The Big Bang Theory: 15 Times Penny Was Smarter Than The Guys

On The Big Bang Theory, Penny gets a lot of flak for being the least intelligent person in the group. But in her own way, she's the smartest one.

Penny is often the punching bag for the gang’s jokes on The Big Bang Theory. She’s seen as the “normal” one in the group who doesn’t have a college education and never seems to understand what her group of friends is talking about. However, Penny gets a lot of heat with zero acknowledgment of when she’s the sharpest one in the room.


Penny isn’t a dumb character; she’s just not as educationally advanced as her husband and friends. She has smart moments on the show that often go unnoticed. From sports to animals to how to act in public, Penny deserves more credit.

Updated on Nov 05, 2021, by Kayleigh Banks: It may have been a few years since The Big Bang Theory has ended, but there have been many reflections about the characters arcs’ since then. One that has particularly got more attention is Penny and her place in the group. The writers may have led fans to believe that Penny wasn’t smart because she lacked a doctorate or Ph.D., but if fans take a closer look at her arc, they will see that she was logical-mathematically intelligent. Her I.Q. should definitely be re-evaluated. 

Realizing How The Magic Trick Worked

While Sheldon likes to believe he is the most intelligent person in the group, there have often been times where he has been outwitted by his friends, including Penny. This was particularly evident in “The Prestidigitation” when Sheldon couldn’t seem to figure out how Howard’s magic trick worked and got frustrated at the fact that Penny and everyone else could.

Considering that Sheldon would often mock Penny over intelligence and would patronize her in nearly every conversation the gang had, it was quite hilarious to see Penny get her revenge on Sheldon. Fans would never forget the look of shock on Sheldon’s face when he felt a glimpse of what he always made Penny feel.

Teaching Leonard To Let Sheldon Go

There’s no doubt that Sheldon and Leonard had a great friendship on The Big Bang Theory, with both individuals showing an extreme amount of loyalty and dependency on one another. However, come “The Status Quo Combustion,” the two ended up reaching a major milestone when Sheldon took a big step independently and decided to go traveling for a while.

Although Leonard’s instincts were telling him to go and stop Sheldon, Penny was actually right in convincing Leonard to let him go. As the person who knew Sheldon the best, she recognized that this would be good for him to get this life experience. It would also help clear his mind and give him the clarity he was looking for. The fact that Leonard accepts Penny’s reasoning just goes to show she was a lot smarter and had a lot of wisdom to give

Figuring Out A Way To Open Amy’s Chinese Puzzle Box

Although Penny might not be as intelligent as the other characters on The Big Bang Theory, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t skilled in other areas that the guys aren’t. For one, she was quite great at mental games, including solving puzzle boxes (which was seen in “The Comic Book Store Regeneration”).

In this particular episode, the viewers got to see Penny figure out Amy’s task after he challenged her to get a banana out of a puzzle box. While Leonard was unable to get the fruit out of the box, he was surprised to discover that Penny did. It was quite mean of Leonard to give this sort of reaction as it showed that he did think himself to be far more intelligent. He should have given Penny her due and asked her how she did it.

Knowing When Her Friends Were Being Used

Although Penny wasn’t exactly close friends with the group at the beginning, that didn’t mean she liked it when outsiders tried to hurt the boys for their own personal gain. This was particularly evident in “The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition” when Penny noticed that Alicia was only spending time with Leonard, Howard, and Raj so they would do her several favors.

While Leonard, Howard, and Raj couldn’t see that Alicia was using them, it was Penny who decided to confront her and asked her not to hurt them. Unlike Penny who had social experience, the boys didn’t really understand that there were people who would take advantage of their kind-hearted natures. By confronting Alicia, Penny did what she thought was right which ultimately solidified her bond with the boys.

Teaching Leonard About Honesty In Relationships

Although Leonard and Penny had one of the most relatable relationships on The Big Bang Theory, that didn’t mean it was always perfect. There was a time where Penny and Leonard were broken up and he was happily in a relationship with Priya. The only problem was that Priya wasn’t content with the fact that Leonard was hanging out with Penny or still interested in comic books and tried to change him.

Leonard didn’t exactly want to do that and told Penny that they could keep meeting up in secret (“The Prestidigitation Approximation”). However, Penny refused to do so, stating that the only way he would be able to make his relationship with Priya work is by being honest and by not keeping secrets from each other. While Penny didn’t like Priya, this was wise and great advice since she knew that Leonard did want his newfound romance to succeed.

She Taught Sheldon How To Be More Relatable On Camera

When Sheldon had Penny over his apartment to be a guest on his YouTube show, Fun With Flags, she stopped production to remind Sheldon to loosen up. As the show’s host, Sheldon should aim to be more relatable and comfortable on camera. He told Penny that people commented that his “delivery was robotic.”

Penny encouraged him to face her during the episode and have a real conversation instead of facing the camera. And much to Sheldon’s surprise, her advice helped the physicist in the long run. By teaching him to be “less robotic,” Sheldon learned to be more comfortable around other people and they also opened up to him a lot easier too.

She Taught Sheldon & Leonard About Pop Culture

In an attempt to find out who was smarter between Sheldon and Leonard, Penny had a series of pop culture questions for them to answer. Both men had no idea what Penny was talking about but she knew the answers like the back of her hand.

From The Brady Bunch to rock music, Leonard and Sheldon were clueless. It was in this scene that proved Penny had strengths that were the guys’ weaknesses. This was also the first time that viewers really saw what Penny could bring to the group. She may not have been academically smart, but her knowledge of pop culture and social events would help build Sheldon, Leonard, and the other guys’ confidence.

Battle Of The Sexes

In the sixth season, Penny and Amy went head to head with Sheldon and Leonard for a round of the battle of the sexes. The teams went against each other in math, pop culture, physical activity, spelling, and beyond. The boys thought they would beat the girls by a landslide but that wasn’t the case.

Penny beat Sheldon in spelling, long division, wrestling, a game of Hangman, and beyond. But did she get the respect she deserved after this epic win? Nope. Nevertheless, this hilarious night showed everyone that Penny should never be underestimated.

She Taught Sheldon How To Act

When Sheldon started teaching at Caltech, he realized it wasn’t as easy as he thought. His students weren’t engaged in his lectures and he came off as cold. To warm up to the class, Sheldon asked Penny for acting lessons.

When Sheldon said, “And action!” Penny taught him that “action” is said in movies, not during improv. Sheldon was impressed by Penny’s knowledge and the fact that she taught him something new. He wasn’t very good at improv, but this only proved how good Penny was.

She Taught Them How To Fish

When Howard geared up for a fishing trip with Bernadette’s dad, he went to Penny for some help. As a Nebraska native who grew up on a farm, Penny was comfortable with the life and death of animals and had a strong stomach (so she could handle any gore).

Since the boys bought the fish, Penny taught them how to hook and gut a fish. Considering that Howard and Penny weren’t really friends, many TBBT fans thought it was quite sweet that she helped him build a strong bond with Bernadette’s father since she knew it was important to him. It was also kind of interesting to see her teach the boys some basic survival skills, too, since they often found themselves in unpredictable situations where they have to fend for themselves. She would be a great asset if they ended up on a stranded island.

She Opened Sheldon’s Mind On String Theory

Sheldon had been working with string theory and dark matter for years. It was the one thing that kept him up at night. In one scene, Penny stopped by Sheldon’s apartment while he was trying to find a new area to study and she ended up opening his eyes to something new.

With Penny’s help, Sheldon realized that he could refocus his energy on string theory being organized by sheets. Doing this could allow for more possibilities. Without Penny breaking down the effortlessness of literal string, Sheldon never would have had this breakthrough. She definitely deserved more respect from Sheldon after this.

She Beat Leonard At Chess

Penny wasn’t always interested in playing games or reading comics with the guys but she was interested in chess. In one scene, Leonard taught Penny how to play and assumed he would wipe the floor with her.

But much to his surprise, she beat him. Leonard was so confused by Penny’s win that he couldn’t admit to her that she had won. Regardless of his selfish behavior, many fans were delighted to discover a new skill of Penny’s. She may not have an IQ as high as the other characters on the show, she does seem to have some form of mathematical-logical intelligence.

Penny Found The Comet, Not Raj

In the 11th season, the gang went up to the rooftop of their building to see Mercury, but shockingly, when Penny looked in the telescope, she found something different — a comet. Raj denied her findings and told her it wasn’t a comet but after further investigation, she was right.

The next day, Penny found out that Raj took full credit for the comet and left Penny’s name off the discovery. Penny was devastated because she felt like she had a worthwhile contribution to science and Raj ruined that opportunity. Considering that the gang always made her feel awful for not being as academically inclined, it was awful to see them try and side with Raj on this too. Penny rightfully deserved the credit for this one and fans were proud that she fought them all on it.

She Understood Sports

When it comes to sports Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Sheldon know nothing. Sheldon knew about football by growing up in Texas but that was about it. Penny knew about football, fishing, ping pong, and probably every other sport.

Leonard tried learning football to fit in with Penny and her friends but he wasn’t interested enough to keep pretending. When it came to body strength and sports, Penny would always have the upper hand (which was what helped her and Leonard keep their relationship equal). While one person lacked knowledge in one area, it is guaranteed that the other would always do their best to help them improve and get better.

The Scavenger Hunt

When Raj put together a scavenger hunt for his friends, no one wanted to be paired with Penny because they assumed she wouldn’t be smart enough to dissect the clues. But as it turned out, Penny did better than Leonard, Howard, and Amy.

Partnered with Sheldon, Penny was the one who found out the first clue led to the comic book store, the clue behind the door at the lab, and fled to the laundry room for the last clue. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Penny is underestimated and shouldn’t be considered a liability.


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