As with ‘assessment’ the use of the word ‘test’ has become looser over the past 30 years.


Once it was used to distinguish instruments that used PSYCHOMETRIC principles to objectively measure human characteristics, as opposed to less formal assessments.


There have been many definitions of psychometric tests. A good, short one is:

“ an objective and standardised measure of a sample of human behaviour” ( Anastasi 1988).


At times, the word ‘test’ has been used to identify an instrument with right or wrong answers ( an ability or attainment instrument or an exam for instance ) as opposed to one in which you react to a statement, in which the candidate is reflecting typical behaviour and in which there are no right or wrong answers.


Now the word is used for everything from quizzes in glossy magazines to the regular check up that your car is safe to be on the road.


But publishers and developers still try to signpost an instrument that has used stringent psychometric principles in its development by using the word “ test”.




An assessment which allows other people to rate an individual. Typically a 360? measure could be used in appraisal or development work. The “subject” fills in a questionnaire and nominates other people to fill it in about him or her from among his or her direct reports, peers and managers. The differences between the person’s SELF REPORT and the views of these other groups can then be used as the basis for extremely rich discussions which can result in personal development plans.




Your capacity to  cope with the training required to do a job




More enduring underlying characteristics that will guide your TYPICAL PERFORMANCE over the long haul, as opposed to more changeable STATES




Another type of STANDARD SCORE with a MEAN of 50 and a standard deviation of 10




An approach to personality in which human personalities are grouped into certain types.


McCrae and Costa defined types as “ distinct groups of people characterised by a unique configuration of features”.


Types were used in the very earliest thinking on human behaviour; you may have come across the four humours ( blood, black bile, yellow bile phlegm ) if you read Shakespeare. Predominance of one of these ( unpleasant sounding ) humours implied a certain type of behaviour ( a lot of phlegm and you were phlegmatic ).


The work of Carl Jung  underlies a lot of recent work on type and there are many widely used measures taking this approach.


Type measures are very easy to understand but risk “ labelling” and over-simplification.




Personality, beliefs, values etc. How we typically behave. Measures of these characteristics are distinguished from MEASURES of MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE where we’re trying to assess how well people can do things.


It’s worth repeating that personality, for instance, is affected by circumstances and a measure of typical performance is exactly what it says on the tin. It will show how people characteristically behave – their default mode might be one way of putting it – but is not an exhaustive encyclopaedia of everything x will do.








The single most important issue in testing. Validity tells us whether a test measures what it says it’s measuring. We’ve identified and discussed some of the most important types of validity  in our  A-Z.




Values are beliefs about how things should be. They endure, and people who hold them wish to make them happen or  to obtain them. They believe their values are preferable to the opposite.


In other words, values are like ethical imperatives.


There are specific tests to measure values and there is some debate as to whether values affect job performance; there’s little evidence that they do though common sense suggests that they might in specific types of jobs: if one of your values was that poverty is a sign that you’ve done bad things in your life and the poor should be left to their own devices you might find it difficult to work hard as a Christian Aid Worker.


All the above said, there has been renewed interest in values over the past few years. Organisations have developed their own value sets, often pulled down from Visions and Missions. They have also been pressured to develop a more ethical stance to their activities.


The thinking goes that, if it’s important for an organisation to have ethics and values and these will affect what it does, then surely the same is true for individuals. And, if that is the case, surely an individual will work better in an organisation if there is some match between their values.


At first glance this makes sense and hopefully there will be more research into the area.











The simplest STANDARD SCORE which describes how many STANDARD DEVIATIONS a person’s score is away from the MEAN: or, to put it another way, how does this person’s score on this characteristic relate to the average of the people who took the test. ?