ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Psychological Testing: What It Is and Why It Is Used

Updated on February 27, 2009

What it Is

Psychological testing, or psychological assessment, is the use of measures designed by mental health professionals to determine certain characteristics about the individual being tested.

The basic idea is to get samples of an individual's behavior in particular situations and use that to make assumptions/estimations about his or her behavior in the world at-large.

The Basics

There are three major domains of assessment:

  1. Intellectual Assessment
  2. Psychodiagnostic Assessment
  3. Neuropsychological Assessment

Intellectual Assessment

This type of assessment is most often used to determine the most appropriate educational setting for a child. Specifically, it is primarily used to decide whether or not a child should be placed in an advanced program, has global developmental delay, or has a learning disorder.

Intellectual assessment often consists of two types of tests: (1) an intelligence test, and (2) an achievement test.

Most succinctly, an intelligence test is used to measure a child's aptitude -- that is, how much they are capable of learning. These tests give an IQ (intelligence quotient) score, where 100 represents an average IQ. Most individuals - regardless of age - will score between 85 and 115, which are within the "average" range.

An achievement test is used to assess how much an individual has learned up to this point, focusing more on what one might expect someone to have learned in school up to their age. These test are also often scored with an average of 100, and with most scores falling between 85 and 115.

If a child has an IQ score of above 115, he or she may likely be considered for an advanced placement, or "gifted," program, regardless of achievement test score. [Learn more about giftedness here.]

If a child has an IQ score of below 85, he or she may be considered for a special learning class and may be further assessed for developmental delays (previously known as mental retardation). [Learn more about developmental delay here.]

Regardless of IQ score, if a child's achievement score is 22+ points below his/her IQ score, he/she will likely be diagnosed with a learning disorder. [Learn more about learning disorders here.]

Intellectual assessment may also include additional test to further understand an examinee's level of development and needs.

When used with adults, it may be intended to determine how much support he/she needs -- this is usually done when developmental delay is suspected.

Intellectual tests may also be used for certain jobs, and the United States Military uses a particular type of intelligence/achievement test to assess the skills and functioning levels of prospective enlisted personnel.

Psychodiagnostic Assessment

Psychodiagnostic assessment may most often be used to provide insight into diagnosing a client, to gain a broader sense of the ways in which he or she interpret and interacts in the world, and for self-help purposes.

These tests include:

  1. the ever-famous Rorschach projective test,
  2. various personality measures (e.g. Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory and Minnesota Multi-Phasic tests),
  3. story-telling measures (e.g. Thematic Apperception Test),
  4. self-report subjective experience tests (e.g. Beck Depression Inventory)
  5. and miscellaneous other tests of functioning level (e.g. Child Behavioral Checklist)

While these represent too large of a group of tests to delve into much here, all these measures provide different kinds of information and are used for different purposes. 

Projective tests, like the Rorschach indicated above, are intended to give examiners a sense of how an individual makes decisions and organizes the world.  This kind of information is most useful when determining a diagnosis, making court recommendations, and making more broad statements about the ability of an individual to function in the world.

Personality measures can range from simple tests designed for career development/selection to measures with in excess of 700 questions that assess for severe personality disturbances.  In this particular category, the choice of the right measure is particularly important. 

Story-telling measures are also considered projective tests and again deal with how an individual interprets events and organizes them.  They are also often used with children to assess for abuse, since much information can be gleaned from the types of stories children tell.

Self-reports of subjective experiences are most often used to aid in diagnosis and/or to track the progress of a client throughout treatment.  This most often includes measures of mood/affect during the recent past, not long-term information.

Finally, other measures can assess different perspectives on a situation, more concrete information, and miscellaneous information of interest to a clinician.

Neuropsychological Assessment

Neuropsychological assessment is a very specialized field and generally has one main purpose: to assess any brain deficits that are or may be present.

These tests  are most often used in hospital settings to determine if and what kind of brain damage an individual may have.  They are also used to assess for amnesia and other types of memory loss.

Measures can include having the examinee manipulate objects, view objects and report on them, and many other types of interaction.

Because the field is so specialized and the types of tests used varies so much depending on the suspected deficit, little more can be said without engaging in a year-long graduate course.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)