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Educational Psychology & Counseling

What are psychological test, assessments, etc.?

What are psychological tests/scales/assessments/checklists? What do they do? Who uses them?

Mental health providers use both tests and assessments to help formulate diagnoses and to guide treatment for their clients. Validity refers to how accurate or reliable a test is.

Psychological tests are instruments used to measure an assortment of mental abilities and characteristics, such as personality, achievement, intelligence, and neurological functioning. They often take the form of questionnaires. They may be written, verbal, or pictorial tests (like the famous Rorschach test that uses inkblot images). The tests may also be referred to as: scales, surveys, screens, checklists, assessments, measures, inventories, etc.

Psychological assessment is a more comprehensive process that may utilize the results from psychological tests, but can also involve interviewing the client and/or family, reviewing the client's history, checking medical records, and consulting with the client's previous medical providers or therapists.

Some common psychological tests are:

  • Achievement/Aptitude tests: typically used in education, measure how much a person knows (has achieved) in a certain subject or subjects, or what one's ability (aptitude) to learn may be.
  • Intelligence tests: endeavor to measure one's IQ
  • Job/Occupational tests: endeavor to match one's interests with similar careers, or see how well one might fit with a certain career
  • Personality tests: endeavor to measure basic personality traits/characteristics
  • Neuropsychological tests: endeavor to measure cognitive functioning (e.g., how a particular problem with one's brain affects recall, concentration, etc.)
  • Specialized clinical tests: endeavor to assess areas of clinical interest, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.