What to know before you go: workplace psychometrics

Workplace psychometric tests allow us to assess individuals on areas such as ability, personality and motivation. All our tests, such as our newest, the Leadership Motivation Inventory (LEAMO), have been developed using a complex technical procedure to ensure that they really do measure what it is they claim to assess.

Workplace assessments are mainly used for role selection, personal development or career guidance. They help us to find out a little bit more about someone in a way that is reliable and accurate, and allow us to see differences between people – particularly when using ranking and profiling features, such as those offered by our HTS 5 system.

In general, psychometric tests fall into two main categories:

1. Measures of typical performance

These measures aim to assess how an individual is likely to behave or their typical style of behaving. These can include things such as our interests or our personality. There is no right or wrong answer, as these types of assessments measure what you think. An example of a typical performance question is:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 being ‘strongly agree’, to what extent do you agree with the following statement?

‘I like most people that I meet’

This type of measure is often referred to as a personality assessment or behavioural test.

2. Measures of maximum performance

Tests of particular abilities or aptitude are known as maximum performance tests. For these types of assessments there are usually right or wrong answers, and you should try to answer the questions correctly. An example of a maximum performance question is:

Question 1: All the houses in Winscombe were built this century or shortly before, but Ferrydale, 20 miles to the north east, has many lovely old houses. Milton is 15 miles north of Ferrydale, with buildings of much the same type. Westwood is a small village south east of Winscombe, with several eighteenth-century cottages.

Which is least likely to have an eighteenth century house?

A. Winscombe
B. Ferrydale
C. Milton
D. Westwood

Your scores from both typical and maximum performance measures are compared to lots of other people who have taken the test, which is called a norm or comparison group. This allows us to see how typical or similar you are to other people. For example, if you scored 30% on an ability test you might think that this is not very good, however if everyone else scores 20% then in actual fact your score is better than most others in your comparison group.

Only individuals trained to British Psychological Society (BPS) Test User Occupational: Ability or Test User Occupational: Personality standards have access to occupational psychometric tests in the UK. When you are asked to take a psychometric test, you can check the name of the person responsible for the testing (known as the ‘test user’), and ask what their qualifications are by contacting the Psychological Testing Centre (PTC). All qualified individuals are held on a record that you can access through the PTC. You can also do some research on the test itself, and check whether it is sold by a reliable provider. Essentially though, the onus is on the person who has asked you to complete the test to act in a responsible, fair and ethical way when using psychometrics. Organisations and individuals using psychometric tests must follow guidelines for data protection (Data Protection Act 1994), and also those set out by the BPS.

When you are asked to take a psychometric test you should be given the following information:

  • Why the test is being used
  • How the results will be used
  • How the tests will be scored and by whom
  • What feedback you will receive on your test scores
  • Who will have access to the results and how long they will be stored for.

When used appropriately and by suitable qualified individuals, psychometric tests can provide valuable insight to increase self-awareness. It is understandable to feel anxious, worried or even nervous about taking a test. The person who has asked you to complete the test should be able to provide you with reassurance and advice, and use the checklist above to make sure that you get the right information.

Further information and guidance can be found on the Psychological Testing Centre website www.psychtesting.org.uk or by contacting us at consulting@hogrefe.co.uk.

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