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Psychological tests

Psychological tests are ordinarily administered by clinical psychologists. Together with interviewing and observing, the psychologist will use tests to form a diagnosis. Tests can also be used in education to determine the effectiveness of educational programs or to evaluate students' abilities. They can be used to select employees for corporations, or to admit lawyers to the bar.

Psychological tests can be considered to be of two kinds: projective tests and standardized tests. The differences between the two groups reside in their purpose, design, administration, and evaluation. Projective tests are used to study personality or diagnostic a mental disturbance. They present the subject with an ambiguous stimulus, and the subject's response is analyzed to see if it conforms to a pattern or another. Standardized tests are used to measure skills or performance. They may be used, for instance, to select students for special instruction, for college, and for graduate study.

Projective tests

The use of projective tests was influenced by the arising of Freud's psychodynamic theories. They began with the use of the technique of word association and their use spread out with the publication in the 1920s by Hermann Rorschach of the test that bears his name. Psychodynamic theorists pointed that it revealed psychic contents unconscious to the individual. Projective tests are unstructured and intentionally vague, in order to enhance the odds that the response reveal the manner in which the person perceives the world.

Rorschach (1884-1922) was a Swiss psychiatrist who, during ten years, developed a test composed of ten images (five in color and five in black and white) similar to inkblots. When the subject was asked what he thought the blots were alike, it was assumed that the content of the answer revealed the individual's personality. Later the analysis was refined to include other aspects besides content, like answering that an object was in motion or pointing to a color or a shade.

Another widely used test is the Thematic Apperception Test, developed by Henry A. Murray at Harvard. It is composed of thirty pictures, and the subject must tell a story about them. This test is supposed to address more conscious aspects of the subject's personality, as his interpersonal relationships. Despite some opinions in contrary, the validity of projective tests remains in doubt, mainly because their interpretation is very subjective.

Standardized tests

Standardized tests are tests of the multiple-choice kind, whose results (scores) are reported in terms of a reference (or norm) group. In this case, scores indicate the location of the subject within the norm group and not the number of items answered correctly--usually called the raw score. Standardization is made assuming a normal distribution for the variable measured, which is a correct assumption in the majority of cases.

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