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What is a psychological test?

Psychological tests are used in all walks of life to assess ability, personality and behaviour. A test can be used as part of the selection process for job interviews, to assess children in schools, to assess people with mental health issues or offenders in prisons. Tests are also used in the National Health Service.

There are two types of psychological test - tests of ability, aptitude or attainment, which are known as measures of maximum performance, and tests designed to assess personal qualities, such as personality, beliefs, social competence, values, developmental milestones and interests and to measure motivation or drive. These are known as measures of typical performance.

Psychological testing may be carried out by suitably qualified professionals in a range of contexts. More information on the educational, health and occupational contexts is given below.

Educational testing can be useful in matters concerning children’s learning, well-being and development. It is also relevant to adult learning. Educational testing is often used in determining a child’s special educational needs. This form of testing can be undertaken by the following:

  • Teachers and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators who are trained to assess some learning difficulties - please check with your local school/college or Local Authority;
  • Qualified testers who hold the BPS Test User: Educational, Ability & Attainment qualification (CCET), who have demonstrated their competence in using tests of ability in educational settings;
  • Chartered Educational and Child Psychologists with expertise in assessment can undertake a broader range of assessments with children of all ages and adult learners.

Testing and assessment in this area is used for a wide range of circumstances. This includes adult, child and family mental health services, services for people with learning disabilities, neurological assessment following illness or injury, physical and sensory impairments, counselling, and services for people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. It can also help promote self-awareness of individuals.

This form of testing can be undertaken by Chartered Psychologists who are trained in Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology or Clinical Neuropsychology.

Testing and assessment is used by employers in recruitment, selection, promotion and development of staff, and to facilitate better working practices. Testing in this area can also be used by individuals for career counselling and self-development purposes.

This form of testing can be undertaken by the following:

  • Chartered Psychologists specialising in occupational psychology;
  • Human Resources Officers (Personnel) who hold the BPS qualifications in test use and a current entry on the Register of Qualifications in Test Use (RQTU);
  • Careers guidance advisers, outplacement counsellors and coaches who hold the BPS qualifications in test use and a current entry on the Register of Qualifications in Test Use (RQTU);
  • BPS qualified occupational test users offering independent services.