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psychometric testing

 

Psychometric testing - your questions answered

This page describes some aspects of psychometric testing.  If you are being assessed for a job, or for personal development, this page might help you understand what the tests are all about.  If you are an employer and want to know a bit more about psychometric testing, then read on.

 

psychometric testing

 

 

WHAT DOES "PSYCHOMETRIC" MEAN?

The term "psychometric" refers to measuring psychological things. Below are the psychometric questionnaires and tests we use most often.

The personality questionnaires we use are self-report questionnaires where the candidate responds to a series of statements - with no right or wrong answers. The completed questionnaire gives insight into areas of personality.  For example, one questionnaire we use helps candidates describe themselves in terms of:

Some personality questionnaires can give an indication of how self-critical (or not) the respondent has been.

The personality questionnaire is likely to have many statements.  You might, for example, be asked to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each statement.  Below is a typical scale:

STRONGLY DISAGREE

DISAGREE

UNSURE

AGREE

STRONGLY AGREE

1

2

3

4

5

 

Below are invented examples of what some personality questionnaire statements might look like.

1

I like meeting people.

2

I see myself as a creative person.

3

Little things annoy me.

4

I check the credentials of people before I vote for them at elections.

5

I enjoy travelling.

 

 

 

"Verbal" means to do with words. A verbal reasoning test is usually a timed test that measures your ability to reason with words and understand the logic of passages and questions. The candidate usually reads a passage, answers questions on it then moves on to the next passage and so on.

It is customary to present the results in terms of how the candidate performed in relation to a database of scores provided by the test publisher.  This means that your score is compared with a comparison group (called a "norm group").

Let me explain.  Suppose you did a test and got 20 out of 100.  Maybe that doesn't sound so good.  But wait.  You were the only one who got 20 - everyone else got 5.  So your score was above average.  On its own, the "raw score" (your raw score was 20 in this case) doesn't tell you much until you compare with how others have done.

Here's another thing to consider.  Suppose I do a verbal reasoning test and get an above-average score.  Now suppose you do a different verbal reasoning test and get an average score.  Who got the stronger score?  (Watch now, I said stronger not higher!  Watch your verbal reasoning.)  It's impossible to say with the information I've given you.  If I did a test that was relatively easier, you might have demonstrated greater reasoning ability.

So it's important to use the appropriate test for the job in question and to make a meaningful interpretation of the score.

 

Click HERE to try some verbal reasoning examples provided by ef.

 

 

 

The numerical reasoning tests we use are also timed. Here the candidate makes sense of numerical information presented in tables, charts and diagrams.

As explained above, it is customary to present the results in terms of how the candidate performed in relation to a database of scores provided by the test publisher.

Click HERE to try some numerical reasoning examples provided by ef.

 

 

 

 

 

The managerial judgement test we use compares the candidate’s responses to "expert ratings" provided by the test publisher. This test is usually time-bounded to no greater than 50 minutes.

As explained earlier, scores are compared with a database of results provided by the test publisher.

 

 

This is similar to the personality questionnaire so, once again, there are no right or wrong answers. This questionnaire looks at what motivates and demotivates the person at work.

In the personality and motivation questionnaires, your scores are compared with an appropriate norm group (defined above).

 

 

psychometric testing

 

WHAT ELSE MIGHT I BE ASKED TO DO WHEN BEING ASSESSED?

In assessment centres, you might do a variety of things such as presentations, fact-finding, report-writing, role plays, work sample tests etc.  Here are two exercises we use:

Group exercises vary in their content and purpose. However, we most often use group discussion exercises where candidates are given case study material and asked to work through a problem or series of smaller problems presented as questions. This is not a role play - candidates are to behave as they normally would.

The group exercise is observed and scored by competent assessors who record, classify and evaluate the behaviours they observe in terms of specific managerial skills and competencies.

 

Here, you work on your own.  You are provided with several pieces of information (presented as an in-tray) which you work through.  The content can vary depending upon the job.

 

psychometric testing

 

ARE ALL PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME?

No.  There are thousands of psychometric tests.

We use tests from large test publishers.  There are some tests used by other organizations that we do not use because they have not got the required psychometric qualities (for example, they don't measure what they say they measure or they don't give repeatable results).

The tests we use are from publishers who spend a lot of time and resources to make sure their products are fit for purpose.  That's one reason why they want to train and approve people to use their psychometric tests.

If you are an employer, or a recruitment company, be careful what tests you use and what you think you're getting when you use them.

 

psychometric testing

 

HOW ACCURATE ARE PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS?

Well, it depends what you mean by accurate.  They are measuring instruments and all measuring instruments are open to error.  They are certainly not perfect.  However, neither are interviews, neither is the screening of application forms etc.

Well designed and constructed psychometric tests give fairly repeatable results.  If you were interviewed for a second time by the same people, would the results be pretty much the same?  Psychometric instruments are designed, constructed and administered to give repeatable and reliable results.

 

 

psychometric testing

 

WHY NOT STICK TO GOOD OLD-FASHIONED INTERVIEWING?

Because good old-fashioned interviewing isn't so hot.  Interviews that are structured and delivered by trained and skilful interviewers are very effective.  However, this doesn't happen often enough.

Psychometric tests are objective.  However, the skill and knowledge of the person who uses the tests are important too.

Of course, some people are naturally gifted interviewers who are adept at reading personality.  In such circumstances, the ability tests will still give you additional information and the other instruments might confirm your own findings.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

WHY DO A NUMERICAL TEST WHEN I HAVE QUALIFICATIONS IN THIS AREA?

The tests measure different things from what educational qualification tests measure.

The numerical test is NOT a "math's test" and the verbal reasoning test is not an "English test".  Besides, experience has shown that qualified accountants can have difficulty with numerical tests and people with English degrees can have difficulty with verbal reasoning tests.

People who have no qualifications can demonstrate their abilities on these tests.

The tests go through rigorous statistical analysis to make sure they have sound psychometric qualities.  They are measuring instruments - not certification or qualification examinations.

The tests have norm group information to make objective comparisons.

 

psychometric testing

 

SO WHAT OTHER BENEFITS DO PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS OFFER?

If you are the one making the selection decision, they don't make the decision for you and they don't take the decision away from you.  They inform your decision.

Well administered and interpreted, they provide useful information about how effective the candidate might typically act and perform in the job.

I tell people this:  "I would not want to make a selection decision based solely on psychometric tests, but I wouldn't want to make my decision without them."  They are not perfect but they are very useful.

The candidates get something out of it (we always give feedback to candidates so they can see what the test findings were).

Psychometric testing makes the selection process look more professional.

Psychometric testing adds objectivity to the process.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

SO HOW GOOD ARE THEY?

Well,  it does depend who uses them. Still, let's assume they are used by competent people and compare psychometric testing with other techniques that are used.

To do this, let's imagine we had a perfect tool for prediction.  No one has, but let's imagine there was one.  The table below gives you an idea of how effective psychometric tests are in comparison with this imaginary prediction tool and other methods.

 

Method of prediction

Marks out of 10

Perfect prediction tool (imaginary because it doesn't exist)

10

Assessment centres

 

4 to 6

Ability tests

 

5 to 6

Personality questionnaires

 

4

Structured interviews

 

3

Typical, good old-fashioned gut- feel interviews

1

Astrology and graphology

 

0

Of course, if you use decent methods in combination (eg structured interview, personality questionnaires and ability tests), you can have a fairly respectable selection process.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

ARE THEY FAIR?

Tests from respectable publishers are designed to be as fair as possible.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

DOESN'T IT DEPEND UPON HOW I'M FEELING ON THE DAY?

This is possible - same as with the interview.  If you are going through a tough time, it might show in the personality questionnaire.  If you are particularly tired, it might show on the ability tests.  Mostly we've got to work with the results that we have in front of us.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

CAN ANYONE USE PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS?

Not the tests we use.  Test publishers approve people to use the tests and exercises we use.  Sometimes the tests are leased by the publishers.

If you are looking to use psychometric testing, make sure the person who administers the test, the person who interprets the results and the person who writes the report are approved (Yes, it could easily be the one person who does all of these).  All of these roles are important.  For example, how the test is administered is very important and must be done by a competent, approved person. (Remember we spoke about the comparison group earlier?  Well, to make sure this comparing of scores is relevant and fair, the candidate test must be administered in pretty much the same way as it was for everyone in the comparison group!).

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

SHOULD I TRY TO MAKE MYSELF LOOK GOOD WHEN I ANSWER THE PERSONALITY OR MOTIVATION QUESTIONNAIRES?

Superman and Superwoman do not exist.  A competent practitioner will expect you to have imperfections - you are human.  Also, a competent practitioner and effective psychometric instrument will spot you a mile off if you are "over-selling" yourself.

Remember, some tests have mechanisms to detect response styles.

 

 

psychometric testing

 

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT ANSWERING PERSONALITY QUESTIONNAIRES?

Work steadily through the questionnaire.  Read the item carefully - but don't ponder - then give your first gut-feel response then move on.

Don't try to remember how you answered a similar question earlier, or flick back and see how you answered it.  Why?  Because the question may sound similar but could be subtly different.  Also, even if it is a similar question, you could be distorting your final score in a way that does not suit you by adopting this artificial approach.  Don't try to second-guess the questionnaire, just respond to each item in turn.

 

 

 

psychometric testing

 

If you would like to know more about how psychometric testing can support your selection decisions, please contact us.

Contact ef

 

psychometric testing

ONE FINAL NOTE:

DISCLAIMER

The author, and exciting futures limited, present this information in good faith.  No liability whatsoever, including negligence, will be accepted for the accuracy of this page or for the use to which you put the information.  It's a bit disappointing to have to include this sort of message but I understand it's for the best.

Click HERE to go to the page on Personnel selection where you can also find a menu of other consultancy services provided by ef.