WHAT PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING IS
Psychological testing involves a formal evaluation or assessment that is conducted by a clinical psychologist to answer specific referral questions. Clinical psychologists are doctoral-level providers who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological testing typically involves participating in a diagnostic interview to determine the referral questions and then participating in a number of tasks with the psychologist to help answer those questions. The psychologist then scores the results, integrates the findings, and if indicated, produces a comprehensive report to communicate the results and recommendations. Finally, a feedback session is scheduled during which the psychologist meets with the person requesting the evaluation to discuss the information contained in the report and to answer any questions.
Often times, psychological testing is used for the purpose of diagnostic clarification, such as determining whether an individual meets criteria for a diagnosis or diagnoses. This may involve cognitive, neuropsychological, personality, and/or achievement testing. Testing may also be conducted to assess an individual’s level of functioning at different points in time, and to make appropriate recommendations, such as to inform treatment or to assist an individual with their social, academic, or school functioning. Individuals may seek testing for personal reasons, or even for their own knowledge, and other times they may seek testing to obtain recommendations or accommodations, as needed. At other times, a third party may request psychological testing of an individual for the purpose of obtaining more information about an individual.
Cognitive testing, commonly referred to as “IQ testing,” is used to determine an individual’s intelligence or ability levels. Cognitive testing also offers a determination of strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to intellectual functioning. The domains typically assessed in cognitive testing include: verbal, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed abilities.
Neuropsychological testing is often conducted in conjunction with cognitive testing to assess specific capacities, such as attention, memory, and executive functioning. This type of testing is often helpful to gain clarity about an individual’s ability to focus, recall information, plan, organize, and is often used to determine whether an individual may meet criteria for a diagnosis such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or a neurocognitive disorder.
Personality testing is an assessment of psychopathology and personality functioning, which may include determining the presence or absence of psychosis, anxiety, and mood symptoms. Objective and performance-based personality measures can be administered to aid in arriving at a diagnosis or diagnoses, and these can also be helpful to assess test taking style or approach, and well as longstanding personality characteristics.
Finally, achievement testing is conducted to assess reading, writing, and mathematics abilities. Achievement testing can be used to determine strengths and weaknesses or areas for improvement as they pertain to learning, and can be used to diagnose specific learning disabilities. On the other hand, achievement testing often in conjunction with cognitive testing can also be used to determine whether an individual may qualify for gifted programs or schools. Perhaps most importantly, achievement testing allows psychologists to make recommendations to implement at home and school to help individuals succeed in their academic pursuits, such as by suggesting specific accommodations to help an individual meet their true potential.