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   Psychological Tests



Psychological tests are tests given to a person to aid a clinical psychologist treat and evaluate the person. These tests might include, for example, intelligence tests, personality tests, and clinical symptom tests.

A person provides the needed information by responding to interview questions, or by answering questions on a paper test or a test given on a computer.

The accuracy of a psychological test depends to some extent on how carefully and seriously the person answers the test questions, as well as on the expertise of the psychological examiner.


There are several different categories of psychological tests that a person might take, depending on the information needed by the clinical psychologist. Each kind of test is described below.

Achievement and aptitude tests are typically used for educational and employment requirements. These tests attempt to measure either how much a person knows about a certain topic, such as mathematics or spelling, or how much of an aptitude a person has to master the relevant material in a particular area, such as mechanical relationships.

Intelligence tests attempt to measure a person’s ability to use verbal and nonverbal concepts to understand the world around them and to make use of information to accomplish goals. While it is not entirely possible to separate out what a person has already learned by culture, education or experience, intelligence tests seek to measure a person’s potential, rather than what the person already knows.

Neuropsychological tests attempt to measure cognitive functioning (that is, a person’s ability to think, speak, reason, etc.). The tests are used typically to help diagnose the presence and the effects of neurological injury, for example from a head trauma, stroke, or brain tumor. Neuropsychological tests assess a wider range of skills and abilities than do intelligence tests, and are more commonly used in the fields of neurology and rehabilitation than in clinical psychology.

Personality tests attempt to measure a person’s style of dealing with personal and interpersonal information and in problem-solving. These tests measure such psychological traits as assertiveness or emotionality, as well as patterns of coping with internal and external sources of life stress – patterns often referred to as psychological “defenses.” Personality tests and are most used in research, or in forensic assessments to help identify the presence of psychological traits that relate to psychological injuries, or to abilities that bear upon important legal issues such as parenting ability or mental capacity. One well known and widely used personality test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The MMPI consists of several hundred questions that are answered with a “yes” or “no” response, often using a computer for test administration. The MMPI measures a substantial range of psychological traits and has been thoroughly researched in literally thousands of scientific studies. Another personality test is the Rorschach Inkblot Test. The Inkblot Test uses several cards that depict inkblot designs which the examiner uses to obtain information about a person’s problem-solving style. This test helps the psychologist determine how a person processes his or her emotional state in dealing with problem situations. As with the MMPI, the Inkblot Test has been subjected to extensive scientific research.

Clinical tests are tests that seek to identify and measure the presence of specific clinical symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Some clinical tests also measure the presence of thoughts and feelings that, while not directly involving any clinical diagnosis, may indirectly suggest the presence of clinical issues, such as excessive anger or traumatic psychological reactions.

The Clinical Interview is a procedure in which the psychologist and the person being evaluated exchange information during an interview. The psychologist uses semi-structured questions to explore the person’s psychological complaints or feelings of distress. The interview attempts to obtain information about a person’s current feelings, symptoms, thoughts, and behaviors, as well as recurring information from past experiences, that might illustrate patterns that have clinical significance such as depression or anxiety. The format of the interview is based partly on scientific research on the best way to obtain the clinical information.


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