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What is Psychological testing?

Psychological testing is a way of assessing a person’s behaviour using tests to gather information about their personality and mental abilities. These tests can be done on an individual, group or organisation level.

Psychological testing can measure an individual’s learning capabilities and memory. These can be helpful for children and students, those with special needs or people with brain injuries. They also assess the capability of a job seeker to plan and manage their work or help predict their skills in a particular field. These testing procedures help to evaluate an individual’s perception of the world, their interpersonal skills, uncommon personality traits, anger management issues, problems with reading and writing, hyperactive behaviours and in managing one’s impulses.

The tests are performed by trained and certified psychologists. The core of psychological testing is usually a clinical interview with the psychologist. The testing process is divided into three steps:

  • Collection of information
  • Integration of information
  • Interpretation of the integrated information

The first step of collection of information is done with the help of questionnaires, surveys or puzzles. These are standardised procedures that can even include interviewing close relatives for observations about the individual. Psychologists then integrate all the information for further interpretation.

  1. Why is Psychological testing performed?
  2. How do you prepare for Psychological testing?
  3. How is Psychological testing performed?
  4. What do Psychological testing results mean?

In many ways, psychological tests are like any other medical test. When there are physical symptoms, a doctor may order tests to diagnose those symptoms. Similarly, when there are certain atypical behavioural patterns, a psychologist may order tests to diagnose these patterns.

Psychological testing is done in situations such as:

  • For education and aptitude evaluation:

Educational institutes or students benefit from such tests, which may aid them to choose a career path. They help to assess:

  • Cognitive development and progress
  • Learning abilities
  • Capability to perform tasks
  • Knowledge and skill in specific areas
  • Problem-solving and IQ
  • For clinical counselling or psychotherapy

When adults or children show symptoms like

  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty socialising
  • Trouble coping with day-to-day tasks
  • Unstable moods
  • Problems with memory
  • For employment

These tests are ordered by organisations or job seekers to check if a person’s personality is suited for a particular field and they meet the requirements of the job.

Having a good night’s sleep is an essential part of test preparation. A psychological test is not a graded examination; instead, it is performed to gather information about an individual’s inherent abilities and personality. Therefore, preparation beforehand is not required.

It is essential for the individual to inform the psychologist about any health or mobility issues they might have. Before the test, they must inquire about the following:

  • Time required for the test
  • Whether the test is to be taken from home or psychologist’s office
  • Whether the individual taking the test can be accompanied by someone if needed
  • The person who will be informed of test results

Of the different forms of standardised tests available for psychological testing, a psychologist will determine which one should be used. The following types of psychological assessments are available:

  • A true-or-false structured test
  • A multiple choice questionnaire
  • A picture or inkblot unstructured test
  • A verbal interview
  • A performance test

The test may involve one or more forms of standardised testing protocols followed in different representative environmental conditions like a noisy or quiet environment, etc. Also, it could be either computer-based or pen-paper based. Sometimes, personal or group interaction may also be a part of the test. During personal interaction, a psychologist may or may not prefer to have anyone accompany the individual. For a better evaluation, the psychologist may also refer to school and medical records of the individual.

During the test, it is important to let the psychologist know if something distresses or confuses you. The test may take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the procedures carried out.

Once the testing process is completed, the psychologist will give a complete written report of their interpretation of results. Results in psychological testing can be very subjective. In the case of a structured test, the result is given as a comparison of the individual with others of their same age, development and background, although they require further interpretation.

Results of tests can be used for evaluation by educational institutes and organisations and can help to design an intervention program for the individual and develop their skills as needed.

Normal results:

In the case of standardised tests, if the individual’s scores are consistent with the scores of the comparison group, then the results are considered normal. This would mean they are at standard developmental levels. In case of unstructured tests, normal results would mean the individual is socially functional.

Abnormal results:

In case the scores of a person on the standardised tests are not consistent with the scores of the comparison group, the results can be used to identify learning disabilities, if any, or a requirement for psychotherapy. Disorders that may be related to abnormal results include:

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Australian Psychological Society [internet]; Psychological testing
  2. Committee on Psychological Testing, Including Validity Testing, for Social Security Administration Disability Determinations; Board on the Health of Select Populations; Institute of Medicine. Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determinatio
  3. American Psychological Association [internet]; Understanding psychological testing and assessment
  4. Sturner R. Developmental-behavioral paediatrics. 4th ed. Philadelphia: 2009. Chapter 77, General principles of psychological testing; p.763–769.
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Mental Health Screening
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Mental status testing