Psychological Test: Definition, Types & Examples

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college information technology and literacy, and has a master's in counseling psychology and business administration.

Psychologists and other qualified mental health professionals use psychological tests to measure specific psychological constructs in individuals. This lesson will explore the different types of psychological tests and provide several examples.


Suppose that you are a psychologist. A new client walks into your office reporting trouble concentrating, fatigue, feelings of guilt, loss of interest in hobbies, and loss of appetite. You automatically think that your client may be describing symptoms of depression. However, you note that there are several other disorders that also have similar symptoms. For example, your client could be describing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, or a list of other psychological disorders. There are also some physical conditions, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure, which could result in the mental symptoms that your client is reporting.

So how do you determine which diagnosis, if any, you give your client? One tool that can help you is a psychological test. Psychological tests, or psychological assessments, are instruments used to measure how much of a specific psychological construct an individual has. Psychological tests are used to assess many areas, including:

  • Traits: i.e., introversion and extroversion
  • Certain conditions: i.e., depression and anxiety
  • Intelligence, aptitude, and achievement: i.e., verbal intelligence and reading achievement
  • Attitudes and feelings: i.e., how individuals feel about the treatment that they received from their therapists
  • Interest: i.e., the careers and activities that a person is interested in
  • Specific abilities, knowledge, or skills: i.e., cognitive ability, memory, and problem-solving skills

It is important to note that not anyone can administer a psychological test. Each test has its own requirements or qualifications that a person must meet in order for a person to purchase and administer the test to someone else.

Psychological tests provide a way for us to formally and accurately measure different factors that can contribute to people's problems. Before a psychological test is administered, the individual being tested is usually interviewed. In addition, it is very common for more than one psychological test to be administered in certain settings.

Let's look at the example above. You might decide that the best way to narrow down your client's diagnosis is to administer the Beck Depression Inventory, PTSD Symptom Scale Interview, and an insomnia questionnaire. You may be able to rule out a diagnoses or two based on the test results. These assessments may be given to your client in one visit, since they all take less than 20 minutes on average to complete.

Types and Examples of Psychological Tests

Intelligence tests are used to measure intelligence, or your ability to understand your environment, interact with it, and learn from it. Intelligence tests include:

  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale

Personality tests are used to measure personality style and traits. Personality tests are commonly used in research or to assist with clinical diagnoses. Examples of personality tests include:

  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
  • Thematic Apperception Test
  • Rorschach, also known as the 'inkblot test'

Attitude tests such as the Likert Scale or the Thurstone Scale, are used to measure how an individual feels about a particular event, place, person, or object.

Achievement tests are used to measure how well you understand a particular topic (i.e., mathematics achievement tests). Aptitude tests are used to measure your abilities in a specific area (i.e. clerical skills).

Achievement tests include:

  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test
  • Peabody Individual Achievement Test

Aptitude tests include:

  • Bloomberg Aptitude Test
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery

Neuropsychological tests are used to detect impairments in your cognitive functioning that are thought to be a result of brain damage. For example, if you were to have a stroke, you might have a neuropsychological test to see if there is any resulting cognitive damage (i.e., decreased ability to think due to damage in a brain pathway). One example of a neuropsychological test is the Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Test Battery. Other examples include:

  • Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
  • Benton Visual Retention Test

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