Your rights when you are tested
Undergoing assessments can be quite a scary process. It is important to be aware of your rights.
A professional relationship
Testing must take place within the context of a professional relationship. This is a requirement laid down by the code of ethical conduct for the profession of Psychology, regulation R717 of the Health Professions Act. You have a right to know who is testing you and whether they are qualified to do this. The person who is testing you should identify themselves to you and say whether they are a psychologist, psychometrist or registered counsellor. These registered professionals are issued with a blue card which is proof of their registration. You may ask to see this card or ask them for their professional registration number, which you can verify online at the HPCSA website if you want to.
If you are being tested via the Internet, it is much more difficult to establish a professional relationship. You should at least know who is in charge of the testing process and there should have been some communication between yourself and this person. You should know how to get help or explanations relating to the process of completing the test.
You can not be tested without your informed consent. This means that the reason for testing must be explained to you, and you must know who will have access to your test results. You must also understand what the testing will involve, and what the consequences of agreeing to be tested or refusing to be tested will be. Informed consent should be obtained in writing.
Sometimes, when people are applying for a job, it is assumed they by applying you must have consented to being assessed. This attiitude is not encouraged among professional test users. If there is anything unusual about the testing process, for instance if you are being tested using a computer, you must give informed consent.
Before you can give informed consent, it is also important that you must have the capacity to consent. In the case of children, a parent or guardian may have to consent. This may also be the case with a person who is very ill or injured and can not consent for themselves.
However, it is important to know that nobody can be tested against their will. Thus even if the parents have consented to have a child tested, the child must still assent (agree) to be tested.
Confidentiality is a very important ethical requirement in psychological testing. Your test results are highly confidential and may not be communicated to anyone without your consent. Test results must also be stored securely and confidentiality for five years.
Limits to confidentiality
If there are any special circumstances under which the confidentiality of your test results may be broken, you should be informed of this. This can sometimes happen if there is a court order demanding the psychology professional to disclose information.
You may refuse
You have a right to refuse to be tested, or to require that your test results not be communicated to anyone. However, if you do refuse to participate in job-related assessment, the people who have to make decisions about you will not have all the information they need. This can potentially harm your chances if you are being tested for a position.
Tests that meet the requirements
If you are being tested for employment purposes, the tests used to assess you must meet the requirements set down in article 8 of the Employment Equity Act. This means that the tests must measure what they claim to measure, they must give reliable and consistent results, they must not be biased against any person or group, and they must be used fairly. How will you know if you are being tested with tests that meet these standards? Psychological tests are professionally reviewed by the Professional Board for Psychology, and a list of these tests is published. The test is then said to be "classified". In practice, many tests that are used have not passed this procedure, indeed many were never submitted for evaluation. For the protection of your rights it is important to know that the publisher of the tests that are used to assess you, comply with the evalaution and classification procedure.
Standard testing procedure and conditions
Psychological tests must be completed under standard conditions. The place where the testing is done must be well lit and ventilated, not too hot or cold, reasonably quiet and free of distractions. If is the resposibility of the psychology professional who conducts the testing to ensure that the testing conditions are suitable. If several people are being assessed for the same position, they must undergo the same procedure under similar conditions, otherwise the process is not fair.
Dignity and respect
No matter who or what you are, or how you perform on psychometric tests, you must always be treated with dignity and respect. This is a constitutional right which is also specially protected in the code of ethical conduct for psychology professionals. If anybody feels humiliated, discriminated against or disrespected during a psychological assessment procedure, they have grounds for laying a charge of misconduct against the professional who conducted the testing. This is one reason why it is so important that testing should take place in the context of a professional relationship.
In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, you have a right to feedback about the tests that you have completed. Feedback on psychological tests is, however, a professional activity and somebody needs to pay the professional for his or her time. Sometimes companies require that job applicants pay for their own feedback. The feedback that is given to a prospective employer about an applicant's test results is usually done in the context of specific job requirements. When a psychometrist gives feedback to an individual about their own test performance, the feedback is usually done in a way that will benefit the individual, pointing out strengths and areas that can still be developed.
Feedback should also be done with care, and phrased in terms that the person receiving the feedback can understand. Psychometric test results should not be given in terms of raw scores or numbers without adequate explanation. It is important that the feedback should be understood and not misunderstood. This is the responsibility of the psychology professional.