What is a Psychological Test

Psychological testing is defined as "the process of measuring psychology-related variables by means of devices or procedures designed to obtain a sample of behavior" (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005). The aim of using a test is to give an objective score which can reliably select the person with the traits or attributes who can best perform the job in question. This can help select and place the best performer on the job that best fits him or her. The objective of the testing is to increase the job performance of all employees. One of the earliest applications of psychological testing on selection and placement was during World War I, when the U. S. Army used large-scale testing to choose its personnel and place them in job assignments.

A psychological test usually consists of a standard set of questions or tasks that test takers complete under specified conditions to assess individual characteristics and the KSAOs (knowledge, skill, ability, and others including attitudes, interests, and personality). The goal is to break down the job description into the KSAOs and then once these are determined, a person who possesses the necessary KSAOs can be selected and placed on the job. It is more often that the person chosen by matching their KSAOs with the job will be successful on the job. Psychological test are standardized assessments, meaning each test has a standard way of administration and scoring. Each test taker is giving the same items under the same rules and conditions. Each answer will be scored according to the same answer key. Advances in testing theories also allow the development of different tests with different sets of items that are psychometrically equivalent to each other. The essence is that, as a result, responses from different test takers are directly comparable. By using standardized assessment, the chance of selecting and placing the right person at the right job is higher than using any other approach (Spector, 2005).

Tests have varying characteristics: group vs. individually administered, supervised vs. unsupervised, computer-based vs. paper-and-pencil, and timed vs. untimed tests etc.. A group test can be administered to a few test takers or up to hundreds or thousands test takers at a time. Usually the tests are printed in booklets that can be easily distributed and with a standard answer sheet that can be scored easily. Individually administered tests are those that are administered to only one test taker at a time. This can be because of there is only one candidate in consideration for a very high ranked position or the apparatus can be used by only one person at a time. Supervised tests are when the test takers complete the tests under a supervised condition. Usually a qualified administrator will be the invigilator who supervises the test throughout the entire period. Unsupervised tests are usually taken at the test takers' own pace at their chosen work station e.g. they can take it at home or in their office on their own computers. Computer-based tests are the tests that are delivered by the computer as a platform. The test takers sit in front of a computer to complete the tests. Paper-and-pencil tests, as the name says, are those that are done on paper in a printed form. A timed test is a test with limited amount of time in which the test takers must complete the test. Usually a timed test is an ability test; the rationale being that better candidates complete the tests faster. For this reason, some candidates may not complete all questions in a test. Untimed tests are those in which the test takers have unlimited time to complete the test. A personality test is one example of an untimed test.