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Types of psychological tests: their functions and characteristics

Types of psychological tests: their functions and characteristics

April 2, 2024

Within psychology, the evaluation of the mental state The subject who comes to consultation or who requires our services is a necessary and essential element.

The professionals of psychology have a series of tools in order to carry out this evaluation, counting among them with different types of psychological tests .

  • Related article: "What is a psychological evaluation?"

Psychological test: concept

It is considered a psychological test all that test, method or instrument used for the purpose of evaluating or measuring one or more of one of the different characteristics that are part of the psyche of the individual. The psychological tests are based on the observable behavior and the expression of the subjectivity of the analyzed in order to infer the characteristics and mental state of the subject, being necessary a later analysis in order to be able to extract information with clinical significance.

Psychological tests try as much as possible that the information obtained through its execution is valid and reliable , trying to reflect what is intended to be measured (we must not forget that psychological characteristics are constructs not directly observable) and that they can be replicated by other professionals (that is, that the information obtained by a person about a subject can be obtained by another professional if you perform the same measurement).

Likewise, the scores obtained have to be transformed in order to have a meaning, being generally compared or with the average obtained by representative samples of the population, with the previous performance or with a criterion established in advance.

Based on this concept, numerous types of psychological tests have been formulated. following different criteria and with different objectives .

Dimensions and types of psychological tests derived

When performing a psychological test there are many aspects that we have to take into account when assessing what kind of information we want to obtain and how we are going to get it.

Some of the main dimensions that must be evaluated are the following.

1. Level of structuring

The different types of psychological tests can vary enormously depending on whether the information is requested in a more or less concise manner or else the analysand is allowed more or less freedom to express himself.

This aspect is fundamental in order to obtain the information . Having a very structured test will allow you to obtain short and concise answers, directing the evaluation to the aspects considered most relevant. However, you can lose a lot of relevant information that could help a better adjustment and understanding of the mental state of the subject.

In this sense we can find types of unstructured psychological tests (in which the content of the evaluation varies depending on the responses of the subject), semi-structured (in which although freedom of response is offered and questions vary depending on the information which is reflected is intended to follow a more or less predetermined script) or structured (in which although the answers issued are taken into account, the evaluation follows a predefined course)

2. Level of voluntariness

With voluntariness we refer to to the degree that the subject has control over the response issued. For example, if an electroencephalogram is done the subject has no control over what response it emits, while in some tests the individual can decide the type of response it gives.

3. Level of masking

Masking is understood as the degree to which the subject knows the purpose of the test or test that is being applied and / or the connotations of their answers. In this sense the tests can be masked (as for example the Rorschach test, in which the individual does not know what their answers mean) or not masked.

4. Level of objectivity

The level of objectivity of the data refers to the degree to which the answers are derived from the subjectivity of the patient or it is empirical and visible data. In this sense we can find different types of psychological tests, the objective tests and the subjective tests , although all the measurement instruments can be evaluated in this sense.

According to the number of evaluated

When we think of a psychological evaluation we usually imagine a situation in which a person is being analyzed by a professional, usually in the clinical or human resources field.

However, whether in these or other contexts, often It is possible to make a joint evaluation of several individuals , or even perform an evaluation of a group as such. So we can find:

1. Individual tests

It is about those types of psychological tests in which they are evaluated the characteristics or performance of a single subject . These are usually tests that require a certain level of specialization to be performed, and provide a lot of information about the same individual. It also allows establishing a relationship with the evaluator that can allow him to see and analyze various aspects that may or may not be included in the test.

2. Group or group tests

The collective tests are those carried out in groups. They usually require a lower level of training for their application than individual ones. While save time and money , they usually involve a certain loss of information with respect to the individual and the assessment by a psychologist or evaluator is greatly hindered.

Depending on the content

The tests can also be classified according to what kind of mental content are dedicated to evaluate . In this sense we can find the following types of psychological tests.

1. Intelligence Test

Intellectual capacity is one of the aspects that have been evaluated the most throughout history. The purpose of its use is to discover the potential and ability to adapt and use different strategies , along with the ability to store and use one's mental resources is evaluated with these tests.

  • Related article: "Types of intelligence tests"

2. Test of aptitudes

But mental abilities are not limited only to intelligence, there are many other characteristics that allow our behaviors to be more or less effective in one or several areas. Specially applied in personnel selection , this type of tests reflect the capacity in concrete aspects of the reality and allow to predict the effectiveness and performance of the subject.

3. Personality test

People tend to behave and see the world in a certain way, a pattern that we acquire partly through inheritance and partly according to our experiences throughout the development. Measure such patterns of behavior , beliefs, emotions and thought allows us to get an idea of ​​the way of being of the person evaluated, as well as the way he usually sees or acts in the world.

  • Related article: "The 5 big personality traits: sociability, responsibility, openness, kindness and neuroticism"

4. Psychopathology tests

The presence of problems and even mental disorders is an increasingly common element in today's society. Diagnose such problems allows us to guide the individual regarding different measures and treatments to be applied in order to solve the difficulties he suffers.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The 16 most common mental disorders"

5. Neuropsychological test

This type of psychological tests are used to help determine the mental and perceptual state of an individual , usually applied in subjects who have suffered an injury of some kind. Therefore, the objective with which they are designed is the scope of the possible damages in different types of mental processes.

6. Development / aging test

This type of test is used to assess the degree to which an individual it develops throughout the life cycle , observing the presence of alterations and comparing the degree of development in relation to the normativity.

7. Test of interests / professional vocation

They are based on the analysis of the preferences of the subject, allowing its orientation towards certain goals or objectives . Normally they are applied in young people who go through their adolescence or post-adolescence and who need to be oriented to decide their formative trajectory.

Based on performance criteria

Another fundamental aspect when carrying out a test is to take into account how it will be evaluated. In this aspect we can find two great types of psychological tests.

1. Maximum execution test

The maximum performance tests aim to evaluate the maximum potential of a person in a characteristic or psychological aspect. Therefore, the efficiency of the individual is taken into account, being relevant the time it takes to finish a task and evaluating the measured characteristic according to its correction and speed. Objective and sometimes psychometric techniques tend to use this type of criteria, as in intelligence or neuropsychological tests.

2. Tests of typical execution

This type of test is characterized because it seeks to evaluate the performance or typical characteristics of the subject in certain tasks or aspects, ie what is common and everyday in the individual. The time it takes to perform the demanded task is not of interest or significant per se. Within this group the subjective and projective techniques are usually found , which evaluate aspects such as personality.

Pervin's classification

Taking into account all the previous aspects, different authors have generated throughout the history different classifications of the types of psychological tests. One of the most widespread and accepted classifications is Pervin's , which considers the existence of the following categories.

1. Psychometric tests

The psychometric tests are those employees in measuring specific characteristics of the psyche , such as intelligence tests or aptitudes. It is one of the types of psychological tests that considers that individuals will respond sincerely, applying for this non-masked tests, in which the answers are voluntarily controlled by the subject.

They are highly structured , and they are frequently used both in the clinic and in areas such as work and education.

2. Test objectives

Highly structured, this type of test and tests they are based on physiological correlates in order to measure a certain element. Due to this, the answers given are not voluntary nor can they be modified. However, the objective of the test is usually clear, so it would be considered not masked. Different instruments and devices are used to record the individual's responses, not depending on the evaluator for the registration per se. Typical examples of objective tests can be the polygraph or biofeedback.

Within the objective tests we can find:

  • Cognitive tests . Evaluate aspects such as attention, concentration or perception
  • Motor test . Evaluate the performance of muscle responses to various stimuli
  • Psychophysiological tests . They evaluate the relationship between behavior and physiology in aspects such as breathing, heart rate, temperature, sexual response or digestion-

3. Subjective tests

It is the most usual type of psychological tests when measuring aspects of personality and experiences of the subject from self-verbalizations or self-descriptions provided by the same subject according to a series of items. Of voluntary response, the individual may try to falsify the information provided , although in order to detect such attempts, different scales of reliability are usually applied. They are usually semi-structured and adapted to the objective or concrete element that is being measured

4. Projective test

The subjective tests are usually used to analyze the deepest aspects and personality traits of the individual. It is the type of psychological test less structured, not restricting in any sense the answer issued by the analysand and having all the answers of the subject a valid meaning that must be analyzed and valued.

These answers are subjective, since they represent the internal world of the subject in question . The individual in question does not know the meaning or meaning of their answers, being one of the types of psychological tests masked. Each response and aspect represented is important, but it only makes sense and can be given meaning in relation to the whole.

The main problem with this type of test is found in the wide freedom of possible answers and the low level of standardization of these, being able to interpret the same answer from different points of view according to the method of interpretation used. he does not usually know the psychological meaning of his answers.

Within the subjective tests we can find different typologies. Specifically, they include:

  • Structural tests . In them the patient must make sense and organize a visual material. One of the most famous is the Rorschach Test.
  • Thematic tests . It is asked to tell a story from the material presented in pictures (the TAT or Thematic Apperception Test is usually the best known).
  • Expressive tests . The subject is asked to draw a specific element (one of the best known is the HTC, a test in which a person, a house and a tree are asked to draw)
  • Constructive tests . The individual is asked to construct a specific element with the pieces that are provided (the Imaginary Village Test is a good example of this)
  • Associative tests . In this type of projective psychological tests, the analysand is asked to associate a word (orally or in writing) with another word or stimulus that is provided. The Word Association test is one of the most used.
  • Refractory tests . It is based on the analysis of the personality based on the products of the subject's activity, such as his writing.

Bibliographic references:

  • Buela-Casal, G. and Sierra, J.C. (1997). Psychological evaluation manual. Ed. Siglo XXI: Madrid.
  • Cohen, R.J. & Swerdlik, M.E. (2002). Psychological tests and evaluation. McGraw-Hill: Madrid.
  • Sanz, L.J. and Álvarez, C.A. (2012). Evaluation in Clinical Psychology. CEDE Preparation Manual PIR. 05. CEDE: Madrid.


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