Online Psychometric Testing: is the printed test dead?

Is paper and pencil testing dead? A year ago I’d have written off printed tests.

I’m not so sure now?

I first came across a computerised tests in the 1970s; it used special input devices to measure the effect of chronic alcoholism! Progress was slow at first but on-line personality tests are now.

There were some initial worries about web-based psychometrics: lack of access to the internet; expert test users losing their jobs; a lack of personal contact in the testing process. Most of these have gone away or been solved.

There’s one that still causes discussion: cheating – from looking up the answers to getting someone else to fill in the tests on the real candidate’s behalf. A USA company, Caveon has built its business looking at this issue.

Item banking – the creation of ability tests which are equivalent but have different actual questions – has helped. And it’s often argued that on personality tests there’s no incentive to cheat on –line: if candidates are successful they’ll just get a job they’re not suited for.

But sometimes there’s simply no substitute for sitting a candidate down at a desk and watching them fill in a secure paper and pencil version of a test having checked that candidate A is actually Candidate A.

At a time when research is highlighting the amount of exaggeration, commission and plain untruth contained in many CVs and application forms, a rigorous testing process seems even more important.

So, on-line psychometric testing has great advantages in terms of speed, cost and administrative efficiency. But we seem to be running a mixed on-line and paper economy, for very good reasons. Printed tests are not dead…in fact, they’re getting a new lease of life.

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