Psychometric Tests and their uses

Psychometric tests are used to measure the components of an individuals psychological and mental abilities. Psychometrics allow comparison of individuals to various classes or groups of individuals. They also allow measurement at various times or stages of an individuals life, education or progress.

They are a subject of both controversy and praise as they measure in major areas: ability, aptitude, personality traits, and intelligence.

Often, the four terms: intelligence, personality,aptitude and achievement, are used to mean the same thing in psychometric testing,when they actually are different. The ultimate goal, however is to measure an individuals potential or expected ability to either learn, perform, or even to fit in with the average worker at a workplace.

Intelligence psychometrics attempt to measure a concept: intelligence. There is knowledge, innate ability, ability to think or to learn and so on. This is helpful in educational, occupational and military assessment, where intelligence lies on a continuum and where different capacities must be accommodated in teaching programs, or where assignments must accommodate the abilities of the individual. History proves that this category of testing can be horribly misused in order to oppress or to deny opportunity, too.

Aptitude psychometrics can measure for predictions of overall or broad areas of performance, or they can measure for predicting performance in specialized areas. The most prominent examples are in military recruitment and occupational speciality assignment, schools, and in rehabilitation of disabled or unemployed individuals who must change career fields.

Achievement tests measure actual performance in specific or broad areas, such as writing, reading and math in general, or in reading comprehension or a particular area or level of math, specifically.

Personality testing measures the various ranges and components of the individual behavior, beliefs, and attitudes that make each human unique. Such testing is used to indicate whether a person will fit into the statistical range of individuals who share the same personality factors, and who do well in certain occupations or workplaces, or even whether they are suited for certain occupations.

The drawbacks to psychometrics are in that they test theory or principles in ways that may be fraught with bias, error, lack of common understandings, or that they may be used to violate privacy, discriminate based on unrelated factors such as race, political and religious belief, or gender. There is distrust in some psychometrics because of belief that they are fraught with bias and error. A value laden numerical assignment to a theory of behavior and action is vastly different than a value laden numerical assignment to an easily defined and classified object or event.

An individual could be steered into the wrong career path, lose promotion, education and other opportunities, or just have the feeling, as with personality psychometrics, of being personally intruded upon, labeled and violated.

Thus the issues of an individuals right to privacy, the impact on career and educational opportunities, misuse, reliability and validity have gotten much attention as new psychometric concepts, tools, tests and models are developed and are being used in new ways to make important decisions about people.

Finally, psychometrics are best used along with in person interviews and assesments to ensure that the fullness of assessment is done. In other words, fully automating the process of determining potential or of evaluating achievement is something that should be permanently discouraged.

Wikipedia, “Psychometrics”

West Associates “Psychometric Testing”