur Ph.D

Mary Grace Arthur: Expanding the Measures of Intelligence     

Arthur’s life was centered on making the world a better place for children. She “had many children who belonged to other people,” including those who were developmentally disabled, deaf, learning disabled, troubled, or poor—what others called “problem children.” Arthur, however, never thought of “her children” in that way; rather, she thought of them as valuable people.

Arthur found her life’s work in revising the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale to accommodate children who were deaf, who were from different cultural backgrounds, who were non-English-speaking, or who had delayed or defective speech.

She took a special interest in the education of Native American children, who for decades confronted a racist public education system. Using the Arthur Point Scale, she exposed the racism inherent in IQ tests commonly used at the time.

“Until that time,” said a fellow worker, “it was generally accepted that Indians were not the mental equals of other people. Arthur changed all that.” “Her work,” said another associate, “made a great deal of difference in the government’s attitude” toward the education of Native American children.

“Many who were lost in the lower grades,” said a woman Arthur trained as a tutor, “went on to places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some who believed incapable of further training proved to have IQs of better than 150.”

Grace Arthur’s life was filled with facts, figures, data—and children. While her untimely death may have made her a highway statistic, for the children whose lives she impacted, death could never reduce her to a statistic.

Arthur said of her many accolades, “Isn’t it nice that we’re helping children?”

– Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, CLA ’90

You can read the full article here…

 Mary Grace Arthur: Expanding the Measures of Intelligence 


Stenciletto  re-imagines Grace Arthur’s innovative IQ test as a simple but challenging game. However, the rules are exactly the same: starting with the solid shape at the back, put the stencils in the correct order to make the pattern shown at the top.

Stenciletto is no longer an IQ test, although, just like the test, it really does make you think hard. And just because the thinking is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun and very rewarding when you do get them right.


You can try some of Grace Arthur’s original puzzles here…




Find out about the game here…


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