Understanding Psychological Testing

Psychological tests include a variety of different types of instruments given either through interview or in writing to assess an individual’s personality, intellect, achievement level, or behavior.

Objective psychological tests are those instruments which have “norms,” or a population against which to compare an individual’s test scores. For this reason, objective psychological tests are often referred to as “norm-referenced” tests and include such standardized psychological tests as the Stanford-Binet intelligence test as well as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Objective psychological tests are only as good as their normative base. To ensure the goodness of these instruments, test developers often go to great lengths to ensure that the normative base is large and well-represents both the characteristic(s) being measured as well as the population who might take the test.

Subjective psychological tests, as the name implies, leave the interpretation of test results up to the examiner. In a sense, there is no “right-or-wrong” answer to these tests. In other ways, because these subjective psychological tests do not have forced-choice answers, an individual taking such a test is able to reveal more about himself or herself during the scope of the assessment. There have efforts to standardize scoring of some of the subjective psychological tests; however, for the most part, the interpretation of the results on these tests is left up to the expert judgment of the examiner. Some of the most commonly used subjective psychological tests include the Rotter Incomplete Sentence Blank test as well as the Rorschach Inkblot Test.

Psychological tests are an invaluable part of a qualified mental health professional’s arsenal.

They can assist is decisions regarding diagnosis, treatment planning, and need for special services. However, psychological tests should only be administered, scored, and interpreted by someone qualified through both training and licensure to give these types of instruments. Also, and most importantly, the results of psychological tests must be integrated with information obtained from other sources to give the most accurate picture of what is really going on with an individual.