Ask Uncle Colin: Am I Smart Enough?

Ask Uncle Colin is a chance to ask your burning, possibly embarrassing, maths questions -- and to show off your skills at coming up with clever acronyms. Send your questions to and Uncle Colin will do what he can.

Dear Uncle Colin,

My maths mock went terribly, and I got a U. Since then I've done some real revision and got a good grade on a paper I did off my own bat. However, I'm a long way behind on the new material and I feel like it's too late to fix because I'm not intelligent enough.

I've been told over and over that I'm really intelligent but I just have to do the work, and only realised recently that this means 'dunce'. While it's true that I don't do any real work, I don't think it's the reason I do badly. I recently took an IQ test on my phone and scored 106, which I reckon is a good approximation. I just don't feel smart enough to do maths, or really any subject at university.

What should I do?

-- I'm Quitting

Hello, IQ,

The one-word answer is, 'study'.

It sounds to me like the "you're intelligent but have to do the work" comments -- not meaning "dunce", meaning "you're intelligent but you have to do the work" -- are on the money. Evidence: when you didn't do the work, you failed. When you did, you did well in the past paper.

Base your aptitude for university off of your actual grades, not stuff that some researchers suggest might be linked to future success.

If you really want to do maths, do the work. If you don't, you can make excuses about how your phone says your IQ isn't up to it. Completely up to you.

-- Uncle Colin


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


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Where do you teach?

I teach in my home in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

It's a 15-minute walk from Weymouth station, and it's on bus routes 3, 8 and X53. On-road parking is available nearby.

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