Who may administer psychological tests?
A certificate is issued when a test is classified, and that certificate specifies what different categories of assessment practitioner may do with respect to the test in question - for instance: administer it, interpret it, write reports on it etc.
- Psychologists may administer any psychological tests in which they have been trained.
- Psychometrists may administer any psychological test in which they have been trained. It must be noted that there are some types of assessment that psychometrists may not use - these are tests designed to diagnose pathology, neuropsychological tests and also projective tests.
- Registered Counsellors have a more limited range of tests that they may use - there is a specific list of tests that have been approved for the use of registered counsellors. The assessments registered counsellors do are also supposed to be for basic screening purposes - if comprehensive assessment is needed, registered counsellors are expected to refer the client to a psychologist or psychometrist.
The register for psychotechnicians was closed several years ago but there are still some persons registered in that category. No new psychotechnicians are being trained or registered. Psychotechnicians may administer and score some tests where the classification certificate of the test specifically allows it.
There is currently no specific category of "test administrator" recognised by the Professional Board for Psychology, other than the professional categories mentioned above.
It is important to take note though, that according to the current scope of practice for professionals in psychology, psychometrists constitute the professional category specifically trained to administer and interpret tests of a non-clinical and non-diagnostic nature. A set of competencies has been outlined for psychometrists to guide training institutions, and a lot of attention is paid to the skills involved in actually administering testing.
It is therefore our contention that for many tests and in our multicultural context, the administration of tests can be reduced to simple reading out the instructions and watching respondents fill in the answer sheet.
What about tests where the administration is totally standardised and routine, or even automated?
Regulation R717 annexure 12 allows for a psychologist to delegate work to an employee (item 8), and this could potentially apply to the case when an administrative worker administers a test that is administered in a mechanical, computerised or purely routine manner, and where the administration requires no psychological skill as such. The responsibility for the objectivity of the process and the procedurally proper administration of the test remains with the registered professional. This would fall under the category of delegated work, and it is the registered professional's responsibility to ensure that the person who does the delegated work is properly trained for it.
Psytech has been reluctant to advise professionals to delegate the administration of tests to any person who is not a registered psychometrist - given that a professional category exists with a clearly defined role of administering tests, and that there are a great many psychometrists, many of whom struggle to find work. We believe that the administration of tests by unregistered persons (even if they have been trained) is a grey area. Even in the court case where the Association of Test Publishers and SHL took the HPCSA to court and attempted to get a court ruling that the administration of a test does not in itself constitute an act reserved for the profession of psychology, the judge did not grant this specific request.
Where the test administration is totally automated, it is difficult to justify the need for a registered professional purely to administer the test - however, this applies to administration only. In fact, our contention is that during the administration of a test, a lot of other important interactions take place. The process of gaining informed consent is one professional action that takes place during the testing process, and this is covered in detail in the professional conduct regulations. Another is the behavioural observation that takes place during testing - this is observation of a professional, psychological nature and goes way beyond a simple process that can be automated. If the test is automatically administered without supervision, the observational information can not be obtained, and the professional in charge of the assessment process has to take responsibility for doing the assessment in the absence of the additional information.
The rules of professional conduct clearly specify that assessment needs to be done in the context of a professional relationship. Only the registered professional can establish this relationship - that is not something you can delegate. How it must be done is not clearly defined, and nowadays technology allows us means of communication that were not even options a few years ago. There are the possibilities of Skype conversations, of a video call, videoconferencing, observation via webcam or video camera during testing, even the telephone. We believe that the establishing of a professional relationship is a necessary preliminary to the obtaining of informed consent for testing, the identification of special needs and circumstances, and especially to defining the limits of confidentiality. With rapidly changing technology and with the regulations that do not spell everything out in up-to-date detail, it is not possible for us to give people a hard and fast answer about all the ethical issues involved with automated testing. However, it is clear that there needs to be a professional relationship, and simply overlooking that aspect is not responsible professional behaviour.
We do not believe that sending a link in an email to a person with whom one has not otherwise interacted constitutes the establishment of a professional relationship.
For that reason, when professionals ask us for access to online testing and especially when they ask us to make a test available for unsupervised administration, we require them to sign a document where they personally take professional responsibility for the way in which they use this technology.
It is simply not possible to automate responsible professional behaviour.