Recently, I started a discussion on some psychometrics related groups to get people’s opinions about why they attend psychometric certification programs. What do they really looks for in a psychometric certification programme. Interestingly, I received more direct messages than replies to the post. It seems that majority of my audience did not want to talk about it in public. And most people who wrote to me expressed that they do not really feel good the way big brand names FORCE them to go for 3 to 5 days certification programme at exorbitantly high price to permit them to use their tests. They talked about their NEED to learn properly about the instruments they are using or plan to use but in the same breath they also talked about this unfair ‘GAME’ played by some big players in the market to milk money even from those who already know the test very well.
This prompted me to write this post to share my thoughts and messages from my professional network that I received.
The NEED for Psychometric Certification
First of all, we need to understand that Psychometric Tests are complex measurement instruments – way more complex than any instrument in physical science. A large portion of this complexity comes from the fact that they measure things which can not be objectively verified. Just think about it. How would you objectively verify ‘Conscientiousness’? How would you objectively verify ‘Extraversion’? or even ‘Intelligence’?
The attributes measured by Psychometric Tests are abstract and conceptual rather than being concrete and physical. They are almost always ‘inferred’, rather than ‘observed’. They are intangible rather than tangible. Since these tests are supposed to measure intangible things, they rely on multiple statistical approximations and inferences to provide a ‘measurement’. Most test users do not realise the complexity of the tools they are using simply because around us we have so many questionnaires claiming to be TEST. But…
not all questionnaire are psychometric tests.
Most psychometric tests are essentially well thought off, designed and carefully selected questionnaires but converting a questionnaire into a test is not a simple job.
When you deal with a complex measuring instrument like psychometric tests, you need to have requires KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) to use them well. If you are riding a bicycle, you do not need a license in most countries but if you are driving a motorised bike, you need to get training and get a license. When you have opened a shop to measure weight of people and give them a ticket with their weight written on it, you do not need a license, but when you doing blood test, you need a license. Similarity, if you are using a fun quiz or questionnaire to tell people something about them (e.g. what animal they are, or what is their soul colour) you do not need any training or licence but when you are doing IQ Test, EQ Test, Personality Test etc. you need to have the required KSA, and in some countries, you need a license as their governments are aware about the vast implication of psychometric tests in their people’s life.
As we see here, there are 2 aspects of it — one, the acquisition of skills for which no license is needed and two, practicing those skills in public for which depending upon your country you might or might not need license.
License or not, you need to have required skills and someone other than you should give the testimony that you posses those skills if you plan to use them for others.
The GAME played by test publishers:
Do you need to learn new set of skills in driving your car when you change country? Do you need to have different set of skills when you are doing blood test in India than when you are doing that in Kenya or in USA? Do you need to have new license when you change countries?
Do you need to learn something new in driving when you change your car from one brand to other in the same category? Do you need a new license when you change your car?
In my opinion, when one has acquired skills in a kind of psychometric instrument e.g. Cognitive Tests, the person should be able to use (administer and interpret) ALL tests which are essentially cognitive test as all of them based on the same concept and use same statistical technique of measurement and inference.
In the case of Psychometric Tests, the situation is not as clear as the car example as two tests belonging to the same group of tests might have very different set of underlying constructs that they are measuring and probably that is the reason many test publisher either ask the test user to get mandatory training in their tools from ground up or opt for a conversion course. And this is where it becomes a kind of abusive GAME. Some test publishers, given their dominance in the market, ask even the qualified users to go for a fresh course to use their test. Although being the author or IP owner of the tests they have all the rights to set conditions for who can and who can not use their tests but from a professional standpoint, this is a malpractice.
What is your opinion about this subject and what has been your experience with Certifications in the area of psychometric testing?
About the author:
Vijai Pandey is a Psychometric Test Developer having developed more than a dozen Personality Tests and hundreds of ability tests. He is a master facilitator for Psychometric Testing Certification workshops organised by the Indian Institute of Business Psychology (IIBP).