Psychometric Testing: A Brief History

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Author: Oliver Savill
Updated: February 13, 2020

A brief history of psychometric testing and aptitude tests.

Psychometric Testing: A Brief History

You may think that psychometric tests are a fairly new invention due to their current administration via technological devices, however, they have been around for well over 100 years.

Modern psychometric tests have their roots in Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, who lived from 1822 to 1911, who was fascinated by individual differences. It was Sir Francis who showed that objective testing could provide meaningful scores.

Another pioneer was James Cattell, who first coined the term ‘mental test’ in 1890. Fifteen years later, Alfred Binet introduced the first modern intelligence test.

After being introduced in the late 1800's, psychometric tests also featured during the world wars, being used as a tool to assess recruits for any neuroses. The tests administered back then were mainly personality tests, and the role that psychometric tests have taken on since then has drastically changed.

What does modern psychometric testing look like?

If you’re a graduate looking to start a career at one of the top UK firms, it’s almost impossible to avoid some variation of psychometric test. As of 2017, over 75% of The Times Top 100 UK Companies use psychometric testing in part of their recruitment process with this figure only rising.

However, it’s not just the big firms deciding to take advantage of the many benefits of psychometric testing - lots of smaller firms are also utilising them in order to find the best candidates.

Today a psychometric test is best described as a standardised assessment which looks at human behaviour and describes it with scores or categories. There are some tests which assess intelligence, and others which test capability or personality traits.

Over 80% of the top 500 US firms use psychometric testing

These days, many if not most employers make extensive use of these assessments, especially online psychometric tests, and especially when recruiting graduates in whom they will be making a substantial investment.

The two main areas of occupational psychometric testing, that are used today, involve the assessment of typical performance and maximum performance.

Typical Performance

Typical performance tests assess areas such as personality, values and motivation. This type of psychometric test is normally used to discover whether an individual has a genuine interest in a job vacancy and how compatible their personality would be to the existing team. A typical performance test will generally have no right or wrong answers and include no time limit.

Maximum Performance

Maximum performance tests are used to assess a candidate's verbal, numerical and general reasoning abilities. This type of aptitude test can help employers to ascertain whether an individual has the specific occupational skills needed for a role. Therefore, test questions will have right and wrong answers, and there will also be a time limit.

Read our other articles to discover more about aptitude tests, and why not take some of our practise tests we have on our site.

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