5 Signs Someone Is Fake Smart

They’re threatened by actual smart people.

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Society is filled with fake smart people.

And for obvious reasons.

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People want to feel smart. They want the respect, admiration, and attention that come with being smart. But, they don’t want to put in the work it takes to be smart. So what do they do?

Consciously or subconsciously, they find ways to appear smart without actually being smart. In this article, I want to discuss signs that someone is a fake smart.


Here are 5 signs someone is fake smart:

1. They use big words and jargon

love learning big words. I love learning jargon. But I hate using them in my articles.

My goal as a writer is not to ‘sound’ smart. My goal as a writer is to get the message across. To communicate wisdom. To raise human consciousness. Your consciousness.

However, if I start using big words, the readers will have a hard time understanding. Would you rather I say —

  • “Fabricating an attractive facade to a hollow intellect will return to masticate you in the gluteals” OR
  • “Being a fake smart will return to bite you in the a**.”?

What gets the message across better?


Fake smart people don’t care about that. They care about themselves. They care about sounding smart. And big words and jargon are their weapons to fool you into believing they’re smart when they’re actually not.

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2. They ask questions with a motive

We have a resident in our ophthalmology department. He’s a classic fake smart. This is what he does:

He asks students really tough questions to purposefully stump them. Then, when the students say that they don’t know the answer — he’ll grin, and speak out the answer. This makes the student think that he’s smart.


But… then we started noticing something interesting. He often fails to clear the doubts my batchmates bring to him. And, he rarely answers the questions his seniors ask him while we collectively examine a patient. That’s when we realized that he doesn’t know all that much after all.

Of course, he knows a little at least. So to appear smart, he purposefully asks difficult questions from the little knowledge he has — so that he can use that as a fake proxy to pretend that he knows a lot.

3. They're pretentious

I have a senior in my college. Everyone in my batch speaks very highly of him. This is what they actually say about him, “He might be a jerk — but he sure is a treasure chest of medical wisdom.”

To which I think back, “He’s not only a jerk. He’s also pretentious.”


Here’s why.

I know for a fact that he’s a loudmouth. He broadcasts whatever knowledge he has. Almost for the sole purpose of advertising his smartness — that probably doesn’t exist. However, I’ve seen his results in tests. The results aren’t nearly as well as they should be for someone who’s created an image of a person with such a high degree of knowledge.

And the delta between the degree of knowledge he claims to have — and the results of the tests are too high to be ignored. And it’s not like his results have tanked in just a single test. I’m talking about multiple tests.

So that cannot be just bad luck.

Hence, if someone appears smart on the surface, but repeatedly fails to get the results that must accompany that smartness — that asynchrony is a sure sign that they’re a fake smart.


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4. They can’t speak to the granular details of any problem

Any field is made up of wisdom of all sizes and apparentness. Some wisdom is obvious, easily shared, and easier to memorize. On the other hand, some wisdom is really hard to define and explain. This kind of wisdom comes only from long-term experience.

For instance, to make it as a writer —

  • Obvious wisdom: “Write consistently.” (This advice is potent for sure, but it’s very easy to understand and share. Any fake can tell you this as well.)
  • Less obvious subtlety of the same wisdom: “When an article does not do well, remind yourself to still be consistent. You don’t have to pay much attention to the stats of that article, because the success of one of your articles will more than compensate for the failures of your other articles — but only if you’re consistent.” (This is a much subtle perspective of the same dose of wisdom — but this won’t be so easily shared by a fake.)

Fake smart people share potent, yet super obvious wisdom. Yet when it comes to the granular details of that wisdom — they just aren’t able to do it.


This is why Elon Musk often asks his interviewees to tell him the most difficult problems they’ve worked on and how they solved them. He says that people who really solved the problem know exactly how they solved it. They know the little details. And the people who just pretended to solve the problem can maybe talk a bit, but then they get stuck.

5. They’re threatened by other smart people

Smart people love other smart people. For them, it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas. And grow together. That’s why, they often try to join a smarter room, and meet smarter people.

On the other hand, fake smart people feel threatened by actual smart people for two reasons:

  • One: they feel like their spotlight will be taken away.
  • Two: they are subconsciously afraid of being exposed; being labeled for the fake they are.


The world is filled with smart people. You need to know the signs to recognize such people so that they don’t dupe you.

  • They love using big words and jargon that don’t make sense to the majority.
  • They ask questions just to stump others, and then, give out the answer to pretend they know a lot.
  • They seem to know a lot — but their results in life just don’t add up.
  • They share obvious wisdom, but cannot speak to the granular details of their wisdom and solutions.
  • They’re threatened by actual smart people.

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Akshad Singi is a writer, doctor, and contributor to Medium. His work has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, Business Insider, and others.