Psychometric Testing

by Claire Walsh and David Hoad

Advice for test users

Don’t be tempted to cut corners and use illegal copies of tests and materials; stick within the contractual and licence agreements, and avoid your organisation being taken to court.

Note

If you are a charity or other not-for-profit organisation, contact the test publishers – they’ll often have concessionary rates, or at least be open to negotiation.

There are so many psychological tests on offer that it can be hard for the test user to know where to start looking. The most important starting point in choosing a test is to know what needs to be measured and why. Once this is clarified, you can consider whether or not a psychometric test is the best way of measuring it. If it is, then it is useful to compare a number of test providers to see which tests best suit your needs. The British Psychological Society has a list of accredited test providers with test reviews on their website www.psychtesting.org.uk.

Good psychometric tests are based on established psychological theory, rigorous development and extensive research. Test providers should always be able to provide you with the relevant information: the test’s intended use; its validity and reliability; how it is administered, and what norms and reference groups it uses. (Note: this last piece of information is particularly important, as you do not want to assess your senior management team against a group of young school leavers!) They will also be able to provide you with information on whether or not it is available in different languages.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) broadly supports the use of psychological testing and believes that, used appropriately, testing can enhance decision-making, thus enabling managers to develop more informed and accurate perceptions about the ability and potential of individuals.

CIPD Factsheet on Psychological Testing (2007)

In the UK, most test providers will only sell their tests to accredited users to ensure their tests are administered and fed back in a competent way, and will usually provide formal training in the use of their products, leading to a test-specific accreditation. The British Psychological Society (BPS) also accredits people, at two distinct levels of competence:

  • Level A is the ‘Certificate of Competence in Occupational Testing’ and covers basic theory, test administration, and the use of ability and some other more straightforward tests
  • Level B is the ‘Certificate of Competence in Personality Assessment’ and, as the name suggests, covers the more complex and advanced area of personality profiles.

If you anticipate the need to use psychometric tests and profiles fairly frequently – in a bulk recruitment exercise, for example – it may be useful to have a suitable member of staff (often someone involved in recruitment or development) trained and accredited for a particular product and/or to the appropriate BPS level. If that is not practical for your organisation, or if your testing needs are more complex, then consider hiring the services of an accredited and experienced practitioner, who may be a suitably qualified HR consultant or a chartered occupational psychologist, either freelance or working with one of the specialist consultancies.

Note

Always check that the person you are thinking of using is a genuinely accredited user of the tests you and they propose to use, otherwise you may both be legally liable for copyright infringement.

You will be able to locate such practitioners via word-of-mouth recommendations from your own HR and industry networks, or through Yellow Pages, the HR specialist journals, or local business support bodies (such as Business Links or Chambers of Commerce).

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recommends that organisations using psychometric testing should establish a clear company policy, stating the criteria for using psychometric testing, the process for selecting tests, how tests are administered, how test information will be stored and who will have access to the results. Having such a policy in place will help to ensure your organisation sticks to best practice and complies with legal guidelines regarding discrimination and data protection.