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June 01, 2018 Friday 12:15:47 PM IST


Cover Story

Psychometric tests deal with measurement of psychological characteristics in people. The measurement presents results in a manner that can be used to compare a person’s performance in relation to others. Psychological characteristics can be many. Therefore, a psychometric test is designed to produce objective quantitative assessment of one or more psychological attributes of the person being tested.


X`Psychometric tests have been in use for over 200 years. In the earlier days, the focus was on using it in the educational and mental health sectors. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests were the most commonly used tool in the early phase of psychometric testing. IQ tests are also called Cognitive Ability tests or Reasoning tests or Aptitude tests.


From the days of the industrial revolution to the World War, psychometric testing found new applications in the selection or hiring process. While the military forces used it extensively, corporates, too, started using these tests to hire the most suitable candidates, either for employment or promotion. Over the years, two major categories of tests emerged:


Today, psychometric tests are extensively used in the corporate world. They provide the potential employer with  a fair insight into how well a person will function interpersonally while working with other people; how well a person will deal with problem solving at work; how well a person copes emotionally in stressful situations; and, what factors motivate or demotivate a person at work.


Psychometric tests are also extensively used in the mental health sector. There is a range of tools available in clinical psychology to assess a child’s psychological development and provide requisite remedial training.




Use of psychometric tests in the educational field is vast, with so many types of tests available across the globe today. With the internet, psychometric testing has become a lot simpler. Today a counsellor need not be a psychology graduate to interpret and use psychometric tests. Only, the publishers insist that they need to be formally trained in using them to ensure the standardised approach. The three important elements of psychometric tests are: Interest Profiling, Personality Profiling, and Ability/Aptitude tests. When all the three elements are used in career counselling, it is considered to be a balanced and wholesome approach.




One of the primary psychometric tests used in vocational guidance or career counselling is the Interest Profile. Most interest profiling tests use the RIASEC (Holland Codes or the Holland Occupational Themes) model of personality testing. Dr. John Lewis Holland propounded the theory that vocational choice is an expression of personality. The Strong Interest Inventory test, developed by Edward Kellog Strong, also follows the RIASEC vocational interest framework.




Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the popular personality assessments used in career counselling. MBTI, based on Carl Jung’s Type or Preference Theory, sorts psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or “dichotomies”, with a resulting 16 possible psychological types. Based on the 4-letter Type Code, analysts make a general prediction of success in careers and identify strengths and development needs. A number of test publishers use this approach.


The Big Five Personality Factors is another tool popularly used in career counselling. It is based on the trait-based assessment popularised by Costa and McCrae in 1985. The Trait Theory propounds that personal variable along with situational variables account for human behaviours. Since traits are more stable compared to preferences, the deep-rooted factors tend to predict behaviours with a higher level of accuracy and provide insights into potential strengths and development areas that can be correlated with career choices arrived at from the Interest Profiles.


Aptitude/Ability Tests are used expensively in career counselling. The most popular aptitude tests include Verbal, Numerical, and Abstract Reasoning Tests. These tests are administered under close supervision and within specified time limits. They will have right and wrong answers. They tend to have much higher accuracy levels and can predict both academic performance as well as work-related performance.




Because of their importance in making serious career decisions, it is vital that these tests produce accurate results based on standardised methods and statistical principles. A good psychometric test must be:


a) Objective: The score should not be affected by the testers’ beliefs or values.


b) Standardised: It must be administered, scored, and interpreted under controlled conditions.


c) Reliable: It must minimise errors and show consistency in measurement  


d) Valid: It must make an accurate prediction of performance or success criteria.


e) Non-Discriminatory: It must not disadvantage any group on the basis of gender, culture, ethnicity, or any other criteria.


f) Test Construction: It must be constructed according to Psychometric Principles. That is:


a) A theoretical rationale must exist;


b) Writing of experimental items must be done for development;


c) Piloting of experimental items is a must;


d) Analysis of measurement properties must be done based on statistical procedures; and,


e) Technical documents must be provided to prove the rigour in research and development.



Best practices across the world stipulate that psychometric test results be not handed over to the test taker without formal feedback and counselling by a trained practitioner. This is because the terminology and measurement scales are different with different publishers. Since there is no test that provides 100 percent accurate results, it is important to assist the test taker to deal with inconsistencies in the test results as opposed to his or her own self-concept. Without professional handling, such variations can lead to undesirable outcomes.

Joseph Paulson

A psychotherapist and delegated assessor conducting certification  programmes leading to British Psychological Society qualifications, the writer is a retired Indian Air Force Wing Commander. He is currently Director Innominds Academy

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