Keith Raniere Boasts of an Extremely High IQ, but Is He Telling the Truth?

Jamie Lerner - Author

Nov. 8 2022, Published 1:46 p.m. ET

Keith Raniere in 'The Vow'
Source: HBO Max

Now that HBO has brought back The Vow for a second season, we have more questions than ever. Of course, The Vow Part Two is mostly just covering what many of us already knew about Keith Raniere and the NXIVM cult, but it’s still fascinating to dive deeper into the heads of the leaders. One aspect of diving into their heads is of course their IQs, which Raniere often talked about.

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Throughout his time building up to NXIVM, he often espoused himself as a “genius” and “prodigy,” although many of us look at him and ask how that could be possible. How could someone that says they’re so intelligent have as many failures as Raniere? So, what is Raniere’s actual IQ?

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Keith Raniere has claimed to have an IQ of 240.

Raniere actually claims himself as the world’s smartest man and says that he has an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records to back this up. However, when Rolling Stone dug deeper into this, they found plenty of shaky foundations in his claim. When a woman named Natalie met Raniere and was drawn into his illusion in the 1990s, he was running Consumers’ Byline, a now-defunct multilevel marketing scheme.

His own company called Raniere the “smartest man in the world,” which came from his score on a take-home IQ test in the 1980s. That score is what led to his inclusion in one Australian edition of The Guinness Book of World Records, but there was nothing and no one to actually back up his IQ score claims. An early critique of The Vow's first season was that they never countered all of Raniere's bogus claims.

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That’s not the only “proof” Raniere had of his intelligence though. In fact, he also claimed that he was able to speak in full sentences by the time he was one year old, he could read by two years old, and he was a proficient pianist by the time he was 12 years old. While the latter isn’t unheard of, it would be nice if someone, such as a parent, could back up all of those claims.

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In fact, the only proof we have of Raniere’s intelligence comes from his college GPA from when he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. in 1982. When he was brought up on charges, officers discovered that despite Raniere’s self-proclaimed brainpower, his GPA in three majors — biology, math, and physics — was just 2.26.

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There could be any number of reasons for the discrepancy between Raniere’s self-proclaimed intelligence and his GPA on paper, but psychologists have deemed Raniere to be a narcissist who may have been intelligent. However, his IQ was likely not 240; even Stephen Hawking’s IQ was just about 160. Hawking once said, “people who boast about their IQs are losers,” and in the case of Raniere, Hawking is spot on.

Anything about 115 is considered a very high IQ, so claiming 240 is almost too absurd to be true. And because of Raniere’s narcissistic tendencies, he would definitely believe that he’s the smartest person in the world, even if the numbers disagree. So, why wouldn’t he make up a statistic to prove his own beliefs true?

New episodes of The Vow, Part Two drop every Monday on HBO Max.

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