A Primer on Psychological Testing

Psychological tests are part of the scientific basis of psychological assessments of all types. Here are a few definitions related to psychological assessment commonly used in the profession, along with examples of commonly used tests..

Achievement test. A measure of knowledge or proficiency. The term is usually applied to an examination on outcomes of school instruction.

  • Wide Range Achievement Test-III (WRAT-III)
  • Peabody Individual Achievement Test

Aptitude test. A measure of the ability to profit from additional training or experience, that is, become proficient in a skill or other ability.

  • Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
  • Legal Scholastic Abilities Test (L-SAT)

Assessment. Appraising the presence or magnitude of one or more personal characteristics. Assessing human behavior and mental processes including such procedures as observations, interviews, rating scales, checklists, inventories, projective techniques, and tests.

Clinical approach. Approach to behavioral prediction and diagnosis in which psychologists or psychiatrists assign their own judgmental weights to the predictor variables and then combine them in a subjective manner to make diagnoses and prognoses.

Cognitive assessment. Measure of intellectual processes, such as perception, memory, thinking, judgment, and reasoning.

  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III (WAIS-III)
  • Woodcock Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised

Diagnostic test. An achievement test composed of a number of areas or skills with the purpose of diagnosing an individual's relative strengths and weaknesses in the areas. Diagnostic tests are available in reading, arithmetic and spelling.

Face validity. A test has face validity if, to test takers and other non-professionals, its tasks or questions appear relevant to the intended decision. The transparency of face valid tests reduce test accuracy.

  • Beck Depression Inventory
  • Quizzes you might see in Cosmopolitan

Neuropsychological assessment. Measurement of cognitive, perceptual and motor performance to determine the locus, extent, and effects of brain damage and malfunction.

  • Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Battery
  • Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery

Objective tests. A test scored by comparing an examinee's responses to a list of standardized responses, in contrast to subjectively scored tests which are affected by judgment in observing or scoring responses. Examples of objective test items are multiple choice and true-false.

  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2)
  • Millon Multiaxial Personality Inventory-3 (MCMI-3)

Performance test. A test on which the examinee is required to do something, to execute a skill which may involve the manipulation of actual objects or mental information. This might include reciting strings of digits forwards and backwards, or replicating designs with colored blocks.

  • Performance subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale-III

Personality assessment. Description and analysis of personality by means of various techniques, including observing, interviewing, and administering checklists, rating scales, personality inventories, and projective techniques.

Projective techniques. A relatively unstructured personality assessment technique in which the person responds to materials such as inkblots, ambiguous pictures, incomplete sentences, and other materials by telling what she or he perceives, making up stories, or constructing and arranging sentences and objects. Theoretically, because the material is fairly unstructured, the structure imposed on it by the examinee represents a projection of his or her own personality characteristics (needs, conflicts, sources of anxiety, etc.)

  • Rorschach Inkblot Test
  • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
  • Rotter Incomplete Sentence Blank

Psychometrics. Theory and research pertaining to the measurement of psychological (cognitive and affective) characteristics.

Test. A systematic procedure for observing and measuring behavior and describing it on numerical scale, or in terms of categories.


Bay Area Psychological Testing Associates
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San Leandro, CA 94577
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