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Using psychometric tests.


This checklist is for all who may be considering using psychometric tests in an employment situation; for example, for workshops, counselling, career development, team building, personnel selection or assessment centres.

Psychometric tests have a strong appeal, by appearing to give precise answers to the complex and intriguing questions about individual personality, and by their implied ability to predict behaviour. This appearance of certainty can, however, be misleading. The reasons for use, method of use and ethical issues involved should always be carefully considered and the administration and interpretation of tests must be carried out by people qualified to an appropriate standard.

Uses of psychometric tests

Workshops--tests may be used as an ingredient in training workshops to improve the efficiency of the learning process. They can provide a vocabulary that can be used in exploring interpersonal reactions, make such exploration more objective, and provide indicators for making behaviour more effective.

Counselling--tests can help individuals, especially when under pressure or threat (for example, from poor work assessments, dismissal, redundancy, or personality conflict at home or work) to explore their own motivation and behaviour. They are effective as catalysts for open discussion with counsellors or other helpers.

Career development or guidance--tests can help individuals to identify their strengths and weaknesses, judge how these may impact on their career, and decide on actions to aid their development.

Team building--tests may help in building teams by providing insight into the team behaviour of individual members, and in indicating aspects in which a team needs additional resources or may benefit from development activities.

Personnel selection and assessment centres--in job selection, tests can be used to generate open and more objective discussion between candidate and selector. They may have the potential to predict likely future behaviour in specified roles or situations, although this function must be treated with caution.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards: D: Working with people, unit 3


A psychometric test is usually but not always in the form of a questionnaire, normally administered on paper, but increasingly by electronic media. There are two main categories of test: cognitive/mental ability tests, designed to measure numeracy and verbal skill, and personality tests, designed to measure aspects of behaviour. Tests may also be known as "instruments", "questionnaires" or "tools".

Action checklist

Action is needed in:

* deciding whether psychometric tests are appropriate

* choosing tests

* running the test programme

* using the results.

1. Deciding whether psychometric tests are appropriate

a) Establish and write down precise objectives for the use of tests.

b) Consider how else the objectives could be attained, and what added value tests might contribute.

c) Make a preliminary assessment of the likely costs of a testing programme, including the training of the tester, purchase and evaluation of tests, staff time and overhead costs.

d) Decide whether the proposed application is efficient and cost-effective.

2. Choosing tests

a) Obtain information from potential, reputable test providers. Obtain guidance, if necessary, from qualified psychologists, the British Psychological Society or other experienced bodies or professional practitioners.

b) Make a short-list of possible tests in discussion with test providers and other professionals, bearing clearly in mind the objectives set (Action 1a above), the possibility of designing a battery of two or more tests, and the level of costs attached to each test.

c) Make your final decision--which may be not to use tests.

3. The test programme

a) Embed the chosen test or tests in an appropriate procedure depending on the use to be made of them. This may also involve interviews, practical exercises, analysis of paperwork (such as application forms, CVs, and references).

b) If used as part of a selection process, ensure that job analysis and candidate profiling have been properly completed.

c) Ensure that all concerned in administering tests have been fully trained.

d) Ensure that the procedure devised, and all instructions for test administration, are rigidly followed throughout.

e) Ensure that accommodation is arranged for testing that gives privacy with no distractions.

f) Explain, in advance, the reasons for testing, and how the results will be used.

g) Ensure strict confidentiality throughout.

h) Arrange for analysis of test results as quickly as possible.

i) Give sensitive, thorough, feedback to those tested--preferably as an integral part of the procedure.

4. Using the results

a) Ensure that those who will use the results fully understand their significance and limitations.

b) Use test results in conjunction with other evidence and data. Do not assume that they are necessarily more valid or authoritative.

Assessing test effectiveness

Always ask producers for proof of the validity of their tests and contact organisations who have experience of their tests for their opinions.

Evaluate the relevance of test content to the work concerned. Judge how candidates might react to the questions.

Assess the extent to which a test can predict job suitability or performance standards. Validity can be determined by the correlation between the test scores of current job holders and levels of performance or by studying the performance of employees who have been tested at a later date--this shows the extent to which predictions have been confirmed in practice.

How not to manage the use of psychometric tests

* Avoid crude simple tests which claim to do everything--however aggressively sold. Of the numerous tests available many may be unreliable or unvalidated; others may be unsuitable for specific uses. It is possible to misunderstand results and easy to place too much reliance on them. Unbiased, professional advice is essential in test choice. Test administration and interpretation also require skilled and qualified help.

* Do not automatically accept test results that are contrary to common sense, or that clash with other, well-founded conclusions.

* Avoid blinding people (including yourself) with jargon or psychobabble, and remember the dangers of partial knowledge.

* Consider the expense. The costs of choosing a test and training (or using trained) staff to administer and evaluate it can be high. It is important to weigh these costs against the advantages that the tests may bring.

* Remember that completing tests can be stressful, and testers should beware of abusing the power this may give. Legal challenges to the fairness of test, especially on the grounds of sexual, racial and cultural bias, have been mounted, especially in the USA. In particular, the use of tests for selection for redundancy is under serious challenge and is not recommended.

Additional resources


Assessment methods in recruitment selection and performance: a managers guide to psychometric testing interviews and assessment centres, Robert Edenborough

London: Kogan Page, 2005

Testing people at work: competencies in psychometric testing Mike Smith and Pam Smith

Oxford: BPS Blackwell, 2005

Psychological testing: a managers guide, 4th ed John Toplis, Victor Dulewicz and Clive Fletcher

London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2005

Using psychometrics: a practical guide to testing and assessment, 2nd ed Robert Edenborough

London: Kogan Page, 1999

Handbook of psychological testing, 2nd ed, Paul Kline

London: Routledge, 2000

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Internet resources

Psychological testing: a user's guide:

The guide is about using psychological tests and principles of good use. Other British Psychological Society guides have focused on technical issues which are essential to the effective use of psychological tests but which only represent one aspect of good practice in testing. The opportunity has been taken with this guide to revise and broaden the scope of the guidelines and to consider other issues.


British Psychological Society

St Andrew's House, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester, LE1 7DR

Tel: 0116 254 9568
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Title Annotation:for employee selection
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Human Resources, Training and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Codes of ethics.
Next Article:Using a video or DVD in a training session.

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