In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Testing and Assessment

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Test Reviews

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Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Psychology Testing and Assessment
Vesna Buško
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 June 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0059


Testing and assessment of individual differences have been an essential part of professional work of scientists and practitioners in psychology and related disciplines. It is generally acknowledged that psychological tests, along with the existing conceptualizations of measurements of human potentials, are among the most-valuable contributions of behavioral sciences to society. The majority of psychological phenomena, or theoretical constructs, are not observable directly. Because of their latent nature, they are typically measured indirectly, that is, by registering behavior on appropriate tasks or responses to test items. Psychological testing is regarded as the process of measuring human attributes by procedures designed to obtain a sample of behavior. The meaning of assessment is broader to some extent and includes gathering and integration of test-related data, and those from other sources, to make an evaluation, professional decision, or recommendation about a person. Within more than a century of testing and assessment practice, different conceptual frameworks have been proposed and have served as a foundation of psychological test development, including the methods for evaluation of their usefulness and quality. Despite the controversies surrounding both classical and modern formulations of test theory, they appear to be widely used today and complement each other in designing and evaluating psychological and educational tests. Testing practice is for many reasons an extremely sensitive issue. It is most often not only a professional but also a public issue. Because the decisions based on test results and their interpretations often entail important individual and societal consequences, psychological testing has been the target of profound public attention and a long-standing criticism. The first part of this article introduces General Overviews and Textbooks, representing major aspects of testing theory, methodological principles in test design and evaluation, and the areas of application. Selected Reference Works concern either theoretical foundations of psychological testing or the assessment issues used related to particular fundamental or applied fields of psychology. Several excellent Journals that specialize in publishing articles on advances in psychometrics, along with theoretical and practical aspects of assessment, are also presented, as well as critical sources of information on measurement instruments and their utility. The article concludes with considerations of Ethical, Societal, and Cultural Issues that are linked to the process of psychological testing and assessment, including the responsibilities of all parties involved in the assessment data-gathering procedures and the uses of test results.

General Overviews

Literature on testing and assessment in psychology and related social science disciplines is abundant and diverse in many respects. Several rather succinct texts are selected here to provide a general insight into the meanings, functions, and conceptual and methodological developments of the field. Megargee 2000 and Segal and Coolidge 2000 give overall accounts of the terms of testing and assessment, with their specific meanings and main areas of application. Jones and Thissen 2007 offers a general overview of psychometrics, with its historical background, core topics, theory, and methods. Haig and Borsboom 2008 introduces a vivid discussion on the nature of measurement in psychology, raising challenging views on the long-lasting issue of its conceptual foundations.

  • Haig, B. D., and D. Borsboom. 2008. On the conceptual foundation of psychological measurement. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives 6.1–2: 1–6.

    DOI: 10.1080/15366360802035471

    A theoretical and, in a way, philosophical commentary that addresses challenging aspects of the common treatment of measurement procedures in psychology. Refers to associated, intriguing focus articles dealing with fundamental psychometric issues, such as relations of observed test scores to psychological attributes, or construct-concept differentiation.

  • Jones, L. V., and D. Thissen. 2007. A history and overview of psychometrics. In Psychometrics. Handbook of Statistics 26. Edited by C. R. Rao and S. Sinharay, 1–28. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Presents psychometrics as a discipline of quantitative psychology, with a historical overview of its major classes of methods and models, including the development of the true score and item response formulations of the test theory, and the problems of comparability of test scores and so-called test-linking procedures.

  • Megargee, E. I. 2000. Testing. In Encyclopedia of psychology. Vol. 8. Edited by A. E. Kazdin, 47–52. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    The article presents main types of tests and related application settings, with short accounts of their historical background and standards governing test development and evaluation.

  • Segal, D. L., and F. L. Coolidge. 2000. Assessment. In Encyclopedia of psychology. Vol. 1. Edited by A. E. Kazdin, 264–272. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Historical overview of psychological assessment is presented along with main methods, techniques, and strategies used within specific assessment settings and with regard to particular domains of human functioning.

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