Psychometric testing

What is Psychometric Testing?

Psychometric testing falls into three main types:

  • Ability testing
  • Aptitude testing
  • Personality testing

You might also be interested in a brief History of Test Development or what to look for in a well-designed test

Ability testing

Ability tests measure a person’s potential, for instance to learn the skills needed for a new job or to cope with the demands of a training course. Ability tests are not the same thing as Tests of Attainment.

Tests of attainment assess specifically what people have learnt e.g. mathematical ability or typing skills. Of course, what people have learned does depend on their ability in that domain in the first place so the scores on the two types of test are conceptually linked.

The major difference between tests of ability and tests of attainment is in the way the scores from both types of test are used. Many ability test items look identical to those on attainment tests but attainment tests are different in one crucial respect - they are retrospective: they focus on what has been learnt and on what a person knows and can do now. Ability tests are prospective: they focus on what the person is capable of achieving in the future or their potential to learn. Bear in mind that some attainment is required before certain abilities can be measured, for instance, we need a certain knowledge of mathematics before our numerical ability can be measured. In addition, a test of attainment cannot be used to directly infer ability. School examinations are one example of measures of achievement or attainment, and while we might draw some conclusions about an individual’s ability on the basis of GCSE results we would not use them as a direct measure of ability since a less able student may work harder than a more able student to produce a better score.

General ability is usually divided up into specific abilities, reflecting the hierarchical structure of intelligence that is generally accepted by most workers in the field. Thus, a general ability test might be composed of specific numerical, verbal and spatial ability scales brought together as a test battery. They can then be scored and interpreted individually as a specific ability or aptitude measure, or together as part of a general ability measure.