FAQ: Finding Information About Psychological Tests
The APA Science Directorate answers hundreds of calls and emails each year from persons trying to locate the right test or find more information about psychological tests. APA neither sells nor endorses testing instruments, but it does provide guidance in using available resources to find psychological tests. Answers to frequently asked questions are provided below and are divided into three topic areas: published psychological tests, unpublished psychological tests and additional information on the proper use of tests.
The following information answers some of the most frequently asked questions regarding published tests — those available for purchase through a test publisher. Included are tips on:
- Finding information on a particular test.
- Finding a particular type of test.
- Locating a specific test.
- Locating test publishers.
- Purchasing tests.
- Test reviews.
Finding Information on a Particular Test
The first place to start is with one of the excellent testing references available at your local library. These references provide comprehensive, useful and directive information on tests. They can also provide answers to a variety of questions, such as these: What tests are available for a specific purpose (e.g., clerical spatial relations)? Who publishes the test? How can I evaluate the test? How do I get more information on a specific test?
Tests in Print (TIP) and the Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY) are two of the most useful and popular references. These are described in detail below and are available in the reference section of most college, university and larger public libraries.
Tests in Print (TIP) Publisher
The Buros Institute for Mental Measurements, Lincoln, NE. Most current volume: 8th ed. (2011).
- What information is here?
TIP is a bibliographic encyclopedia of information on every published (and commercially available) test in psychology and achievement. Each entry consists of the test title, intended population, publication date, acronym (if applicable), author, publisher, foreign adaptations and references. There are no critical reviews or psychometric information on the tests; detailed information on individual tests is available in other reference books such as MMY or Test Critiques. TIP was created to serve as a master index to the whole Buros Institute reference series on tests, including the 19 MMYs and the monograph series.
- What tests are included?
The only criterion for inclusion is that the test be in print and available for purchase or use. So TIP covers a wide range of tests across psychology, education and achievement.
- How do I use it?
Tests are listed alphabetically, within subjects. However, if you know a test title, you can flip to an alphabetical index to find it. There are five indexes: test title, classified subject, publisher, name (of authors, reviewers) and a publishers' directory. These five indexes are handy for locating tests by means other than the title or for accessing whole groups of tests for making comparisons (e.g., all tests tapping vocational interests). After you have located a test that interests you, turn to the MMY for more detailed information on that test, or use the directory of publishers to contact the test publisher for more information.
Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY) Publisher
The Buros Institute for Mental Measurements, Lincoln, NE. Most current edition: 19th ed. (2014).
- What information is here?
In the MMY, tests are listed alphabetically by title. Each entry provides descriptive information, such as the test name, intended population, publication dates, forms and prices, test author and publisher. It also contains additional information on the extent to which reliability, validity, norming data, scoring and reporting services, and foreign language versions are available. Most entries also include one or more reviews of the test and testing materials (e.g., manuals) by qualified psychologists.
- What tests are included?
The criteria for inclusion in the MMY are that the test be new or revised since the previous yearbook and that the publisher provide documentation supporting the technical qualities of the test.
- How do I use it?
The introduction contains step-by-step directions for using the text to locate testing information. If you know the test title, you can look it up directly through the alphabetical listings. The seven indexes arrange tests by title, print status (in or out), acronym, classified subject, publisher, name (author, reviewer) and score. These can be used to access tests about which you have limited information or to access groups of tests that fit into the same category (e.g., yield the same score or are all measuring stress).
Finding a Particular Type of Test
Whether you are trying to locate tests that measure self-concept, or some other specific cognitive skill or personality trait, you should begin your search with one of the two test reference books identified above. If available, TIP may be your best choice, because it has the most entries per volume. Each of the references contains several indexes to aid in such a search. Subject and test title indexes may be most helpful. For example, suppose you are interested in measuring self-concept. Looking under "personality tests" in the TIP subject index, you would quickly find three tests for self-concept. On further inspection, you would identify over a dozen additional tests that may be relevant, but are listed somewhere else in the nine-page index of personality tests. Yet a relatively quick search of a specific subject heading in the index can provide you with several useful leads.
Once you have identified several tests that may be of interest, you would review the more detailed entries on each test to determine if they are useful for your intended purpose. Entries typically identify the age or school grade levels for which the test is appropriate, as well as any subtests. Of course, if you are searching for a very specialized test or measure, your search is not so simple. For example, if you are interested in measuring letter recognition or honesty, you may not locate any relevant tests through the subject index. In this case, your best option is to go to the MMY and use the "score index," which would identify tests measuring subareas (e.g., honesty, letter recognition).
Locating a Specific Test
Once you have a name or author of a test, your chances of locating it are greatly improved. Tests in Print (TIP) and the MMY have the largest indexes of tests. Title and author indexes in each of the reference books should refer you to the section of the book describing the test. (In the case of the MMY, you may actually be referred to an earlier volume of the book for more information).
Commercially available tests are usually purchased through a test publisher’s website. All of the major test publishers have websites listing their available products. These sites are frequently the best source of information for the most recent editions of a test. Information on the cost of materials and scoring, types of scoring services and related products such as large-print or foreign language versions of tests, and ancillary materials is available on these sites.
Publishers hold the copyright to tests they distribute, and they maintain the copies of tests, test manuals and scoring keys. Many publishers have separate policies for individual and organizational purchases of tests. Individuals may be required to complete a test purchaser qualifications form that allows a publisher to determine if the purchaser is qualified and competent to administer and interpret the test.
"Test Reviews Online" is a Web-based service of the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements. Test reviews are available to individuals exactly as they appear in the ninth through the most recent Mental Measurements Yearbooks. In addition, regular updates are provided from our latest test review database. For a small fee, users may download information for any of over 3,500 tests that include specifics on test purpose, population, publication date, administration time and descriptive test critiques.
The following information answers some of the most frequently asked questions regarding unpublished tests — those tests and measures not available for purchase through a test publisher. Included are tips on:
- Determining what is an unpublished test or measure.
- Locating unpublished tests and measures.
- Responsibilities of users of unpublished tests or measures.
Determining What is an Unpublished Test or Measure
Psychological measures are not limited to published tests; a gold mine of unpublished (or noncommercial) inventories, checklists, scales, projective techniques and other instruments exist in the behavioral sciences literature.
Locating Unpublished Tests or Measures
Locating unpublished tests and measures is frustrating if you don't know where to look. Many researchers, unaware that measures may exist that are suited to their needs, recreate instruments for their own research. This process is a two-fold waste; usable instruments lie dormant, and time that could be spent refining existing measures is instead spent virtually duplicating them.
The following are resources for obtaining unpublished tests and measures.
ETS Test Collection
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) Test Collection database contains records on over 25,000 tests and research instruments. These records describe the instruments and provides availability information. For more information, call (609) 734-5689, or write: ETS Test Collection, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ 08541.
Released in September 2011, PsycTESTS, is designed to provide descriptive information about tests and their development and administration. More than 70 percent of the records contain the actual test, either in full or part. Most are in PDF; however, some are multimedia. Most of the tests have links to published documents, primarily peer-reviewed journal articles that include further information about the development of the test. APA has gathered these tests from a variety of sources:
- Directly from authors who wish others to use their tests in research.
- Peer reviewed journals for which APA has rights or permission to use.
- Books and handbooks.
- Websites .
Suppose you are interested in group dynamics and want to locate a measure of group cohesion to use for your project titled "Cohesiveness Among Fraternities and Sororities." None of the tests or surveys you found in the directories or databases seem suitable for your study.
There is a chance that the measure you need is in the published literature, but has not yet been referenced in any of these directories. You can locate more tests through a literature search at your library. If you are not familiar with PsycINFO, a bibliographic database that indexes published research in psychology back to the earliest years of the discipline, ask your librarian. Using keywords to denote your interest areas, you can use the database to find citations for and links to articles in your interest area. If the article mentions the use of a test or measure or describes its development, you will find the name of the test in the tests and measures field. These citations also include the university or organizational affiliation of the authors, along with an address where you can forward correspondence regarding the article. Write to the author and ask for more information on the test or measure.
Depending on your research area, you may want to consult reference sources in fields related to psychology. For example, the Institute of Educational Sciences (ERIC) produces a database similar to PsycINFO that indexes research published in the educational literature. In addition, the ERIC Clearinghouse on Tests, Measurement, and Evaluation (Ericae.net) provides archival information specifically in the area of testing and evaluation. Ask your reference librarian for more information about such alternative sources.
The following are two of the more popular printed directories of unpublished or noncommercial tests and measures.
- Directory of Unpublished Experimental Measures
Publisher: American Psychological Association, Dubuque, IA.Editors: Bert A. Goldman & David F. Mitchell. Most current volume: 9 (2008).
This valuable directory provides researchers and students easy access to recently developed experimental mental measures, tests and surveys that are not commercially available. These measures have been used by other researchers on topics ranging from educational adjustment and motivation to personality and perception. The tests are arranged in a 24-category system and are grouped according to function and content, noting purpose, format, psychometric information (where available) and related research. The newest category, "Adjustment: Vocation," identifies articles addressing burnout, vocational maturity, job-related stress, job frustration and job satisfaction.
The directory has been updated periodically since Volume 1 was published in 1974. Each volume has a cumulative index which makes it easy to access any of the 5,363 tests contained across the first six volumes.
- Measures for Psychological Assessment: A Guide to 3,000 Original Sources and Their Applications
Publisher: Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI.Editors: K. T. Chun, S. Cobb, & J. R. P. French, Jr. Most current volume: 1975.
This text provides annotated references to thousands of psychological measures first appearing in journal articles or other publications. The first section, "Primary References," lists each of these 3,000-plus article references, along with the name of the measure and one or more applications of this measure in other experimental studies. The "Applications" section lists over 6,600 additional studies that provide experimental tests or additional uses of the original measures. Author and subject indexes are included.
This text can help the researcher answer such questions as, “What empirical findings have been produced by the use of a given measure?” or “What additional information about a measure has been acquired since its publication?”
Although it contains a wealth of references to experimental measures and corresponding research, this text is outdated. It is a helpful resource when looking for a specific measure appearing in the literature during the 1960s or early 1970s, but you would want to consult a more recent measure that is appropriate for your need.
Responsibilities of Users of Unpublished Tests or Measures
Users of unpublished tests have certain ethical responsibilities. Users must (a) contact the test author and request permission to use their test, and (b) secure their permission in writing if the material is copyrighted. Locating the author may be a difficult process, particularly if the measure is several years old, but try the following steps:
- Journal articles list the author’s organizational affiliation (or university) with a mailing address on the first page of the article. If the publication is fairly recent, this method is almost always successful. If this fails, directories published by scientific and professional associations like APA could provide you with a more current address and phone number for the author. This is useful if the article is several years old and the author has moved since the article was published.
- If these attempts to locate the author fail, contact the publisher holding the copyright to the original material and request permission from the publisher. Remember that APA holds the copyright to all material published in APA journals.
- No matter how difficult this process may seem, you should make every effort to contact an author or copyright holder to secure permission before using any test or other instrument.
- Still have a question about finding tests? Send an email to the Testing Office of the APA Science Directorate.
The following publications represent standards, guidelines, and principles that have been carefully developed by psychologists, educators and researchers to achieve and maintain ethical testing practices by the whole community. If you are interested in locating guidelines on the proper use of tests, you can consult the following:
- Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. (2014), Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Civil Service Commission, Department of Labor, & Department of Justice. (1978). Adoption by four agencies of uniform guidelines on employee selection procedures. Federal Register, 43 (166),38290-38315. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2014-title29-vol4/xml/CFR-2014-title29-vol4-part1607.xml
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. (2003). Principles for the validation and use of personnel selection procedures (PDF, 338KB) (4th ed.).
- Joint Committee on Testing Practices (2004). Code of fair testing practices in education (PDF, 803KB). National Council on Measurement in Education.