What is a psychological test?

A psychological test is a way of measuring behavior and other characteristics to gain information about how an individual is functioning in some way. It is a systematic way of measuring a variety of mental abilities, behaviors, and neurological abilities. Psychological tests are created, researched, and standardized on large numbers of people to determine how different people will perform on each assessment. Tests vary by both the age of the individual and the information that is being assessed.

Importance of psychological testing

Not every child is the same. Psychological testing and assessment for children are ways to determine how a child is performing when compared to other children the same age. When children are struggling with learning, developmental, or behavior problems, it can be helpful to determine what the extent of these problems involve and whether a child meets the criteria for a developmental disability or other mental health condition. By gathering information through psychological testing, a psychologist can determine whether a child meets diagnostic criteria for the mental health condition. Children who are diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or intellectual disabilities may be eligible for more help and supports, both in school and through community and healthcare programs.

For children who are in school, psychological tests can be useful to gain information about the strengths and weaknesses of a child. Sometimes assessments can pinpoint specific areas of concern, and knowing that can help the parents and educational team determine appropriate interventions to overcome the child’s difficulties.  Child psychological assessments are useful to get a precise picture of a child’s profile. They help to get insights about some specific traits, certain conditions, intelligence, emotional intelligence, and other areas of functioning. There are even psychological tests for children who are not yet verbal.
Child psychological evaluation typically involves a variety of psychological tests to answer specific questions about a child, such as “Does my child have autism?” “Do I have ADHD?” or “Why is my child having difficulty learning to read?” The tests provide information that, along with a clinical interview and background information, helps the psychologist understand the child’s functioning, which can further help in arriving at a diagnosis or a plan for their treatment.

Types of psychological tests

There are many different kinds of psychological tests depending upon the need. Some tests involve one on one interactions between the psychologist and the client, some involve rating scales and questionnaires that are completed by the child’s caregiver, some are detailed interviews about a child’s symptoms, and some are completed by the psychologist after observing the client’s behavior. Some of the psychological tests are as follows:

  • Intelligence tests (both verbal and nonverbal)
  • Achievement tests
  • Kindergarten readiness tests
  • Developmental tests
  • Memory tests
  • Aptitude test(for specific skills, such as social perception skills)
  • Personality test
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Direct observation test
  • Psychological disorder test etc.

Intelligence tests:

Intelligence tests measure various aspects of mental functioning. This includes tests for reasoning, planning, decision making, and making judgments. They sometimes have a child copying designs with blocks, completing patterns, and doing mental math exercises. Some intelligence tests are completely nonverbal, meaning no language is required in administering or understanding the assessment.

Achievement Tests:

Achievement tests assess how a child is currently doing in a variety of academic areas. These tests can help psychologists understand whether a child is on grade level in various areas. These tests are typically used for children once they are involved in formal schooling (kindergarten and older).

Aptitude tests:

Aptitude tests help psychologists understand the learning ability of a child. For example, how fast the child can learn a specific skill set.

Developmental tests:

Developmental tests are typically used for younger children to help determine whether they are meeting developmental milestones in various areas, including receptive and expressive communication, cognitive development, and motor development.

Personality tests:

Personality tests help screen the child for any psychological problems.

Observational tests:

Observational tests typically use a semi-structured situation, where the psychologist or other trained professional is looking for specific behaviors or actions. These types of tests are often used with autism, to determine the presence or absence of symptoms of autism.
There are many different psychological assessments, and part of the evaluation involves the psychologist choosing the assessments which will provide the information needed to get the information that will be most beneficial to answer the testing questions.

Psychological testing for your child

Testing methods in Psychology

Testing has traditionally involved one on one in-person appointments; however, research and technology have steadily been moving towards virtual methods of psychological evaluation. Rating scales and some psychological tests can be directly emailed to clients to complete. The use of video conferencing has rapidly moved the field of remote assessment, and more and more organizations, including many school districts and universities, are accepting remote and virtual assessments as valid and necessary during this time.

The benefits of online testing include the ability to meet for appointments from the safety and security of one’s own home. Those in rural areas are able to reduce long travel times, and appointments can be broken up, especially those involving young children who would struggle with long periods of testing. Testing can be difficult for those who do not have solid internet connections at home, and disruptions in technology can be problematic. While every effort is made to ensure the safety and security of online sessions, there are always possibilities of internet security concerns.

Psychological evaluations incorporate the results of various psychological tests to gain information about an individual and provide information about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, along with specific recommendations to address the relative weaknesses.

Common questions about psychological assessment.

The most commonly asked questions about psychological assessment are as follows:

How much time does a psychological evaluation take?

This really depends on the question being asked, and the information needed to address that question. Typically, assessments involve between 2 and 4 video appointments and some questionnaires which are completed in addition to that time. It can be a time taking process; however, to get an accurate understanding of a child’s functioning, it is important to address various things that may affect the child. Once all the information has been collected, the psychologist writes up all of the information in a written report and shares the information with the client, advising them on recommendations and providing any referrals for additional services.

Do I need to prepare for a psychological testing appointment?

No, the purpose of psychological tests is to see where a child or adult is at this point in time. If you are struggling with reading or memory, those types will likely be difficult for you; however, it is important for the psychologist to see and understand this in order to provide appropriate diagnoses and recommendations for you. Sometimes parents can become frustrated when their child does not perform particular tasks on testing day, but the psychologist would prefer to see how a child typically acts rather than their optimal functioning.