What is a psychometric test? What isn't a psychometric test? What is in-between?
To psychologists, the question “what is a psychometric test” is easily answered and understood, as they are among the most relied upon tools in a psychologists arsenal. To some HR professionals, consultants and hiring managers however, the answer is less clear, resulting in hugely disparate definitions.
To set the record straight, we will do our best to explain what is a psychometric test, what is not a psychometric tests, and identify where the source of confusion comes from.
What is a psychometric test?
In the most literal sense, a psychometric test is any assessment designed to measure a psychological construct.
Neither the measurement method, or the psychological trait(s) being measured are integral to defining what is a psychometric test. Psychological constructs, which include knowledge, skills, personality traits, motivation, behavioural styles, and preferences, are all examples of psychological constructs. Psychological constructs are abstract concepts which describe human individuality through a particular theoretical framework.
For example, knowledge doesn't exist in the physical sense, it exists purely in a psychological sense.
Therefore, most tests that you have ever completed have been psychometric tests. Your driving theory test, your GCSE exams, every quiz that you have ever taken are all classic examples of psychometric tests, primarily designed to measure the psychological construct of knowledge.
The humble employment interview is another example of a psychometric test. Think about it; interviews are designed to measure purely constructs which are purely psychological i.e. skills, knowledge, character, integrity, motivations, preferences, organisational fit etc. Naturally, this makes interviews typical examples of psychometric tests.
Just because an assessment isn’t conducting with multiple choice questions, or right and wrong answers, does not mean a test isn’t “psychometric”. What the test measures defines what is a psychometric test, and what is not a psychometric test, not how it is measured.
What is not a psychometric test?
Any test that measures something inherently physical is a non-psychometric test. For example, an eye test, a blood test, a DNA test, tests of physical strength and fitness, these are all non-psychometric tests.
Based on this definition, there aren't a lot of tests which are inherently non-psychometric.
Certain tests of skill, which require learned knowledge and experience, in additional to particular physical attributes could be considered “semi-psychometric” in nature. For the most part however, these tests are rarely relevant to psychometricians or psychologists.
Why the confusion over what is a psychometric test?
Psychologists and psychometricians, typically only talk about the psychometric tests that they use in their everyday work. To save time and to ensure that their audiences know which tests they are discussing, they will implicitly limit their definition of what is a psychometric test. Often, this implicit definition only encompasses personality questionnaires, ability tests and other assessments specifically related to employee selection and assessment.
Similarly, assigning the “psychometric” label to certain tests ensures that tests are treated with a certain seriousness. The results from an ability test or personality questionnaire are highly predictive of future performance, and should be treated as such. Therefore, intentionally calling high stakes assessments “psychometric” encourages HR practitioners and hiring managers to take their results seriously.
Ultimately, the stakes of the assessment do not determine what is a psychometric test, it is simply the trait(s) being measured. If you are looking to measure anything psychological, then only a psychometric test can achieve that goal, by definition.