Psychological testing is the use of standardised assessments to measure an individual’s psychological functioning or abilities. Areas measured in this test include a person’s aptitude, cognitive functions, emotional states, and personal traits.
A psychological test undergoes several procedures to ensure its integrity, validity, and intended results. After a rigorous test development process that certifies the validity, reliability, and fairness of the assessments, the next important step is test administration.
Test administration is the stage where the test is given to the intended participants, with their responses recorded and evaluated. It follows a standardized procedure to ensure all participants are given the same tests and opportunities. Test administration involves many processes, including preparing test materials, test setup, and distribution, timing, and monitoring. Consequently, the procedure can have a significant impact on the test results.
From influencing participants’ performance to affecting their motivation, here are some ways test administration procedures can impact test results.
The level of instructions provided to a test-taker determines how well or badly they perform in the test. Test instructions must aim to acquaint students with the test and expectations; so that their responses are as intended. Therefore, test administrators must provide test-takers with clear and explicit instructions at all times. This ensures that all participants clearly understand what is expected of them. Providing clear instructions also minimizes misinterpretation and produces more accurate responses. However, if the instructions are ambiguous, the test participants may interpret them differently, leading to incorrect or unintended responses.
The test environment
The created or perceived atmosphere of the test environment can negatively or positively impact test results. Factors including, lighting, noise, temperature level, frequent distractions, etc. affect test-takers’ concentration and results. For an intended outcome, the environment in which the test is administered must be suitable for all participants. The temperature level must not be too high or too low compared to the natural environment of the participant’s origin. Also, there shouldn’t be any form of distraction that will affect their focus. Ensuring these affords participants with the full attention and concentration needed to provide accurate responses. This also prevents external factors from compromising the test results.
All procedures governing the test administrations must be standardized and applied to all participants equally. There shouldn’t be a different set of rules for participants taking the same test. Test administrators must therefore ensure the consistent application of standardized procedures. This is also a way to preserve the integrity of psychology tests and their validity. Any deviation, misapplication, and lax won’t only create confusion among the test-takers but also affect the general outcome. Participants negatively affected by a twist in the standard procedure may feel disadvantaged even before the test begin.
Examiner bias and influence
Favoritism, discrimination, and all other forms of examiner bias during test administration can negatively impact participants’ performance and test results. Administrators who knowingly or unknowingly hold a prejudiced mindset against a set of people may convey this bias during test administration. These can be known through their utterances, facial expressions, and body language. When such biases become obvious, they can affect the responses and performance of any test-takers.
All tests should have a reasonable duration. It shouldn’t be excessive or limited. The provided time limit should be realistic enough for the participant to think through tasks and give the best responses possible. Inadequate time limits affect results since participants rush through the test. This produces error-ridden responses, which negatively impact the test results. Giving excessive time limits can also be counterproductive. Participants will think they have too much time on each task, and that may result in unnecessary elaborations and overthinking. This can affect the accuracy of responses.
The kind of rapport test administrators build between themselves and the examinees can also have an impact on test results. Positive rapport and trustfulness can positively impact test performance and results. This is because the task-takers will feel comfortable enough to engage the administrator whenever they are in difficulty or need further classifications. Such opportunities improve performance and results. However, hostile engagements, distrust, and bad rapport between them will create a tense environment and that can affect responses.
Motivation of test-takers
The motivation of test-takers is a key component of the overall success of psychological tests. A well-motivated test participant is more likely to engage in the test process. They approach the test with a positive attitude, and attention, and invest effort in understanding and responding to the test items. This also improves performance the participants are more likely to demonstrate their abilities and knowledge.
That aside, highly motivated test-takes are more likely to complete tests, amidst difficulties and constraints. However, low-motivated participants may lead to incomplete tests, as individuals may give up or rush through the test.
Test-takers trait management
Individual traits such as a person’s personality, emotions, and cognition, among others, can effectively interact with the test administration process in different forms to influence test results. For example, if a test-taker has high levels of test anxiety, he/she may perform poorly on the test despite other personal traits and abilities. The opposite may be true for individuals without or with less test anxiety. Their calm posture during the exams can result in very high performance and results.
A well-rested brain enhances efficiency and productivity. At a point in time, some test participants may require specific accommodations needs to bring out the best in them. Such arrangements may also offer a fair testing environment for test-takers, especially if extra efforts are required from them. Also, circumstances including modified instruction, increase in time, change in test and time, etc., may require accommodation provision. Once test-takers are assured of having accommodation after or before the test, it will give them peace of mind. Instead of worrying about where to sleep which can distract them, they will rather set their mind on the test. This will ensure that test results accurately reflect the abilities of the participants.
Considering the importance of test administration to the overall success or otherwise of a psychological test, administrators must be well-trained to handle their duties. Ethical and standardized procedures must be followed, to ensure the integrity and validity of the test. Test administrators must create positive rapport, and a conducive test environment, and do away with all bias to ensure test participants provide intended responses. That aside, critical attention should be given to all test administration procedures, including setting up the test environment, adequate time provision, giving clear instructions, and being consistent and fair in test administration. Anything contrary can negatively affect the responses.
Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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