Types of Tests
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Ask different psychometricians to categorize types of tests, and they may give different answers, because tests can be categorized along many dimensions.
Performance, Observational, and Self-Report Tests
Psychological tests can be sorted into the three categories of performance tests, observational tests, and self-report tests. For a performance test, the test taker knows what he or she should do in response to questions or tasks on the test, and it is assumed that the test taker will do the best he or she can to succeed. Performance tests include the SATs, AP tests, Wechsler intelligence tests, Stanford—Binet intelligence tests, and most classroom tests, including finals, as well as computer tests and road tests for a driver’s license. Observational tests differ from performance tests in that the person being tested does not have a single, well-defined task to perform but rather is assessed on typical behavior or performance in a specific context. Employment interviews and formal on-the-job observations for evaluation by supervisors are examples of observational tests. Self-report tests require the test taker to describe his or her feelings, attitudes, beliefs, values, opinions, physical state, or mental state on surveys, questionnaires, or polls. The MMPI-2 (described in Chapter 14) exemplifies the self-report test.
Performance tests in which there is a correct answer for each item can be divided into two types: speed tests and power tests. Speed tests generally include a large number of relatively easy items administered with strict time limits under which most test takers find it impossible to answer all questions. Given more time, many test takers would probably score higher, so differences in scores among test takers are at least partly a function of the speed with which they respond. This differs from power tests, which allot enough time for test takers to complete the items of varying difficulty on the test, so that differences in scores among test takers are a function of the test taker’s knowledge and possibly good guessing.
Ability, Interest, and Personality Tests
Another way tests can be categorized is into ability, interest, and personality tests, which are relevant to decision making. General mental ability is particularly important in scholastic performance and in performing cognitively demanding tasks. Interests influence a person’s reactions to and satisfaction with his or her situation. Personality involves consistency in behavior over a wide range of situations. (For personality tests, see Chapter 14.) Ability tests include aptitude tests designed to predict a person’s future performance or to assess the person’s capacity to learn, and achievement tests are designed to assess what a person has already learned. For example, the SAT is designed to measure potential to do well in college, whereas the AP Psychology test is designed to measure your mastery of the material in this course of study. Interest tests use a person’s descriptions of his or her own interests to predict vocational adjustment and satisfaction. For example, the current version of the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, which is the most widely used vocational interest test, is based on the assumptions that responses that are similar to a particular occupational group and different from people in general provide key information about occupational interests, and that interests can be measured.