Understanding Psychometric Testing and Its Uses

Psychometric Testing

Psychologists have always been interested in testing so as to quantify people’s intelligence, preferences, and behaviors. These assessments i.e. psychometric tests are used in schools, the military, clinics and corporates to select the most suitable individuals for a job, project, scholarship or promotion. Globally, recruiters use psychometric testing very often to determine a candidate’s fitness for a job - e.g. personality, intelligence, and aptitude tests can capture specific preferences and skills for certain tasks, which are matched to particular job functions by the recruiter. In clinical psychology, psychometric testing is done to assess a whole range of behaviours - intelligence, interests, aptitudes, motivations, complexes and hidden insecurities by using standardized objective and subjective tools. Such tools may include Multiple Choice Questions (16 PF), writing stories based on clues (TAT), identifying ambiguous figures (The Rorschach Test), Personal Interviews and other tests. Many such psychometric tests are conducted to cross-check or confirm the leads given by the test-taker through his/ her responses in other tests, which need closer scrutiny.  The questions, crafted by expert psychometricians quantify all these traits so that the therapist can have important baseline data to begin the treatment/ therapy/counseling process.

Psychologists also use these psychometric tests while working with people suffering from addictions (substance abuse) and behavioral disorders and criminals to determine behavioral motivations. For instance, the psychometric tests used in substance abuse counseling are designed to find the frequency of alcohol/drug abuse and precipitating factors causing such behaviours. Psychometric tests are also used to assess the parent-child bonding, effects of sleeplessness/ anxiety on decision making. Such tests can be given in groups or individually, depending on their nature. All such psychometric tests come with a standardized scoring system to quantify the traits that they measure.

Many theories and statistical analysis models are used to score psychometric tests. Statistical analysis in psychometric testing provides a good amount of validity to these psychometric tests. Validity is, very simply, consistency in test results in different populations and over time. An in-depth understanding of these concepts and measurement is beyond the scope of this piece. However, a basic grasp of the major psychometric tests and their principles can be helpful.

Psychometric tests fall into two categories:

A. Intelligence Tests (e.g. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) are designed to quantify a person’s innate level of intelligence.

A. Personality Tests (e.g. MMPI - Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and Rorschach Inkblot Test)) measure unobservable psychological factors like attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviours in relation to others.

C. Aptitude and Ability Tests seek to measure a person’s “special” talents and “achievement” levels. Aptitude tests are timed and require one to choose from multiple options.

D. Attitude and Interest Tests measure an individual’s “typical” performance. These open-ended tests have no right or wrong answers. Rather, they are put to standardized psychological analysis and comparison for each test.

E. Behavioral Tests are a part of personality testing used to find out why people make certain decisions, how people react to consequences, and how they learn. Often used in substance abuse counseling, correctional facilities, mental health centres and with children having behavioral disorders.

F. Creativity Tests employ pictures, drawing and sentence completion to measure one’s underlying thought processes. Such psychometric tests are used in early childhood testing in preschools and kindergartens, and in determining special needs education and giftedness.

F. Neuropsychological Testing (e.g. Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test) includes testing for an individual’s perceptions, sensory functions, cognitive functions, and motor functions. These tests are used with patients having mental or behavioral disabilities, brain injuries and depression.