Psychological Tests


What is a psychological test?

A psychological test is a tool that indicates how much a participant has of a quality the test measures. A test can be defined as a standardized procedure for sampling behavior and describing it with categories or scores. Psychological testing was originally designed for two purposes: to measure intelligence and to detect personality disorders. From its original purposes, psychological testing has expanded to measure various concepts.

Psychological tests must meet three criteria: reliability, validity, and standardization. School psychologists, special education teachers, clinical psychologists, guidance counselors, psychiatrists, speech therapists, guidance teachers, nurses, and engineers all use these tests.

Tests are used for a variety of purposes. Some of which are classification, self-understanding, program evaluation, and scientific inquiry. Classification involves a decision that an individual represents a certain category. Self-understanding involves using test information to gain insight about oneself. Program evaluation involves the use of tests to assess the effectiveness of a particular program or course of action. Professional journals in the social and behavioral sciences include studies which use psychological tests to operationally characterize relevant variables and to explain hypotheses in numerical statements that can be assessed statistically.


What is a creativity test?

Experience and history show that having more ideas in general leads to more good ideas. Originality is significant because innovative ideas are most likely to add value to what already exists. Ideas which have been around for a while are more likely to have been used already. When measuring originality of an individual, the important issue is not whether the idea has been contemplated before, but whether it is new to the person whose creativity is being measured.

Creativity tests are characteristically divided into four main components: divergent thinking, convergent thinking, artistic assessments, and self assessments.

Divergent thinking is the ability to knowingly generate new ideas that broaden to many possible solutions for a given problem. These solutions or responses are then scored on four components: originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration. Originality is based on the statistical infrequency of the response, fluency is based on the number of responses, flexibility is based on the degree of difference of the responses; do they come from a single domain or multiple domains; and elaboration is based on the amount of detail of the response.

Convergent thinking is the capability focus in on the single correct solution to a problem. In creativity, convergent thinking often requires taking a fresh approach to the problem, seeing the problem from a different standpoint, or making a distinctive association between parts of the problem. These solutions are scored either as correct or incorrect.

Artistic assessments are the assessments of an artistic product. (i.e. painting, story, poem, musical composition, collage, drawing, etc.). Evaluations are usually done by two or more judges that must have similar agreement on the creativity of the product.

Self assessments are based on the participant’s responses to the amount of creativity a person feels they display.


Examples of tests

Psychological tests

Intelligence Quotient or IQ: an intelligence quotient or IQ is a score derived from a set of standardized tests built to measure a person’s cognitive abilities in relation to their age group. IQ tests measure real performance, not innate possibilities. IQ is highly heritable in the middle class of industrial societies. By adulthood, however, the influence of family upbringing on IQ is faint. IQ test scores are linked with measures of brain structure and function, as well as performance on uncompleted tasks. IQ is strongly correlated with academic accomplishment, but can also forecast important life outcomes such as job performance, socioeconomic advancement, and social pathologies.

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale: the WAIS is a general test of intelligence (IQ) that was published in February of 1955 as a revision of the Wechsler-Bellevue test (1939). It was standardized for use with adults over the age of sixteen. Intelligence is quantified as the capacity of the individual to act with resolve, to think sensibly, and to deal efficiently with his or her surroundings. The full scale IQ is broken down into subtests comprising the verbal and performance scales.

Stanford-Binet IQ test: the current field of intelligence testing began with the Stanford-Binet IQ test. The Stanford-Binet itself started with the French psychologist Alfred Binet. It started as a typical way for psychologists to quickly and easily evaluate the psychological performance of different people. As Binet indicated, case studies may be more thorough and at times more helpful, but the time required to test vast numbers of individuals would be overwhelming. The test measured such things as attention, memory, and verbal skills. Binet cautioned people that these scores should not be taken too literally because of the plasticity of intelligence and the inherent margin of error in the test.

Raven’s Progressive Matrices: widely used non-verbal intelligence tests. The test consists of individuals being asked to find the missing pattern in a series. Each set of items gets increasingly harder, requiring greater cognitive capacity to encode and analyze. They are offered in three different forms for different ability levels and for age ranges from five through adulthood.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: the MMPI is the most frequently used personality test in the mental health fields. The assessment was developed to help recognize personal, social, and behavioral problems in psychiatric patients. This test assists in providing pertinent information to aid in problem identification, diagnosis, and treatment planning for the patient. The test has also been used for job screening and other non-clinical assessments, which is considered controversial and in some cases illegal.

Rorschach Inkblot Test: a method of psychological evaluation. It is a projective test associated with the Freudian school of thought. Psychologists use this test to try and explore the unconscious minds of their patients. There are ten official inkblots. The psychologist shows the inkblots in a certain order and asks the patients to say the first thing that comes to mind. Upon the patient seeing and responding to all the inkblots, the psychologist then allows them to study each inkblot one at a time. The patient is then asked to note everything he or she sees in each blot. The blot can also be turned. The psychologist will not tell the patient to do so, but, spontaneous turning of the blot or asking consent to do so is seen as a positive sign. On the other hand, turning the cards at unusual angles or covering portions of the cards is considered a sign of brain damage. The psychologist takes into account whether the entire card or a portion of the card is used. Methods of interpretation differ.




Thematic Apperception Test: the TAT is among the most widely researched, taught, and used psychological tests. It uses a standard series of challenging yet ambiguous pictures that the participant must tell a story about. A participant is asked questions such as: What dialogue might be carried on between characters and how might the story continue after the picture that is shown? Because of this, the TAT is also known as the picture interpretation technique. Each story created by a participant is carefully examined to uncover underlying needs, attitudes, and reactions. Participants can respond verbally or in writing and there are specific groups of pictures for boys, men, girls, and women. The TAT is a projective test in that, like the Rorschach test, its assessment of the participant is based on what he or she projects onto the ambiguous images.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: the MBTI is a personality test designed to assist a person in identifying their personality preferences. It was developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers during WWII, and follows from the theories of Carl Jung as described in his work in psychological types. The test is frequently used in the areas of pedagogy, group dynamics, employee training, leadership training, marriage counseling, and personal development. Scientific skeptics and academic psychologists have subjected it to significant criticism in research literature.


Neuropsychological tests

These tests are specifically designed to measure a psychological task known to be linked to a particular brain structure or pathway. They usually involve the systematic administration of clearly defined procedures in an official environment. Neuropsychological tests are a core component of the process of conducting neuropsychological assessment. These tests are typically administered to a single person working with an examiner in a quiet office environment that is free from disturbances. It can be argued that neuropsychological tests at times offer an estimate of person’s peak level of cognitive performance.



The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the handbook used most often in diagnosing mental disorders in the United States and internationally. Some psychologists have stated that they use DSM primarily for completing forms for the government or insurance companies, some of which require a patient to be classified by a diagnosis. When diagnosing a patient the APA recommends that the therapist use a multi-axial assessment system:



Axis I

Major mental disorders, developmental disorders, and learning disabilities

Axis II

Underlying pervasive or personality conditions as well as mental retardation

Axis III

Any nonpsychiatric medical condition

Axis IV

Social functioning and impact of symptoms

Axis V

Global Assessment of Functioning (0-100)

Common Axis I disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Common Axis II disorders include borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Common Axis III disorders include asthma, cardiovascular abnormalities, digestive issues, and more. Common Axis IV could be lower than average academic functioning, lower than expected motor coordination, and social awkwardness. Finally, the GAF is a number falling between 0 and 100 with 0 being no functioning and 100 being perfect functioning. The contents of the DSM are determined by experts whose mandate is to create a set of diagnoses that are replicable and meaningful. While the classification system was originally intended to enhance research into both diagnosis and treatment, the nomenclature is now widely used by both clinicians and insurance companies.

Global Assessment of Functioning: the GAF scale is a numeric scale (0 to 100) used by mental health clinicians and doctors to rate the occupational, psychological, and social functioning of adults. Children and adolescents under the age of 18 are evaluated on the Children’s Global Assessment Scale, or C-GAS.


Creativity tests

In Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task (1967) participants are asked to list as many possible uses for a common house hold item such as a cup, paperclip, or a newspaper. Scoring is comprised of four components: originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration.

Originality is based on each response compared to the total amount of responses from all of the people you gave the test to. Responses that were given by only 5% of your group are unusual (1 point), responses that were given by only 1% of your group are unique (2 points). When finished, total all the points and the higher the scores indicate the more creative.

Fluency is based on the participant’s total.

Flexibility is based on the difference of categories.

Elaboration is based on the amount of detail given in the response. (i.e. 0= a newspaper as a doorstop versus 2= a newspaper as a doorstop to prevent a door slamming shut in a strong wind.)

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT): this test of creativity was developed by E. Paul Torrance. It has three components:

1.    Thinking creatively with pictures measures creative thinking using three picture-based exercises to assess five mental characteristics: fluency, originality, elaboration, abstractness of titles, and resistance to closure.

2.    The figural TTCT contains abstract pictures and the participant is requested to state what the image might be.

3.    The verbal TTCT contains presents the participant with a situation and gives the participant the opportunity to ask questions, to improve products, and to “just suppose”.

The Runco Ideational Scale (RIBS): The RIBS is a self-report measure of creativity tapping into ideas regarding creativity.

The Khatena-Torrance Creative Perception Inventory (KTCPI): this test was developed by Joe Khatena and E. Paul Torrance. It is a self-report measure of creativity that contains two subtests.

1.    Something About Myself (SAM), which measures artistic inclination, intelligence, individuality, sensitivity, initiative, and self-strength.

2.    What Kind of Person Are You (WKOPAY)? This subtest measures imagination, appeal to authority, self-confidence, inquisitiveness, and awareness of others.

The Barron-Welsh Art Scale: this scale is a Freudian bases assessment in which the participant is asked to draw images. The images are then scored on scales such as personal style, social attitudes, ego functioning, symbolization, and substitution.

The Creative Behavior Inventory: this inventory is a self-reported checklist of creative behaviors and/or activities that the respondent has previously engaged or participated in.

The NEO: This creativity test is a 240 item personality test that provides information on five key components. The components are neuroticism, extroversion/introversion, and openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The openness component is used to evaluate creativity.

The Mednick’s Remote association task: developed in 1962, participants are presented three words and are asked to come up with a word that associates that other three together.





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