The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Passing Chemistry O Level aged 7

Ainan Celeste Cawley, passed Chemistry O level aged 7 years and 1 month. That is the news in Singapore...but what does it mean to pass Chemistry O level so young?

Firstly, for readers around the world, I had better explain what Chemistry O level is. O Level is a rigorous exam that tests knowledge and thinking skills in an exacting way. Why do I say "exacting" - well because it was designed for the more academic students - the top 20% of the population and thus most students would not be able to pass.

The Board Ainan took was the London Edexcel Board. This Board sets a high standard and requires a lot of thinking from the student - it is not simply an exercise in memory as some Boards are.

O Level is normally taken by sixteen year olds. The average candidate would, therefore, be sixteen and a half years old. Since the brightest 20% of students are the ones the exam is aiming at; to pass it one would need a mental age of 18.645 years. This is derived from the IQ score and the age thus: the deviation IQ of 113 is the same as the ratio IQ (in this case) of 113. IQ as a ratio is mental age divided by chronological age multiplied by 100. Therefore the mental age of O level students who pass would be expected to be: 1.13 times 16.5 years, which is 18.645 years.

Ainan is not 18.645 years old - he was seven years and one month when he took the exam - so passing means something interesting. It means that, in terms of his scientific reasoning capability his ratio to the norm is: 18.645/7 years 1 month. This equals a ratio of 2.63. That is Ainan is at least 2.63 times more precocious than average. In terms of IQ, were this a fair estimator of ratio IQ, which it is likely to be since it involves scientific reasoning which will have a large component of g, in it - the general intelligence factor - it would represent a ratio IQ of 2.63 times 100 or 263 IQ. This is a ratio IQ estimate which is different from a deviation IQ estimate.

Yet, this is likely to be an underestimate of his precocity - for he has already read the A level texts and is working on a University text. That latter text is suited to a 20 year old Chemistry student. The average IQ of a chemistry student is 124. This corresponds to a ratio IQ of 125. Therefore the average mental age of a 20 year old Chemistry student would be 25. Using this to generate a ratio IQ for Ainan giving his age as 7 years and three months - the time when he started to read the University book, would give a ratio IQ of 349.

This should be regarded as an accurate measure of precocity, at least - for it uses actual achievement as a marker for development.

As you can see, this gives an idea of how precocious a child is who passes exams so early. It is an indicator of prodigious development, simply because to pass them at all, one must show adult level intelligence, in the area of interest.

A child prodigy is a child who develops adult level ability/skill in an adult domain by the age of 11. Very few children do this. However, to find them, we might look to children who have shown that they can handle the complex demands of an adult academic subject, very young.

By the way, a comparison can be made to American High School graduation. O Levels are accepted for direct entry to American Universities, indicating that they are at least as challenging as High School is, academically. This should allow Americans to understand the achievement of passing O Level, at seven years and one month, therefore.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted brothers Fintan, three and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:12 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really takes some guts to come out and say something like that... to suggest that your son could have an IQ of 349. That figure rivals Sidis. Good job in the guts department, Valentine!

I wonder if you know of any documented cases of people who were more intelligent than Sidis?

I have been wondering from the beginning if Ainan might be one of the most intelligent people the world has ever seen. I couldn't say it, though... Its tough to say something like that.

Oh. I just thought of something... Both Sidis and his dad died of a brain hemorrhage in their forties. I was told by a friend that there was a chess player that died of a brain hemorrhage during a tournament... I don't know if there is any relation between unmeasurable profound intelligence and brain hemorrhage, but... *cringes* I thought it was something worth mentioning. Just in case.

I will leave it up to you to do the research to determine whether it applies and figure out what, if any, precautions should be taken. I would be curious about your findings, for sure, if you look into it.

- Kathy

3:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your implicit positive encouragement. I think that the few times this sort of thing happens - a child like Ainan - requires a certain courage to make opportunities and a path forward for the child. The child can't do it on their own...but I thought I had to say what it meant to be doing what he is doing at his age.

As you know using developmental markers is a standard method for assessing ratio IQ. That is all that I have done in this post - it is a method you yourself have used. I should post about that.

It is a bit worrying that you should mention hemorrhage. I will look into it. It would be a pity if Ainan gets anything less than an normal life to express his gift in. There is evidence that Sidis created quite a lot in his time but was rather coy about getting credit. Had he lived longer he would have created more.

Best wishes to you.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think that the few times this sort of thing happens - a child like Ainan - requires a certain courage to make opportunities and a path forward for the child. The child can't do it on their own...but I thought I had to say what it meant to be doing what he is doing at his age."

Oh, this makes my heart smile. :D I wish someone had done that for me. You are so right! :)

That would be cool, if you would post about ratio IQ :D I would read it for sure.

"It is a bit worrying that you should mention hemorrhage. "

Yeah. I hope it doesn't apply. I hate telling you stuff like that but it seemed important to mention.

- Kathy

6:59 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Kathy

We all grow up in different ways and with different opportunities and lack thereof. It is as an adult and a parent, however, that we can try to do the best to ensure that our own children don't lack what we did.

I hope that, if you ever do decide to have children, that you help them to realize the gifts I have no doubt they would have.

Thank you, as ever, for your supportive and often insightful comments.

Best wishes

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Ainan on reaching his goal! It is certainly something for a parent to be proud of, as I wish every parent could be when their child reaches goals appropriate to their ability.

I see how you have worked out your ration IQ, but I am curious as to what you think about the other seven year olds in the world who have also passed high school exams? Or the seven year olds who are studying university courses? Or the hundreds of seven year olds who read university textbooks or adult level books? Gifted children indeed, but not all of them tested as profoundly gifted. Do you think, based on your logic, that perhaps hundreds of children could actually have IQs in the 300s? I know you have the same opinion as I do about the meagre worth of IQ tests. I certainly know they underestimate the population of gifted. Perhaps if we followed your logic then we would see a sharp incline in IQ numbers.

Please don't worry about brain hemorrhage. One family having that problem, and one other possible gifted person, maybe, in an anecdotal story, does not make a causal link between profound IQ and brain hemorrhage. But I agree with you, it would be a pity if Ainan had anything less than a normal life, whether he chose to express his gift or not. I'm sure you would agree that his existence is about more than his gift and what he can do with it. :-)

Best of luck to Ainan in whatever he chooses to do next!


4:38 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The logic I have used is sound Sarah. Should a child display the abilities Ainan has shown, at the level Ainan has shown, at the age Ainan has shown, then, yes, that child could have an IQ in the 300s, if we were fair to them.

You say "Not all tested as profoundly gifted.". That might not be their fault. IQ tests cause massive score depression for the most gifted students.

You are right that they are other historical examples of seven year olds passing high school exams. I can find one example. Not hundreds...however, that there is another example, would indicate that there are other kids in the 300s, historically. William James Sidis was estimated, using the ratio method to be 250 to 300. I believe there is another case at IQ 325 - though the name eludes me right now.

The outer extreme of IQ is probably a lot higher than we give children credit for because the tests used ARE UNABLE TO MEASURE IT. I will post about this.

Thanks for your well wishes, Sarah...and thanks for your reassurances re. health. Yes, of course, life is worth more than any gift...

Best wishes

7:00 AM  

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