Using psychological tests - What classification means

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What does it mean if a test is classified by the Professional Board for Psychology as a psychological test?

What it says about the test

When a test is classified as a psychological test, it means that it has been evaluated in terms of its psychometric properties, and that it has been found to meet certain minimum requirements as set by the Professional Board for Psychology.

What it says about the test publisher

The process of having a test classified is onerous and expensive. If a test publisher has gone through with the process, that says a lot about their responsibility and willingness to comply with the regulations.

What it means for the use of the test

If a test is classified as a psychological test it means that the use of the test results is an act reserved for the profession of psychology. The scope of the profession of psychology, regulation 993 of the Health Professions Act, reserves a large number of activities for psychology professionals. Many of these activities relate to assessment.

pdfDownload regulation R993268.68 KB

Aspects of human behaviour that may only be assessed by psychology professionals:

The following constructs are specifically mentioned in regulation 993:

  • Intellectual abilities
  • Aptitude
  • Interests
  • Personality make-up or personality functioning
  • Temperament
  • Emotional functions
  • Psychophysiological functioning
  • Neuropsychological disorders
  • Mental functioning deficiencies

For what purpose would these assessments be done, that makes it a "psychological act"?

There is also reference to the purpose of the assessments. Specifically mentioned are: The evaluation of emotional, behavioural and cognitive processes or adjustment of personality. Specific reference is also made to "personnel career selection".

On whom would these assessments be done?

Not only individual assessments are relevant, assessment of groups of persons are also considered to be the domain of the profession of psychology.

The regulation on the scope of the profession is obviously written with the intent to be comprehensive

The domains of assessment that define an assessment as psychological in nature are specified comprehensively and repeatedly, and there is repeated reference to different techniques of assessment - not only tests, but other techniques and apparatus as well. There is a clear effort to cover all possible ways of doing assessment. By the way this regulation is written, it is clear that the intent of the legislators was to regulate psychological assessment in all its aspects and applications, and to reserve it for the profession of psychology.

Currently tests are classified only as being psychological tests or not. There is provision in the current classification system for tests to be classified as psychological tests that may also be used by other professions (for example remedial teachers or occupational therapists), but to our knowledge no tests have been classified as such.

Tests that have not been submitted for classification

It is possible that a test may measure one of the constructs reserved for the profession of psychology, but that it may not have been submitted for classification. Indeed it is very likely - the level of compliance among the people who distribute and sell tests has been disturbingly low. If a test measures personality, its use results in a psychological act whether it has been classified or not. If the test has also been classified, there is no doubt that using it constitutes a psychological act, and it has also been scrutinised for psychometric quality.

Classification system for tests under review

The Professional Board for Psychology has been engaged in the process of revising the system of classifying tests - this involves both the procedure for classifying the tests, and the categories in which they may be classified. The process of revision and consultation is still in process. It is not yet known what the revised classification system will look like, but it is important for practitioners to be aware that the classification system and regulations are subject to change, and it is incumbent on the practitioner to stay abreast of any changes. When the new system is finalised and accepted, we shall update these pages to keep our clients informed.

It is also known that all tests that are currently classified will have to be re-evaluated according to the new system that will be introduced. That means a lot of additional work for all test publishers.