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Psychological well being is a key determinant of good health. In order to determine the mental status of patients, clinical psychologists administer various tests to the patients. This short paper explores the nature of psychological tests by identifying the major categories of tests and their uses. It also looks at the concepts of reliability and validity and how they compare and contrast to each other. At the end is a conclusion which restates the purpose of the paper and the major arguments. The paper is based on two peer reviewed references and formatted as per the American Psychological Association (APA) reference style.
Definition of a Test
A test refers to a form of assessment of a person or something. Tests are used for various purposes such as selection of students for certain courses or the recruitment of employees. Tests may be done in writing, oral interviews or in form of physical exercises. Psychological tests are usually done with the aim of understanding a certain behavior. The tests scores may be reliable or unreliable. The unreliability may be caused by several factors such as individual’s health, emotional strain, memory fluctuation, sex, race, freedom from distraction, fatigue, clarity of instructions in the test, the nature of the test, the examiner’s personality and accuracy of the answers given. It is therefore important to combine test scores with other forms of assessment before coming up with a conclusion about the individual psychological status.
Major Categories of Tests
There are four major categories of tests. They include clinical, Intelligent Quotient (IQ), behavioral and personality assessment tests. Clinical tests are done in a clinical setting and they usually involve clinical psychologists and clients. The tests are mostly designed to enable the clinical psychologists to understand the clients and build rapport with them. They are mostly done in an oral manner where the clinical psychologists ask questions to clients to understand their history and the circumstances surrounding their predicament. The results of the clinical tests are primarily used by the clinical psychologists for the treatment of the patients. In other cases, the results of the tests are forwarded to courts of law or to borstal institutions to aid in investigations in civil and criminal suits.
IQ tests are used to estimate the natural intelligence of a person. They are administered in form of written questions which may have or may not have multiple choices. They may test arithmetic, reading or coordination skills and are used by employers in the recruitment or promotion of their employees. Personality tests are aimed at understanding the type of personality of individuals. Individuals may be required to take more than one test before the psychologists know their personalty. The tests are used by employees to understand their employees better. They are also used in the treatment of some psychological disorders such as depression. Behavioral tests are done to understand the behavior of individuals or to know what makes individuals to behave they way they do. The tests are used by behavior change experts to modify bad behavior through reinforcement, coaching, mentoring and counseling (Kline, 2013).
Validity and Reliability in Psychological Testing
Validity and reliability are important concepts in the field of psychological testing. The two concepts are used to evaluate tests to ensure that they are both valid and reliable. Validity refers to the extent to which a test measures what it is supposed to measure or what it claims to measure. For a test to be valid therefore, it must measure what it is supposed to measure and nothing else (Baumgarten, 2013). If for example a test is supposed to measure IQ, it should not be used to measure personality of an individual. Reliability on the other hand refers to the extent to which a test produces consistent results after measurement (Baumgarten, 2013). If for example a test is designed to measure the IQ of an individual, it must give the same results for the same individual irrespective of the number of times the tests is administered. What this means is that if my IQ is 50, a reliable test must indicate 50 even if I do it for 5 times. A test may be valid without being reliable (Baumgarten, 2013). Similarly, a test may be reliable but be invalid. If for example a test is designed to measure IQ but it is used to measure personality and produces consistent results for the personality of an individual, then the test is reliable but not valid. For a test to be good therefore, it must be valid and reliable. It is therefore important to test both validity and reliability independently to confirm their presence in a test before drawing conclusions (Baumgarten, 2013).
The paper has focused on psychological tests. It has been argued that psychological tests are administered for different reasons with varying degree of complexity, timing and aspects of measurement. The four major categories of psychological tests include clinical, personality, IQ and behavioral tests. Each category is administered at different circumstances and the results are used for various interventions such as treatment, counseling, behavior change and in recruitment of employment. Validity and reliability are important concepts in psychological testing because they ensure that tests are both reliable and valid. However, there is need to measure validity and reliability independently because the presence of validity in a test does not necessarily mean that the test is reliable.
Baumgarten, M. (2013). Paradigm wars – validity and reliability in qualitative research. London: Grin Verlag.
Kline, P. (2013). Handbook of psychological testing. New York, NY: Routledge.