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What are Psychological Assessments?

Updated on March 28, 2016
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Unsa is a Psychology major, and is also minoring in Sociology. She hopes to become a therapist and help make a positive difference.

In medicine, a test may be used to measure or arrive at a certain conclusion about a specific symptom for a diagnosis or to check if everything is okay in terms of an individuals physical well being. In psychology, however a test is used to acquire a sample behavior. It can also be used to measure overall performance. An assessment is the process that includes gathering data to make a psychological evaluation. Testing is known to be part of the assessment process and it helps in making the evaluation more valid and evident.

There are many different types of psychological tests, but it is important to understand that not all tests are the same. It is possible for different tests to measure the same variable but also to differ in terms of content and format (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). Content in this case refers to what is being tested, or the subject. Whereas, the format refers to the arrangement, plan, structure and or layout of the test (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). For example, different test makers might have a different approach to measuring attention span. One test developer might think that an oral response test may indicate more about the individual’s attention span, while the other test developer might use a questionnaire approach. However, a limitation that can present itself is a question that sets the bar straight- will both tests be able to indicate the longevity of the individuals attention span despite different content? In other words will they both produce the same results? The tests may also differ in the way they are scored, and interpreted. Some tests also have different guidelines as to how they should be monitored and carried out. For example, the oral response test may require the test taker to interpret the score whereas the questionnaire approach might require computer scanning and or a professional examiner to take a look at the answers so there is no false reporting of the test. As far as types go, amongst many there are specific tests that are administered such as a test that is going to measure achievement, a test measuring your career goals and plans, but also your listening, and management skills. It all depends on what your variable is, and the purpose of what you’re being tested for.

The type of test being taken is hugely correlated to setting of the test and vice versa. In an educational setting, the tests are normally set out to measure your academic standing- these kinds of tests are called achievement tests (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). Diagnostic tests are also taken in this setting- these tests highlight your strengths and weaknesses. In a clinical setting, tests are taken to arrive at diagnoses for the clients/patients behavior problem (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). For example, if a student is having difficulty concentrating in class a school psychologist will conduct an evaluation to puzzle out the underlying issue. The type of tests taken within this setting varies from intelligence tests to neuropsychological tests. In a counseling setting, a counselor is likely to measure the referee’s interests, as well as social and academic abilities (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). In a gerontological setting, quality of life is likely to be assessed as one ages the need for special care increases (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). It is also to screen for dementia which is a decline in cognitive functioning. In a military and business setting, testing is done to place the personnel’s in the right administrative position suitable to their abilities (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013).

While testing does have its perks and makes the assessment process easy, it does have its limitations and has the potential to be misused. One main point to note about this is the fact that not all tests administered will be applicable to the test taker. There may be language barriers that can disrupt the overall test score. Cultural differences might submerge as well and therefore it is important to understand the cultural background of the individual who is being assessed. For example, if a client were to take a test and English was not his or her first language he or she would have difficulties answering the questions. On a cultural level, gestures and expressions are likely to differ from culture to culture. Where eye contact is important in the Western culture as it it normally expresses confidence in the Pakistani culture eye contact might be seen as disrespectful. In these cases, it is important to accommodate the test according to the test takers capabilities with no negative effect in the assessment process. Different people have different standards as well and that again is correlated to ones culture. Women in Indonesia are likely to have different mannerisms then women in the US. A test is misused when a test administer registers the wrong kind of test in a setting where it is not appropriate. For example, if a personality test were to be taken in an educational setting it wouldn’t be relevant because in an educational setting test takers are to administer tests that have to do with academics- while personality tests can help the individual understand him or herself better it serves no purpose in an educational setting as a whole. A test can also be misused when useless tests are administered to someone who doesn’t really need them.

When a test is administered it is significant that the code of professional ethics is acknowledged and met (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013). However, sometimes there are legal and ethical issues that immerse and if these issues are not addressed it could be turned into a lawsuit. Some issues that might arise during this process can include the test being racially offensive, the test scores being biased and the scores being altered, the personal information of the client being released, clients being treated disrespectfully and unequally, useless tests being administered for the purpose of making more money (Cohen, Swerdlik, & Sturman, 2013).

Conclusively, should you go through the process of psychological testing- do not hesitate to ask the tester questions such as:

- Why you are taking the test?

- Whether the test is relative?

- How long the test will take?

- It’s limitations

- Whether the code of professional ethics is being met


Cohen, R. J., Swerdlik, M. E., & Sturman, D. E. (2013). Psychological Assessment and Testing; An Introduction to Tests and Measurements . New York City, New York, United States of America: McGraw-Hill.

Framingham, J. (n.d.). Types of Psychological Testing. Retrieved Novemeber 30th , 2015, from PsychCentral :

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© 2016 Unsa Memon


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