Psychological Assessment

Study Psychological Assessment by distance learning. Learn about types of psychological tests; their advantages and disadvantages. For work in psychology, human behaviour and counselling.

Course Code: BPS308
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Psychological Assessment course - find out more about Psychological Testing

  • Learn how Psychological Assessments are carried out.
  • Professional Development Course for anyone working in Psychology, Counselling or Management.
  • Self paced study, 100 hour course, Personal tuition from professional psychologists.

Psychological tests assess and evaluate information that is given to the examiner by the client. This information is in the form of answers to interview questions or as answers on paper—or on a computer—to specific questions. Ultimately, a test’s accuracy depends on how carefully and seriously the client answers the questions they are asked.

A psychological assessment is when a skilled psychologist uses the techniques and tools of psychology to learn general or specific facts about another person, either to information others how they function or to predict their behaviour and functioning in the future.

A psychological assessment is when a skilled psychologist uses the techniques and tools of psychology to learn general or specific facts about another person, either to information others how they function or to predict their behaviour and functioning in the future.

Assessment is usually for the point of diagnosis or classification. That is, placing a person into a loosely or strictly defined category of people. This allows us to understand what they are like in general and assess the presence of other relevant characteristics based on people similar to them.

Note: This course will not qualify you to carry out individual psychological tests. Further training is required in each individual test to do this.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  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
    • Confidentiality
    • 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
    • Weaknesses
    • Ambiguity and bias
    • Closed and open questions
  3. The Assessment Interview
    • The interview
    • Screening for psychological disorders
    • Structured and unstructured interviews
    • SCID
    • 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
    • Psychometric properties of SCID
  4. Behavioural Assessment
    • Behaviourism
    • Kinds of consequences
    • Reinforcers
    • Intrinsic and extrinsic reinforcers
    • Consequences and timing
    • The premack principle
    • Extinction
    • 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
    • Introduction
    • Measuring intelligence
    • Cognitive, cognitive contextual 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
    • Memory
    • Wechsler Memory test
    • Wechsler Memory Scale III
  7. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
    • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Assessment
    • Problems
    • False negatives; false positives

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • 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 involved in a Psychological Assessment?

Everyone is unique in some way or other. Strengths and weaknesses are not always obvious; but it can certainly be helpful to have some understanding of such things - in so many different situations.

A psychological assessment is when a skilled psychologist uses the techniques and tools of psychology to learn general or specific facts about another person, either to information others how they function or to predict their behaviour and functioning in the future.

Mahoney and Ward (1976) stated that assessments –

  • Often use tests.
  • Typically, do not follow defined procedures or steps.
  • Contribute to a decision making process to some problem, often be redefining a problem, breaking the problem down into smaller pieces or highlighting parts of a problem.
  • Requires that the examiner considers, evaluates and integrates the data.
  • Is less inflexible and routine.
  • Is individualised.
  • Produces results that cannot be solely evaluated on psychometric grounds.

Assessment is usually for the point of diagnosis or classification.  That is, placing a person into a loosely or strictly defined category of people.  This allows us to understand what they are like in general and assess the presence of other relevant characteristics based on people similar to them.

When and Where is Testing Appropriate?

Psychological tests were created for three main reasons, all of which are interconnected:

  • It is easier to get information from tests than by clinical interview.
  • The information from tests is more scientifically consistent than the information from a clinical interview.
  • It is harder to get away with lying on a test than in a clinical interview.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Psychometric Assessments


Psychometric tests provide information on the performance of certain groups of people perform. They tend to be standardised tests. The test score of an individual is then compared with the test scores of a group of people. For example, we could test a hundred people and find that the average IQ was 100. If the individual was then tested and their score was 94, we would say that they were below average compared to the average results.

In the tests, all the people completing the test have the same instructions and the same task to do. This makes sure that any differences in performance are due to the person completing the task, not the task itself. To explain this more fully, if an interviewer sat and asked ten people the same question, there may be different results.

For example, the interviewer may not like the first respondent, so might rush through the test, or might explain things more fully to another respondent, or help another respondent. Whereas if all the respondents have the same instructions and task, the differences should be due to them, not because of the way they were asked the questions. Detailed instructions are also given to the people who administer and score the tests, so there should be some standardisation.

The tests are useful, because in theory, they allow us to make statistically based, objective judgements, on things such as, aptitude for jobs.

However, there are some difficulties with psychometric tests –


If things such as intelligence and personality exist, we should be able to measure them. The difficulty is, whether these things do actually exist, and if they do, whether it is possible to measure them. After all, IQ was invented by psychologists, so psychologists are then investigating something they consider important.

The person designing the test decides what should be in the test, so the test only measures what the designer thinks is important. If there is no agreed-upon definition, e.g. What would make a good teacher, and then different test designers may include different types of question.

Are personality traits stable? For example, we may perform really well in an IQ test one day, but perform poorly the next. Basically, psychological tests measure our performance in a certain task on a certain day.

Benefits of Studying This Course

This course provides students with an opportunity to explore the use of psychological tests. It is not designed for psychologists seeking instruction on how to score and interpret specific test findings. Instead the focus is on determining when to use certain types of tests, their pros and cons, and test reliability and validity. Graduates of this course will have insight into what can be tested, appropriate use of tests, and how tests are constructed.

This course will appeal to people working in or wishing to work in a wide range of professions such as:

  • Psychology
  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Personnel management
  • Market research
  • Research
  • Education
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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

Tracey Jones (Psychologist)

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE.
Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc.
25 years industry experience in writing, editing, education, psychology, and business. Tracey has several books and hundreds of articles published; in both fiction and non fiction.

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