Monday, February 17, 2014

Introduction to Psychological Testing

Introduction to Psychological Testing

     Psychological tests are important in the field of psychology. Different subfields use different tests in obtaining information. There are several uses of tests in the field of psychology from studying achievement to studying neuropsychological problems. Reliability and validity are vital to tests and have a relationship with each other.  

Definition of Tests

     Tests are a tool used in psychology. Psychological tests are used to “assess personality, maladaptive behavior, development of social skills, intellectual abilities, vocational interests, and cognitive impairment” (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010, p. 71). Psychological tests differ from one another in various ways. These differences include form, degree of objectivity, content, and structure. 

Categories of Tests

     Tests are categorized based on what is being measured. According to Hogan (2007), there are five categories of tests: mental ability tests, achievement tests, personality tests, interests and attitudes tests, and neuropsychological tests. Mental ability tests are meant to measure cognitive functions such as memory, spatial visualization, and creative thinking (Hogan, 2007). Mental ability tests are divided into three categories: individually administered intelligence tests, group administered intelligence tests, and ability tests other than intelligence. Examples of such tests include the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale, the Stanford – Binet Intelligence Scale, and the Otis – Lennon School Ability Test. Achievement tests are used to measure the level of knowledge or skill an individual has in a particular area. Examples of achievement tests include the Stanford Achievement Test, the Metropolitan Achievement Test, the IOWA Tests of Basic Skills, and the Graduate Record Examinations. Achievement tests also include tests for certification and licensing as well as state achievement tests. Personality tests are used to obtain information about an individual’s personality. Personality tests are divided into two subdivisions: objective and projective. Objective personality tests are presented in a true and false or similar format. Objective personality tests can be used to measure personality tests or pathological conditions (Hogan, 2007). Examples of objective personality tests include the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Eating Disorder Inventory. Projective personality tests use simple and unstructured tasks to measure for one’s personality (Hogan, 2007). An example of a projective personality test is the Rorschach Inkblot Test. The vocational interests test measures the interests and attitudes of an individual. These tests can also measure the attitude an individual has towards topics, groups, and practices (Hogan, 2007). Examples of a vocational interest test include the Strong Interest Inventory and the Kuder Career Search. Neuropsychological tests are used to obtain information about the functioning of an individual’s central nervous system. Neuropsychological tests use ability and personality tests to obtain information.

Uses and Users of Tests

     There are many uses of tests including clinical, educational, personnel, and research. Clinical psychologists, counselors, school psychologists, and neuropsychologists use tests to help an individual who may have problem (Hogan, 2007). Tests help psychologists to identify the nature and severity of the problem and to provide suggestions on dealing with the problem. Teachers, administrators, and parents use tests in an educational setting. The tests used are usually group administered tests for achievement and ability (Hogan, 2007). Achievement tests are used to determine the level of students’ learning. Tests such as the SAT, ACT, GRE, and LSAT are used to predict success in academics and for college admissions. Businesses and the military use testing for employment and enlistment. The fields of psychology, education, and other social and behavioral sciences use testing in research, Testing can be used in research as the dependent variable, describing samples, and for research on the tests themselves. 

Reliability and Validity in Psychological Testing

     Reliability and validity are important in relation to psychological testing. A test is reliable when nearly the same result occurs when the same test, or an alternative form of the test, is given to the same person (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). A test is valid if it correctly measures what it is supposed to measure. There are three types of reliability in tests: test – retest reliability, internal consistency, and interrater reliability (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010). Test – retest reliability occurs when the same result is yielded when a test is given to an individual at different times. Internal consistency occurs when an individual has a similar or consistent result on various parts of a test. Interrater reliability occurs when an individual has the same result when the test is administered by different people. There are four types of validity: predictive validity, criterion – related validity, construct validity, and content validity (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010). Predictive validity is when a test can predict how an individual will behave or perform. Criterion – related validity determines if a test is related to the phenomenon being studied. Construct validity is when a series of tasks that have a common theme test a certain phenomenon. Content validity is the relationship between the test and the phenomenon being studied. A test can be reliable without being valid. However, a test cannot be valid if it is unreliable. The validity and reliability of a test is necessary for an accurate assessment in psychology.


      Psychologists and others use tests to obtain information on their clients. This may be the clinical psychologist helping a patient with a problem, a school administrator evaluating the achievement of the students, or an employer hiring new employees. Tests must have reliability in order to be valid, however do not need to be valid in order to be reliable. Depending on the test, tests help psychologists understand intelligence, achievement, ability, personality, neuropsychological problems, and more.    


Hogan, T. P. (2007). Psychological testing: A practical introduction (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Sue, D., Sue, D. W., & Sue, S. (2010). Understanding Abnormal Behavior (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The World of Psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

** Plagiarism: Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.