Psychometric Glossary

We will be expanding this list on a regular basis.  If you have any to add to the list we would like to hear from you. Please contact us.

360 degree feedback 
An approach to obtaining feedback from all your work associates. The 360 part of the phrase implies receiving feedback from all around you. Therefore, in theory this could include feedback from your manager, your manager's manager, your staff, your peers, your customers, your suppliers, and any other significant contact in your work role. Effective feedback helps companies manage this pragmatically and also ensure that individuals are supported in their development.  It is vital that expectations are well managed once individuals receive their feedback.

Adverse impact
When there is a disproportionate rate of rejection in any one sub-group in comparison with the rest of the individuals being assessed for selection purposes.

Ability/Aptitude tests
Tests to assess maximum performance in specific areas of ability.  Responses to questions are marked right or wrong.  Level A BPS training is required for independent interpretation of these tests.

Assessment centre
This refers to a selection process that may span one or more days and that incorporates multiple assessment measures.  Because you are not just relying on any one selection tool, such as the interview, the results tend to be the most predictive in terms of selecting quality candidates; but only if you know how to professionally apply the Assessment Centre approach. 

Attainment tests 
Tests used to see how well a person has learned a subject matter. Within the work environment they include tests designed to measure the effectiveness of learning upon the completion of training.

These are automated application forms and with the use of web-based application forms e.g. for graduate recruitment they are becoming popular again. 

A correlation is simply the relationship between two things which can be expressed numerically.  If the two things are exactly the same then the relationship is perfect = +1.0.  If there is no relationship between them then = 0.0.  If the two things are exact opposites then = -1.0.  Within the workplace correlations are useful for example to see whether a test predicts later job performance.

Development centres 
A development workshop that follows the assessment centre approach by using a range of exercises and tests, and then provides feedback to the delegate.

Emotional intelligence
There are many different definitions for emotional intelligence. According to Peter Salovey and John Mayer, two researchers who offer a more scientific view of the concept, emotional intelligence concerns the ability to process emotional information, particularly as it involves the perception, assimilation, understanding, and management of emotion. They suggest it involves four branches of mental ability:

  1. the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion;
  2. the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought;
  3. the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and
  4. the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

Factor analysis
A statistical technique used to determine the natural ordering of complex data/information.  It is a particularly useful technique to pinpoint respondents' mental models by factor analysing how they have used ratings either for questionnaires or for assessment purposes. The items/questions that are rated in similar ways by people cluster together to create 'factors'. Therefore, if looking for factors within a personality questionnaire you might find factors emerging like extroversion or sensitivity.

This simply means 'forced choice'. For example, in a question the respondent is given five options and they need to choose the option that is most like them and also the one that is least like them. Such questionnaires are not easy to norm as one is only getting an internal measure of their personal likes/dislikes.  For example, an individual may keep selecting influencing as something they do not like doing relative to other items.  But we do not know how low his/her influencing is relative to other people's liking for influencing.

Job analysis
This is a method for producing systematic information about a specific job or role.  It informs upon the knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes (KSAOs) required to effectively perform a job. The information generated from a job analysis can be used to assist a wide range of activities including designing structured interviews, providing job specifications/descriptions, complying with legal requirements etc.  

An approach to development whereby an individual is paired with a more experienced person within the business. The pair are sometimes referred to as the mentor and the mentee. It is far from being just another organisational initiative, as companies have reported very successful mentoring schemes.

Occupational psychology
The application of psychology within work and business. Areas of study include personnel selection and assessment, training & learning, organisational development, individual well-being at work, ergonomics, and research methods. It is also commonly known as business psychology, work psychology, organisational osychology and industrial psychology.

This is a way of expressing a candidate's test score. Percentile expresses the performance in terms of percentages but does not relate to the number of questions correct. Rather it describes the percentage of people that the candidate performed better than e.g. 50 percentile = better than 50% of people who took the test. 90 percentile = better than 90% of people who took the test. Percentile is written in short form as %ile.

Personality questionnaires/interest inventories
Tests to assess typical performance or preference i.e. how we typically feel or behave. Appropriate Level B BPS training is required for independent interpretation of these questionnaires.

Psychological testing 
Any systematic attempt to study an individual's characteristics e.g. intelligence, abilities, personality, clinical symptoms.

Psychology is concerned with the study of feelings, behaviour (including the physiological and biological bases of behaviour), motives and thinking. A Psychologist therefore applies this knowledge to help people solve personal problems or help a group. Therefore, there are several branches of applied psychology (occupational psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology, child psychology, forensic psychology etc.) that a psychologist can specialise in.  The core training of these professionals is very similar. To become a psychologist the individual must first take a degree, followed by Masters degree and/or PhD.  For the UK, all these degrees must be recognised by the British Psychological Society (BPS).  After completion of their academic studies the individual must then have several years of supervised relevant work experience and training before they can become a chartered psychologist. HR professionals may typically work with occupational/business psychologists.

Psychometric tests
Psychological tests that provide standardised interpretation of mental characteristics. The 'metric' aspect offers a form of systematic measurement.

Someone who spends time devising tests to high technical standards and who make as considerable effort to understand a psychological variable e.g. ability, aptitude, skill, attitude, motivation, or personality trait.  The 'metric' part refers to efforts to achieve an objective measure. Therefore, psychometricians are professional test designers. In order to design a test they will conduct research and follow vigorous steps in test development to produce a sound test.  This will normally take many months as the test development entails stages of trialling with appropriate groups of people. 

Standard deviation (SD)
Technically, it is a measure of the spread of your test scores.  The larger the SD the more spread out the scores are around the mean. 

Standard error of measurement (SEm) -
Because tests are not an absolutely perfect measuring instrument then there is going to be some error in the obtained raw score. So if person A's obtained raw score is 30 and the test manual states the SEm is 3 then you would be reasonably confident that his true score lies 30 + or - 3, i.e. between 27 and 33. To be 95% confident you will need to go 6 either side ie. 24 to 36.

Standard error of difference (SEd)
Validity (test) 
Evidence that the test works for a specific application.

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