Basic Psychological Testing Vocabulary (170 Terms)

Achievement Tests

tests designed to measure acquired knowledge or skill in a particular area or domain

Actuarial Approach

approach to interest measurement that compares your scores to the scores of members of specific groups

Adaptive Behavior Inventories

inventories that assess the ability to function in day-to-day life situations

Administrative Indexes

used in conjunction with measures such as the Strong Interest Inventory that provide information about the type and pattern of responses (e.g., how many "like" versus "dislike" responses are made)

Admission Tests

tests used by colleges and universities to assist in determining which applicants to admit or to reject

Age Norm

method of describing scores in terms of the average or typical age of the respondents achieving a specific test score

Alternate Forms Method

method of estimating reliability that involves administering two parallel forms of a test

Area Transformation

method of transformation based on areas under the normal curve that can change some important characteristics of scores

Assessment Center

assessment method that uses multiple methods and multiple assessors to evaluate examinees on several work-related dimensions


grouping together individuals whose test scores are too similar to permit reliable differentiations

Bandwidth-Fidelity Dilemma

trade-off between breadth and precision in measurement

Barnum Effect

tendency to accept as accurate feedback that is vague but positive

Basal Level

lowest age level at which the examinee can consistently answer Stanford-Binet items correctly

Base Rate

proportion of the population who meet a specific criterion (e.g., proportion of an applicant pool who would succeed on the job)

Behavior-Based Rating Scale

scale that includes specific behavioral examples of the dimension to be rated and/or the levels of performance on that dimension


tendency of a test to make systematic errors in measurement or prediction for particular groups

Bias in Prediction

group differences in intercepts, slopes, or standard errors when tests are used to predict specific criteria

Big Five

personality taxonomy that uses five factors (extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) to describe normal personality


data about an individual's background, life accomplishments, or present status that can be used to predict future performance

Brunswick's Lens Model

model widely used in research on judgment that examines links between the information available to the judge (clinical) and his or her judgment


computerized version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery

Ceiling Level

highest level at which the examinee can answer at least some Stanford-Binet items correctly

Clinical Assessment

integration of information from multiple procedures by a clinician to arrive at assessment or diagnosis of an individual

Clinical Interview

relatively unstructured interview used to obtain case histories or to start the process of clinical assessment

Clinical Scales

scales on the MMPI that identify individuals whose responses are most similar to individuals in specific diagnostic groups


using courses, workbooks, or other methods to improve performance on admissions tests

Composite Score

score obtained by combining scores from multiple tests or measures

Computer-Based Test Interpretation (CBTI)

automated system for interpreting the meaning of test scores

Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)

testing method in which the selection of items is done via computer to provide the most efficient and appropriate test to each subject

Computerized Performance Monitoring

computerized monitoring systems that continuously track rates of output or production in specific jobs or tasks

Computerized Test Administration

using a computer rather than paper and pencil to administer a test

Concurrent Validation Strategy

strategy that uses scores of a screened sample (e.g., people who received relatively high scores on a test) to evaluate the relationship between a test and a criterion

Configural Interpretation

use of patterns of configurations of test scores to arrive at predictions or diagnoses


abstraction that summarizes some regularity in nature (psychological constructs describe some regularity in behavior or experience)

Construct Explication

process of describing what a construct means and what it is related to

Construct-Oriented Validation Strategy

method of determining what a test measures by examining the correlates of test scores (e.g., are scores on this test correlated with good measures of some conceptually similar construct)

Content-Oriented Validation Strategy

method of determining what a test measures by examining test content

Correction for Attenuation

estimate of the correlation you would expect between two imperfect measures if the effects of measurement error could be removed

Correlation Coefficient

statistical measure of the association between two sets of scores


measure that can be used to evaluate the accuracy of a decision

Criterion-Referenced Test

test in which you re scored in relation to a specific standard or criterion, rather than having your performance compared to the performance of other examinees

Criterion-Related Validation Strategy

strategy for assessing the validity of decisions by examining the correlation between scores on a test and sores on a criterion measure

Crystallized Intelligence

acquired store of factual knowledge; sometimes contrasted with fluid intelligence, or the ability to reason and actively process information

Cultural Bias Hypothesis

hypothesis that the content of ability tests unfairly favors some groups over others

Culture-Reduced Testing

strategy for ability testing that minimizes the use of verbal or culturally specific items

Cyril Burt

prominent researcher in the areas of intelligence and heritability who was accused of faking crucial data

Difference Score

score obtained by subtracting one test score from another

Differential Validity Hypothesis

hypothesis that tests might show different levels of criterion-related validity across groups


defined either in terms of the proportion of examinees who answer an item correctly (classical item analysis) or in terms of the level of ability needed to answer the item correctly (item response theory)


response set in which an examinee attempts to distort responses in a particular direction (e.g., faking psychopathology in an effort to avoid responsibility for one's actions)

Distractor Analysis

analysis of the pattern of responses to incorrect options of multiple-choice tests

Drawing Tests

personality tests that use drawings of human figures or other stimuli to make inferences about personality


diagnostic classification system currently used by psychologists and psychiatrists for classifying mental disorders

EEOC - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

a federal agency responsible for enforcing the provision of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 related to employment

Efficiency versus Equity

trade-off often encountered in testing between doing what is most beneficial for the institution versus doing what is most beneficial for some or all examinees

Empirical Scales

scales developed to take advantage of empirical regularities in test scores, without necessarily defining any particular construct or concept that one is trying to measure

Empirically Derived Test

test in which items are selected or scored on the basis of their ability to distinguish between specific groups


emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand one's own behavior and the behavior of others, and to maintain control over one's own behavior


process of ensuring that identical scores on different versions of a test have the same meaning


difference between obtained score and true score

Ethical Principles of Psychologists

set of principles that governs professional activities of psychologists

Expectancy table

table showing the expected score on some criterion variable, given your score on a test

Face Validity

extent to which a test appears to provide a reasonable and acceptable measure

Factor Analysis

statistical technique used to analyze patterns of correlation among different measures


value judgment that the outcomes of testing match some desired criterion of end state

False Positive

condition in which a positive decision about an individual turns out to be an incorrect decision

Flynn Effect

steady, long-term increase in levels of intelligence that has been observed in several countries

Forensic Assessment

use of psychological tests and clinical assessment in legal proceedings (e.g., evaluation claims of insanity)

General Mental Ability (g)

general cognitive ability that appears to underlie performance on a wide array of tests and cognitively demanding tasks

Generalizability Theory

theory of measurement that attempts to determine the sources of consistency and inconsistency in test scores

Global Assessment of Functioning

assessment of overall ability to function in day-to-day life that is used as part of the diagnostic process with DSM-IV

Graphic Rating Scale

scale that includes only simple descriptions of the dimension to be rated and the levels of performance on that dimension


use of handwriting analysis to draw inference about an examinee's personality or behavior; this method has not been shown to be valid

Group Test

test administered to several examinees at the same time, often requiring written responses or responses to multiple-choice items

Group x Item Interaction

group differences in the relative difficulty of test items

Halo Error

tendency to base ratings of specific dimensions on one's overall evaluation of the person being rated


extent to which an individual difference variable (e.g., cognitive ability) can be explained in terms of genetic factors

Holtzman Scoring Technique

standardized scoring method for the Rorschach Inkblot Test

Horizontal Percentage Method

method of empirically scoring biodata by comparing responses of various groups

Hutt Adaptation

adaptation of Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test that treats is as a projective test

Hypothesis Confirmation Bias

tendency to search for and pay attention to information that confirms one's initial impressions

Identification of Exceptionality

using tests to identify individuals who would be most likely to benefit from special placement (either for gifted students or for students with special developmental needs)

Incomplete Sentence Tests

tests that ask examinees to complete partial sentences

Inconsistency Scales

scales embedded in diagnostic instruments that assess consistency in responding to the same question or to equivalent questions

Individual Test

test administered on a one-on-one basis by a trained examiner

Informed Consent

the principle that individuals participating in psychological research or assessment should be informed beforehand about the nature of the task and the potential risks and threats inherent in the activity

Institutional Decision

decision in which an institution (e.g., school) must make a choice about how to treat an individual (e.g., to offer or refuse admission to graduate school)

Integrity Test

paper-and-pencil test used to draw inferences about an individual's honesty, dependability, or likelihood of engaging in dishonest or destructive behavior


response of liking to an object or activity

Internal Consistency Method

method of estimating reliability that involves assessing consistency in performance across test items

Interval Scale

measurement scale in which the size of the differences between objects is reflected in terms of the size of the differences in the numbers assigned

Ipsative Test Format

type of test in which score comparisons are made within rather than between individuals (e.g., determining whether one's level of verbal ability exceeds one's level of mathematical ability, rather than comparing your verbal ability to others' ability levels)


intelligence quotient, a numerical measure of the overall level of cognitive ability

Item Analysis

set of procedures for analyzing responses to test items and the relationships between item characteristics and test characteristics

Item Characteristic Curve (ICC)

mathematical function describing the relationship between the construct measured by a test and responses to a specific test item

Item Discrimination

extent to which responses to an item discriminate those who receive high versus low scores on a test

Item Response Theory

modern theory of psychometrics, in which the mathematical relationship summarized by an item characteristic curve is used to analyze test items and tests

Item-Total Correlation

correlation between scores on an item and scores on the test from which this item is taken


measure of the agreement between decisions obtained in two separate tests; used in assessing the reliability of criterion-referenced tests

Leniency Error

tendency to assign ratings that are unrealistically high

Lie Scale

administrative scale on the MMPI made up of items that are socially desirable but very unlikely to be true

Linear Regression

method for predicting scores on one measure on the basis of scores on some other measure

Linear Transformation

method of transforming test scores to produce a simpler or more useful scale of measurement without changing the essential characteristics of the scores

Mastery Testing

criterion-referenced testing strategy in which examinees are asked to demonstrate mastery of a specific skill or body of knowledge


process of assigning numbers to objects in such a way that specific properties of the objects are faithfully represented by specific properties of the numbers

Mental Measurements Yearbook

series of reference volumes containing reviews of mental tests


method for combining the results from multiple studies

Multiple-Aptitude Batteries

groups of tests administered together and designed to measure several distinct abilities

Multitrait-Multimethod Matrix

network of correlations that is obtained if several attributes are each measured using multiple methods

National Assessment of Educational Progress

systematic, nationwide effort to assess the knowledge, skills, and performance of American schoolchildren

Neuropsychological Assessment

use of psychological tests and performance on motor and cognitive tasks to diagnose neurological disorders

Nominal Scale

measurement scale in which rank order and interval properties are found an in which there is a true and meaningful zero point


detailed record of test performance in a norm group, used to assess relative performance levels

Objective Measures

measures that imply clear items and/or standardized scoring systems

Objective Measures

measures that require minimal levels of judgment to obtain (e.g., production counts)

Occupational Scales

scales scored in terms of the similarity of the examinee's responses to those of members of specific occupational groups

Occupational Themes

broad patterns of occupational interests identified in J. L. Holland (1973); examples include realistic, investigative, and enterprising themes

OSS Assessment Program

method of assessment developed for Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the current CIA) that served as the model of assessment centers currently used in work settings

p value

proportion of examinees who answer an item correctly

Percentile Rank

type of norm that describes a score in terms of the percentage of a norm group who achieves that score or a lower one

Performance IQ

norm-based summary score for the Performance scale of the Wechsler series of tests

Point Scale

ability test evaluated in terms of how many items are answered correctly, rather than in terms of age grouping of items

Portfolio Assessment

evaluation of student performance on the basis of a sample of completed tests

Power Test

test in which speed of response has little or no effect on the final score obtained

Predictive Validation Strategy

strategy that uses scores of a representative or unscreened sample to evaluate the relationship between a test and a criterion

Project Head Start

series of government initiatives to provide disadvantaged children with better preparation to succeed in school

Projective Measures

measures of personality that involve analyzing responses to an abstract or unstructured stimulus

Psychological Test

measurement instrument that consists of a sample of behavior obtained under standardized conditions and evaluated against established scoring rules

Random Responding

response set in which there is no apparent relationship between the content of items and examinees' responses

Range Restriction Effects

effects of limiting the range of scores on the test or criterion (e.g., by removing people who fail a test from a validity study) on the correlation between tests and criteria; range restriction reduces this correlation

Ranking Methods

methods that involve comparing individuals to one another

Rating Methods

methods that involve comparing individuals to some standard (e.g., average or good performance)

Rational Scales

scales developed to measure a specific construct that is defined before developing the test

Rational-Empirical Scales

scales developed using a combination of these two methods


the consistency of test scores

Reliability Coefficient

squared correlation between true and observed scores, or the proportion of the variability in observed scores thought to be due to differences in true scores

Response Sets

ways of responding to scales or items that reflect particular and identifiable sources of unwanted error variance

Response Style

general tendency to agree or disagree with statements, independent of the content of those statements

Scatter Analysis

use of differences in performance on various sections of intelligence tests to help diagnose learning disorders and neurological disorders

Scholastic Tests

tests used in academic admissions and assessment, which often include sections measuring general cognitive ability

Selection Ratio

ratio between the number of applicants for some position or decision and the number of positions available


type of test in which subject describes his or her feelings, attitudes, beliefs or subjective state

Social Desirability

tendency to respond to items in a fashion that seems most socially acceptable

Spearman-Bowman Formula

formula for estimating reliability if test is shortened or lengthened

Speed Test

test score in which speed of response is the only factor that influences the final score

Split-Half Method

method of estimating reliability that involves comparing performance on half of the test with performance on the other half


individuals or groups who have valid concerns about the development and use of psychological tests

Standard Age Score

score on Stanford-Binet that compares examinee's performance to the performance of others of the same age in the norm group; similar to IQ

Standard Error of Measurement

measure of the variability in scores that you expect to find s a result of measurement error

Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing

standards adopted by several professional societies that define how tests should be developed, evaluated, and used


a simple are transformation that places scores on a 9-point scale (standard nines)

Statistical Prediction

use of a mathematical formula, rather than clinical judgment, to combine information from multiple tests and assessments

Structured Interview

interview format in which questions and perhaps scoring criteria for responses are defined in advance of the interview

Tailored or Adaptive Testing

method of testing in which test items are selected that are most appropriate and informative for the individual being assessed

Test-Retest Method

method of estimating reliability that involves two administrations of the same test

The Bell Curve

widely discussed book that examines the role of cognitive ability in determining success in several areas and that makes controversial recommendations about the public policy implications of individual and group differences in ability


consistent pattern of behavior in a particular area or domain (e.g., honesty)

True Positive

condition in which a positive decision about an individual (e.g., decision to admit a person to graduate school) turns out to be the correct decision

True Score

expected value of a test score, or the average you would expect over many measurements

Two-Point Code

method of interpreting MMPI scores that focuses on the two highest clinical scores in a profile

Utility Theory

theory for combining information about criterion-related validity to estimate the gains or losses associated with using a test


the degree to which inferences made on the basis of test scores are correct

Validity for Decisions

extent to which test scores contribute to making correct predictions or decisions about individuals

Validity Generalization

application of meta-analysis to determine whether validity coefficients are similar across tests, jobs, and settings

Validity of Measurement

extent to which tests measure what they seem to measure

Validity Scales

administrative scales that can be used to assess the consistency or appropriateness of scores on specific clinical or personality scales


measure of the extent to which test scores differ or vary

Verbal IQ

norm-based summary score for the Verbal scale of the Wechsler series of tests

Verification Scale

used to assess consistency in responding to essentially identical items (e.g., the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey includes such a scale)

Work-Sample Test

test of maximal performance, which involves carrying out a sample of tasks under optimal conditions