Psychological Assessment BPS308

Online Course

  • Learn about Psychology testing and Psychoanalysis
  • Develop a foundation for conducting psychological assessments
  • Foundation course or professional development for counsellors, welfare workers and support staff in health and caring professions

Course Structure

There are seven lessons in this module, as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Context of Clinical Assessment
3. The Assessment Interview
4. Behavioural Assessment
5. Wechsler Intelligence Scales
6. Wechsler Memory Scales
7. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory


  • Explain the main kinds of psychological tests and why they are used, and meaning of test reliability and validity
  • Explain ethical and other factors that constrain clinical assessment
  • Describe a structured and an unstructured interview
  • Explain behavioural assessment and how it can be conducted
  • Discuss Wechsler scales in detail
  • Explain the purpose and use of the Wechsler Memory Test
  • Explain the purpose and usage of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

What is in each lesson?

1. Introduction
What is psychological assessment
Types of psychological tests
Achievement tests
Aptitude tests
Intelligence tests
Occupational tests
Personality tests
History of psychological testing
Justification for using tests
Advantages and disadvantages of using psychometric testing
Ethnicity and different cultures
Psychological testing of language minority and culturally different children
Why your child should be tested
Why it is important for parents to know about testing
Validity and reliability
Construct, discriminant and convergent validity
Test retest reliability

2. Context of Clinical Assessment
Ethical practice
Case study: confidentiality
Informed consent
Record keeping
Dual relationships
Professional boundaries
Selecting tests
Case study: ethics and lie detection
Computer assisted assessment
Virtual reality; new tool for psychological assessment
Personality traits and designing a questionnaire
Ambiguity and bias
Closed and open questions

3. The Assessment Interview
The interview
Screening for psychological disorders
Structured and unstructured interviews
Assessing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans
Screening and referral procedure overview
If patient refuses referral to mental health care
Use of a primary care screen
Discussing screening results with patients
Discern if traumatic events are ongoing
Making a recommendation
Scheduling a follow up
Psychomentric properties of SCID

4. Behavioural Assessment
Kinds of consequences
Intrinsic and extrinsic reinforcers
Consequences and timing
The premack principle
Criticisms of behaviourism
Methods of behavioural assessment
The focus of assessment
Functional analysis
Analysis of problem behaviour
Motivational analysis
Behavioural vs traditional assessment

5. Wechsler Intelligence Scales
Measuring intelligence
Cognitive, cognitive contextural and biological theories
Psychometric theories
Wechsler Intelligence scales
Normal results
Sub tests, verbal subtests, performance subtests
Cultural bias
Precautions with intelligence testing
The intelligence test as a tool

6. Wechsler Memory scales
Wechsler Memory test
Wechsler Memory Scale III

7. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Assessment
False negatives; false positives



The understanding behind psychometric tests is that if things such as intelligence and personality exist, we should be able to measure them. Difficulties with this will be discussed later.

Psychological tests fall into several categories:

Achievement tests are usually seen in educational or employment settings, and they attempt to measure how much you know about a certain topic (i.e., your achieved knowledge), such as mathematics or spelling.

Aptitude tests are also generally used in educational and employment settings, and they attempt to measure how much of a capacity you have (i.e., your aptitude) to master material in a particular area, such as mechanical relationships.

Intelligence tests attempt to measure your intelligence, or your basic ability to understand the world around you, assimilate its functioning, and apply this knowledge to enhance the quality of your life. Intelligence, therefore, is a measure of a potential, not a measure of what you’ve learned (as in an achievement test), and so it is supposed to be independent of culture. The trick is to design a test that can actually be culture-free; most intelligence tests fail in this area to some extent for one reason or another.

Neuropsychological tests attempt to measure deficits in cognitive functioning (i.e., your ability to think, speak, reason, etc.) that may result from some sort of brain damage, such as a stroke or a brain injury.

Occupational tests attempt to match your interests with the interests of persons in known professions. The logic here is that if the things that interest you in life match up with, say, the things that interest most school teachers, then you might make a good school teacher yourself.

Personality tests attempt to measure your basic personality style and are most used in research or forensic settings to help with clinical diagnoses. Two of the most well-known personality tests are

- the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), composed of several hundred “yes or no” questions, and

- the Rorschach (the “inkblot test”), composed of several cards of inkblots—you simply give a description of the images and feelings you experience in looking at the blots.

Specific clinical tests attempt to measure specific clinical matters, such as your current level of anxiety or depression.


There are many different psychological assessment tests available – below are some examples.



Whilst clinical profiling has been going on for quite some time, the use of profiling in other areas such as criminal profiling is relatively new, and so is still a developing science. As criminal profiling gains more credibility, its acceptance and use is only likely to increase despite the criticisms levelled at it now by some groups. The increase in international terrorist threats since 9-11 has led to behavioural profiling techniques being adopted by trained security staff at airports, conferences, stadia, and so forth. Profiling for job selection is also on the increase. Many employers invest considerable money into screening potential employees, particularly those who will be working in stressful and sensitive positions.

Profiles may be used in many different situations. When they are used they should not be regarded as the sole tool to make a judgement about a person, but as exactly what they are – a tool. Profiles can be used in a variety of ways, for example:

Profiling Staff
Profiles can be used to make more informed decisions about selection of employees, and to manage personnel better. However, a profile based on testing alone is not enough to make a judgement on whether a person may be suitable as a new member of staff or not. Other criteria are required, such as interview data, background information, relevant skills and knowledge tests, and so on. A profile might be used to screen out unsuitable candidates on the basis of personality traits or characteristics, or aptitude but if a number of candidates have the profile an employer is looking for, then recruitment will be determined by more personal attributes such as attitude and commitment, and whether the employer likes the potential employee.

Profiling Customers
Marketing psychologists may profile potential customers of a product to determine how to market their product more clearly. Building up a customer profile involves things like segmenting the market in terms of demographic factors such as age, gender, occupation, etc. and creating a product concept to target those groups with. Profiling is used to differentiate the buyers so that marketing can be successfully tailored towards their individual tastes and preferences.

Marketers use psychological techniques to gain the attention of their target audience and use profiles created from the use of personality tests to give their products a 'brand personality' which meets with the approval and desire of their buyers.

Profiling Criminals
Forensic psychologists may profile criminal behaviour to assist in crime prevention, or to help finding criminals in which case it could be used to try and predict the type of criminal that may be responsible for a particular crime or set of crimes so as to narrow the police search.

More usually profiles are used in the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, or as an aid to authorities in the sentencing process. Offender profiles can also be used to assess the suitability of an offender for prison life and their level of criminal responsibility, for example, whether a person is mentally fit to stand trial. An individual's profile might suggest that they would be better served by extensive psychiatric treatment and/or hospitalisation.

Profiling Terrorists
Behavioural assessments have also been used to try to profile terrorists. This is an area of research which has grown considerably over the past couple of decades. The information gained from research of this kind has been used to inform staff at ports, airports, and borders into the type of things to look out for, such as: behaviours which might reveal underlying anxiety about being caught; how to recognise lying through an individual's body language, facial expressions, and verbal cues; likely age groups, ethnicities, personal grooming, and so forth; how they might behave in order to distract suspicion away from themselves.

Profiles of terrorists might also be created for those in captivity to gain insight into what type of personality traits they have and indeed whether any of these are abnormal, their intellectual strengths and weaknesses, attitudes towards authority, presence of psychological conditions, and so on. These profiles might be used to assist in the individual's treatment plan where problems are identified, but they might also be used in the compilation of broader profiles aimed at understanding the behaviour of terrorists generally or specific groups of terrorists.

Computer Profiling
This is already being used to detect specific target groups such as: those involved in terrorist activities, adults attempting to groom young children for sexual gratification, those wishing to arrange hooligan activities at football matches or other venues, anti-social groups seeking to stir up racial hatred, and so forth. Profiling in this way may be used to assess the level of risk associated with the behaviours and activities of particular individuals or groups. It may be possible to predict how a group or individual will behave in a future situation and how to curtail specific acts.

Profiling covers a range of areas, from criminal to educational to clinical profiling. The right choice of tests test for the profiles will obviously be determined by what is intended to be tested and how experienced the profiler is in use of the tests. A poorly trained profiler may not know enough to administer the tests well, so a good knowledge of the test and how to use it is obviously important.

In addition, tests have to be administered using standardised procedures so that each respondent is tested in the same conditions and within the same timeframe, only then can results be meaningfully compared to those of norm groups. Psychological tests come with instruction manuals which stipulate what these conditions are. For instance, if reading test items aloud to the respondent the examiner may have to allow one second between each item. Test instructions also have to be read out to the respondent word for word as set out in the manual. All test materials have to be prepared beforehand to avoid any possible delays. If subtest are to be timed, then a stopwatch should be used to accurately record time in seconds.

As research grows and more tests become available for use, we will hopefully develop a broader range of tests that are scientifically based and show good reliability and validity. Such developments would help to ensure a greater understanding of their potential uses, and how they may be better used to help people.

Ethics of Profiling

There are ethical issues with profiling with regards to where its use may be appropriate or inappropriate. The individual provides the profiler with a great deal of personal information, so a level of trust should be established between the profiler and individual. This is not always possible if the test is perceived in a negative way by the individual, for instance an inmate undergoing forensic profiling.

The results of psychological profiles may also be used towards research, and any personal results used in this manner should remain confidential. However, profile information may have to be revealed for good reasons such as if it is requested by a court of law, or the individual being profiled is at risk of self-harm, or if it is needed to determine whether a child has a specific learning disability, and so on. In such circumstances, profile information may not always remain confidential, and any likely breaches to confidentiality should be disclosed to the client at the onset of profiling.

Profile findings used for clinical work should also be used to help the client to overcome their difficulties rather than just present them with data. The clinician needs to use the information in the most appropriate way. it is the responsibility of the clinician to ensure that they are competent in test administration and continue to improve their understanding of the different types of information and psychological theories associated with them in order to best serve their client.


The effectiveness of profiling depends to a large degree on the skill and knowledge of the practitioner. They must be able to make sense of the data in a meaningful and useful way. One of the main concerns is if the information obtained from test results is not integrated sufficiently well with other data from interviews, observations, and so on. If it is not, then the interpretation may be misleading. It is not enough to simply administer a test and then score it. In fact, only ability tests could be scored objectively, but even then tests of intelligence can be broken down into different types of intelligence which may be influenced by other factors that the clinician should be aware of. Other tests simply cannot be scored objectively and require a much more complex interpretation in conjunction with other relevant information.

The difficulties in using tests should also be taken into account when considering how appropriate they are. For instance, the client should be capable of understanding instructions provided to them and it should be appropriate to their cultural background. If the test norms where standardised on a sample who are too far removed from the client then it would not be an appropriate test to use. A clinician should also be familiar with a tests validity and reliability when selecting a test. The test should measure what it is intended to and any limitations of the test should be taken into consideration when scoring the test and interpreting the findings.




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