When administered and evaluated properly, psychological tests are accurate tools used to diagnosis and treat mental health conditions.

When you hear the words “psychological testing,” all kinds of questions and thoughts may run through your mind.

What will they ask? Will my answers be considered right or wrong? If my answers are wrong, what will that say about me?

Don’t panic.

Psychologists use psychological testing in the same way medical doctors use lab work, X-rays, and physical exams: to determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend treatment, when necessary.

Psychological testing is the basis for mental health treatment. These tools are often used to measure and observe a person’s behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

Tests are performed by a psychologist who will evaluate the results to determine the cause, severity, and duration of your symptoms. This will guide them in creating a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Tests can either be objective or projective:

  • Objective testing involves answering questions with set responses like yes/no or true/false.
  • Projective testing evaluates responses to ambiguous stimuli in the hopes of uncovering hidden emotions and internal conflicts.

Both provide valuable insight into your symptoms and help psychologists see your overall level of functioning and distress.

Psychological tests can include formal, or “norm-referenced,” tests to measure your ability to comprehend different concepts. They can come in the form of checklists and questionnaires.

Each test measure ensures the reliability, validity, and objectivity necessary to avoid bias in scoring or interpreting your results.

During a psychological evaluation, assessments may also be used to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Assessments include standardized tests as well as informal tests, such as:

  • surveys
  • clinical interviews
  • observational data
  • medical exams
  • previous educational and medical history

Psychological testing can be recommended for a number of reasons including diagnosing mental health conditions and identifying troubling behavior.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the following symptoms may indicate that a psychological test may be needed:

  • increased social withdrawal
  • nervousness
  • changes in mood
  • difficulty completing normal tasks
  • a dramatic change in sleep and eating habits
  • problems with concentration

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. You can use our Find a Therapist tool for help.

Psychological testing may also be used by researchers or scientists to test hypotheses about a variety of topics that aren’t always related to psychology.

Other uses for psychological testing include:

  • screening job applicants
  • organizational development
  • academic placement

Psychologists use testing to examine a variety of factors, including emotional intelligence, personality, mental aptitude, and neurological functioning.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the types of testing available and the most commonly used tests for each category.

TypeTests and Measures
Personality testsMeasure behaviors, emotions, attitude, and behavioral and environmental characteristics
Test names: Basic Personality Inventory (BPI), 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire
Achievement testsMeasure respondents’ intellectual interests, achievements, and cognitive abilities
Test names: Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery, Kaufman Test of Education Achievement (K-TEA)
Attitude testsMeasure views of respondents based on how much they agree or disagree with a statement
Test names: Likert Scale, Thurstone Scale
Aptitude testsMeasure capabilities, skill sets, and projection of future success
Test names: Visual Reasoning Test, Abstract Reasoning Test
Emotional Intelligence testsMeasure emotional responses such as anger, sadness, happiness, and impulsivity
Test names: Mayor-Salovey-Caruso El Test (MSCEIT), Emotional and Social Competence Inventory
Intelligence testsMeasure mental/developmental learning disabilities
Test names: Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Universal Nonverbal Intelligence
Neuropsychological testsMeasure cognitive abilities like memory, language, and executive functioning
Test names: Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Ammons Quick Test
Projective testsMeasure feedback from external influences to identify unrealized emotions/conflicts
Test names: Rorschach Inkblot Test, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
Observation (direct) testsMeasure immediate observable behavior; performed in a laboratory, clinical, or natural setting

Now that you have a better idea of what psychological testing entails and you’re ready to move forward, you might be asking yourself, “So, what’s next?”

If you haven’t already done so, consider reaching out to your primary care doctor, if you have one. They may be able to refer you to a mental health professional who is qualified to administer testing and diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

If you’re unsure about seeking treatment, consider joining a local or online mental health support group. Support groups offer a great way to meet other people who are experiencing similar emotions and situations. Knowing that you’re not alone can be encouraging and helpful.

Remember during testing to be as honest as possible about your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. This is the best way to get the help and support you need.