Standardization and Norms of Psychological Tests

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  • 0:01 Intelligence Testing
  • 0:55 Standardization
  • 3:00 Norms
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Many psychological tests, including intelligence tests, are about comparing your score to others' scores to see how you did. Watch this lesson to find out about two important concepts in psychology: standardization and norms.

Intelligence Testing

Imagine that you are approaching the finish line of a race. Your heart is pumping, and you can feel the adrenaline kicking in. As you cross the finish line, you look up and see that you ran the race in 6 minutes and 43 seconds.

Did you do well on the race or not? How do you answer that question? Is it based on the time it took you to finish, or based on whether you came in first or last?

Believe it or not, the question of how well you did in your race is very similar to the question of how well people do on intelligence tests, which are meant to measure how much innate ability a person has. There are many different intelligence tests, which are sometimes called IQ tests. But there are a few things that they all have in common, including standardization and norms. Let's look closer at those things.


Let's rewind for a moment. You're not approaching the finish line for the race; now you're at the starting line for the race, getting ready. But when you line up to race, you realize that something is wrong. Everyone has a different starting point: some people are only a few feet from the finish line, while others are far, far away. What gives?

Your race does not have standardization, which ensures that everything is the same for all participants. In the case of the race, this means that every racer must run the same distance. In the case of intelligence tests, it means that every test-taker must have the same circumstances.

You might be thinking, 'But a test isn't a race. How can it be different?' Think about this: intelligence tests are being given out to people all over the world, all the time. Also, there's not one person giving them but many, many people.

So, imagine that you take an intelligence test that's given to you by Amy, a nice woman who hands the test over, tells you that you have an hour to take it, and then walks away. You are left to figure everything out on your own.

But imagine that your friend takes that same test, but this time it's given by someone named Rosa. Rosa notices when your friend starts to struggle with a question, so she gives him a hint. When he really can't get an answer, she lets him look the answers up online.

What if you score the same as your friend? Does that mean that you are equally adept? No, because you didn't have standardization. That is, the test you took was harder than your friend's test, even though it had the same questions, just by virtue of the fact that you didn't have the same help that he did.

As you can probably tell, standardization is very important in an intelligence test and other psychological tests. Making sure that every single person gets the test under standard conditions ensures that everyone gets a fair shot at the test.

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