What is a 'psychometric test'?
A psychometric test is a series of written or practical tests which assess a clearly defined sample of human behavior.
A test which is psychometrically sound has five key characteristics. It is:
• Objective - the results obtained from it are not influenced by the administrator's personal preferences. The color of a test-taker's socks or the strength of their handshake should not influence the score the administrator assigns to them.
• Standardized - it is administered and scored according to standard procedures; people's scores on the test are compared to known standards.
• Reliable - it measures in a consistent way. The potential error is small and is quantifiable.
• Valid - it measures the characteristics which it sets out to measure. A test used for job selection should predict job performance. A test of verbal ability should predict this area and not some other skill.
• Discriminating - the test should be discriminating, showing clear differences between individuals on the behavior being tested. It should not be discriminatory - unfairly discriminating against minority groups on the basis of irrelevant characteristics.
There are many different types of psychometric tests, including measures of skill, ability, intelligence, personality, motivation and interests.
The advantages and disadvantages of psychometric tests?
Like most assessment tools, psychometric tests have both advantages and disadvantages in use.
*Standardized and objective; everyone is treated equally and therefore fairly
*Candidates who have good "interview technique" are not unduly advantaged
*Usually quick and easy to score
*Typically much more reliable, consistent and free from error than other assessment methods
*Statistical research suggests that many aspects of job performance can be predicted from test results. Indeed, tests seem to be much more effective in this regard than most other selection methods
*Per usage costs are low, sometimes as little as £5 per person. Because most tests can be administered in groups of up to 15, there are considerable savings of time and hence expense
*In general, tests measure the attributes they are designed to measure very effectively
*Internal candidates for jobs can sometimes feel disgruntled because they are being treated in the same way as external candidates
*Some candidates may be nervous about testing and will need to be put at their ease
*Some tests are more complex to score; training is required for administration and interpretation
*The initial set-up can be costly, including the initial purchase of re-usable materials and training of test administrators and interpreters
*There may be an initial resistance to using tests, often based on misconceptions, which needs to be overcome before they can be successfully introduced into an organization
*Tests may not be able to measure the 'whole candidate' and will typically be used in conjunction with other information
Psychometric tests can play a very useful role in both the assessment and the development of individuals. They can give objective evidence of the human attributes they measure, and have been shown to be one of the best predictors of job performance when used in selection. In practice, they will generally be used in conjunction with other methods such as interviews in order to give the 'whole picture'.