Types of Psychological Test

When it comes to individual behavior, personality is the first thing that comes to mind. Being such a broad concept, it is only natural that several types of psychological tests study it. These tests involve administrating a set of stimuli under standard conditions to obtain sample behavior.

What is Psychological Test?

A psychological test is a technique that is used to measure an individuals’ various abilities, including intelligence, aptitude, cognitive functions, etc. An individual’s responses are evaluated according to carefully prescribed instructions and guidelines. Such tests are administered by trained psychologists and evaluators. There are mainly two kinds of tests: objective and projective types.

A Look into Objective Tests

According to Loevinger (1957), objective tests represent the most popular and widely used approaches to assessing personality. These involve administering a standard set of items, each of which is answered using a limited response option, and these responses are scored in a predetermined and standardized way. The term "objective" refers to the method used to score a person's response, not the responses themselves. Meyer and Kurtz (2006) gave that the procedure is objective because the psychologist does not have to rely on judgment to classify or interpret responses. The intended responses are indicated and scored based on a pre-existing key.

Types of Objective Tests

There are two main objective tests: self-rating inventories and informant ratings. Here is a look into both types −

  • Self-rating inventories − Self-rating inventories are the most popular types of objective tests. In self-report inventories, individuals describe their feelings, environment, and reactions of others towards themselves. These tests have two key advantages. First, self-raters have access to an unparalleled wealth of information, i.e., their thoughts and feelings. Second, asking people to describe themselves is easy, simple, and cost-effective. Some popular self-report questionnaires include Cattell's Personality Questionnaire, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, NEOPI, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), etc.These tests evaluate specific personality traits and types.
  • Informant ratings − This approach involves asking someone who knows a person well to describe his/her personality characteristics. These are in the same formats as self-ratings, and such ratings are incredibly useful when self-ratings are impossible to collect or invalid. These ratings can also be combined with self-ratings to provide more reliable and valid measures of these attributes (McCrae, 1994).

A Quick Glance into Observational Methods

These methods are different from self-report inventories. They provide either a structured or an unstructured situation to the subject. A structured situation is a controlled situation, and an unstructured one is an uncontrolled one. The person whose personality traits are observed is put in either of these two situations. Observers must make impartial and accurate observations. The disadvantage of these methods is that different observers make different observations, causing much subjectivity.

Projective Tests- Diving into the Unconscious

To put it simply- projective tests are indirect measures of personality. Frank (1948) introduced the term "projective method" to describe a category of tests for studying personality with unstructured stimuli. In these tests, individuals are given unstructured situations that they respond to. Here, unstructured refers to those situations whose meaning and interpretation vary from person to person. These situations have no right or wrong answers and are capable of evoking fantasies in the examinees.

The fundamental working behind these tests is that individuals project their feelings, needs, motives, etc. onto the ambiguous stimuli when responding. These needs, feelings, emotions, etc., are mostly latent and unconscious. Since individuals are unaware of these revelations, they do not resort to defensive answers. In other words, individuals project their personality attributes (which are latent and unconscious) onto unstructured stimuli during interpretation. It is impossible to get the same exposure with a questionnaire-type test.

Some popular projective tests include Rorschach's Inkblot and Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The Rorschach test consists of inkblots to which respondents give responses. The TAT consists of a set of pictures (chosen based on the gender and pathology of the client) to which the client tells stories.

Classification of Projective Tests/Techniques

Frank (1939) gave that projective techniques can be classified as the following −

  • Constitutive − These include all test situations in which examinees constitute or frame structures upon materials that are yet unstructured.
  • Constructive − These include test situations that are similar to constitutive tests. Here, however, individuals are required to impose a degree of structure upon the situation based on directions given by the examiner.
  • Interpretive − These refer to those test situations in which examinees are required to add comprehensive meaning to the same.
  • Refractive − This refers to the techniques through which examinees express their personalities through painting, drawing, handwriting, etc.
  • Cathartic − This refers to those tests in which examinees are allowed to release conflicts or wishes through manipulative tasks.

Differences between projective tests, self-report inventories, and observational methods


Each type of psychological test is useful. Whether it is an objective or a projective one, testing personality or other variables is its ultimate goal. No single method is perfect or infallible- each has strengths and weaknesses. When using a diversity of approaches, researchers and psychometricians can overcome the limitations of any method to develop a more integrative view of personality. Each type of psychological test must be used for its intended purpose. Each standardized test has rules and protocols which must be strictly followed. This prevents the corruption of data and lessens the chances of misinterpretations. As test users or administrators, thoroughly know what test is used and why. This guarantees good results!


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