It is deemed that objective tests and questionnaires are the most important sources of data collection for psychological assessment. Roughly 80% of all published assessment methods comprise these methods. Methods of psychological assessment and testing constitute a major segment that grew out of psychological research, with widespread impact in educational, clinical and industrial/organisational psychology, counselling and, most importantly, research itself.
A questionnaire is a data gathering device or research tool which is used when factual information from the respondents is desired. A questionnaire is usually administered personally in groups of individuals. It has several advantages. When several persons are available at the same time and place, a questionnaire proves to be a very economical tool of data collection. It also enables researchers to get first-hand information regarding the vagueness of items, if any, as well as gives them an opportunity to establish a warm relation with the persons being tested.
A questionnaire based on funnel sequence of questions (i.e., the order of questions is such that it moves from general broad topics to specific questions) has become the standard norm in behaviour research. A questionnaire performs two functions as given below:
i. Description: It is a basic function of a questionnaire to describe the individual or group characteristics. In other words, it gives a description of age, sex, marital status, occupation, income, political affiliation, membership etc. These pieces of information are valuable data items and serve many purposes of the investigator. For example, he may be able to judge the propensity of clique-formation in a classroom and initiate team building activities accordingly to facilitate harmony in class.
ii. Measurement: The questionnaire helps measure individual and group variables like attitude, opinion, personality traits, etc.
A key point to note is that a person’s response to a questionnaire must not be interpreted as behaviourally veridical, but only within empirically established scale validities. Example: a person’s response – “I feel tired frequently” – must not be interpreted as being behaviourally indicative of the “fatigue syndrome” without examining the DSM criteria.
Objective Tests constitute the core of psychological assessment instruments. It is true then that psychological assessments have reached the level of scientific credibility and wide range of applications. A test is a sample of items chosen in a representative manner or role. These items/questions or problems are indicative of the trait or state to be assessed, example : mood state like alertness. The term ‘objective’ refers to administration, scoring and response objectivity in test development. They are valid for a full spectrum of behaviour variables. Their numbers go into tens of thousands.
A test is called an individual test if an examiner needs to administer it individually to the person assessed. Psychomotor and other performance tests are typical examples (like DBDA).
WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) is the most widely used intelligence test system, and its derivatives are administered individually throughout. The other test design – group tests – is devised such that typically a group of people (20-30) can undertake the test simultaneously. There is empirical evidence pointing to the fact that assessing personality variables is challenging and difficult through objective tests. They are somewhat more suitable for gathering objective data like optimum performance.