Michael Oher: IQ and GPA Stood in the Way of Eligibility

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is Michael Oher’s IQ? Why was his IQ so important, and how did he eventually tackle his learning issues?

For Michael Oher, IQ was just a number that held him back. For most of his life, Michael was thought to have a low IQ of 80. Later, he was able to get a new IQ score by identifying his learning disability.

Read more about Michael Oher, IQ, and how it effected his education and eventual acceptance to Ole Miss.

Michael Oher: IQ and Football Eligibility

The NCAA investigation was upsetting, but violations were a moot point at the moment. Michael still wasn’t academically eligible, and if he didn’t find a way to improve his GPA, he wouldn’t be playing football at Ole Miss. 

Sean took Michael to see two female psychological examiners. They gave him several achievement tests. They asked him simple mathematical and logic questions and asked him to perform basic tasks, like drawing a picture of a house. From these tests, the examiners saw that Michael had significant knowledge deficiencies and had never been truly taught how to read. He’d never been taught phonics, which allows children to sound out words and determine what they mean based on their context in a sentence. Michael was a master memorizer, and the only reason he could read was that he’d memorized a large number of words. 

Michael was an enigma to these examiners. At 18, he still learned like a child learned, through association rather than knowledge. There had been an opportunity for Michael to learn to read and take in information properly when he arrived at Briarcrest, but his secretive and pleasing nature had hindered that. He’d hidden his deficiencies as best he could, faking his way through to avoid being considered stupid. But the examiners could tell he wasn’t stupid, and this belief was confirmed when they gave him a new IQ test. 

Michael Oher’s IQ test scores as a child stated that his IQ was 80. With this IQ, he was determined to be unintelligent, so his poor performance was not considered a learning issue. He was learning about as well as could be expected with his lack of innate intelligence. But on this new IQ test, Michael scored between 100 and 110, which meant he was of average intelligence. 

This result baffled the examiners. IQ wasn’t supposed to change. They explained that IQ is based on both critical thinking in the moment and thinking based on experience. The problem with Michael as a young boy was that he’d had no experiences. There was no way for him to respond through experience or critically because of that. But since arriving at Briarcrest, he’d been immersed in experiences, so his ability to make conclusions was functioning more normally. These results were good for Michael. As a person of average intelligence, his learning achievements were now not in line with what he should be capable of. He legitimately had a learning disability. 

Michael Oher: IQ and GPA Stood in the Way of Eligibility

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michael Lewis's "The Blind Side" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Blind Side summary:

  • How Michael Oher went from the projects in Memphis to the NFL
  • Why the combination of size and speed became essential for football stars
  • How Oher was taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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