Nowadays it is not uncommon to hear that we have to pass a psycho-technician, for example during a recruitment process in a company. And this is not the only time we will miss it in our lives, being more frequent and habitual than it may seem. But, what is a psycho-technical test and what does it seek to achieve? Is there more than one type of psycho-technical or are they all the same? In this article we will make a brief comment on these questions.

What are psycho-technical tests?

Psycho-technical tests are understood to be a type of objective test designed to evaluate objectively (without the subjectivity of an evaluator being a factor in the results) the intellectual capacities of one or more persons. These are highly structured tests, of voluntary response controlled by the subject and in which the objective of the test is not masked (it being relatively easy to imagine what is being measured). The answers given by the subject under analysis will be treated as sincere and true, although these are performance tests that would not benefit from attempts to vary the answers.

Most of these tests are of maximum execution, that is to say, that they value the maximum potential shown by a subject with respect to a specific skill or characteristic in a determined time limit. They tend to assess general intelligence and the aptitudes of the subject examined, and this assessment can have very different objectives depending on the case. In general, the aim is to check the suitability of a person’s abilities to the needs and elements required to access certain permits or positions, or simply to assess whether there is any alteration or difficulty in the person’s adaptive functioning.

It is usual that they are passed together with a personality test in order to evaluate not only the cognitive skills but also the way of being and the thought and habitual behaviour pattern of the person analysed. Later, after the analysis of the information obtained by both types of test, some kind of decision can be made. However, it should be borne in mind that the tests themselves do not offer information beyond a score, which must be interpreted and analysed on the basis of the information available on the subject and a comparison with different scales or criteria.

Types of psycho-technical tests

There are different types of psycho-technical tests , since they are not all aimed at obtaining information on the same aspects nor are they carried out with the same objectives. In this sense, some of the large groups in which we can classify them are the following.

1. Attention and concentration test

These tests evaluate the ability to remain attentive to a stimulus, to maintain fixed attention to the appearance of a particular element or to notice changes in the appearance of alterations. Generally monotonous tasks are used where it is easy to get bored and distracted or where it is complex to detect a stimulus that is different from the rest.

2. Reasoning test

Organising information, drawing conclusions and seeking solutions quickly is fundamental to many jobs and facilitates general adaptation to the events we face in our daily lives. There are many ways to evaluate reasoning, some of them being problem solving, planning alternative actions in hypothetical situations or deciding between two options and justifying why. It is also frequent to have to look for relationships between different stimuli and to solve matrices. This may include spatial, verbal, numerical or mechanical reasoning, in addition to abstract reasoning.

3. Spatial aptitude test

Distinguishing shapes and being able to navigate space correctly is an aptitude that helps us to orientate ourselves and to understand what is happening around us. In multiple jobs or when driving, having a certain level of this aptitude is fundamental. Different visuo-spatial tests are usually used , such as deciding what an object we see from another perspective will look like or keeping a point within specific margins.

4. Verbal aptitude test

Communicating efficiently, knowing how to understand and express what we think and other people think at high speed, is essential in dealing with other people. Vocabulary, lexicon, reading and writing speed, grammar and spelling are some of the aspects examined in this type of test.

5. Numerical aptitude test

Doing calculations is very useful in multiple jobs or in our daily life. Numerical aptitude is generally examined from mathematical problems , rules of three or direct calculation (generally they are not usually excessively complicated unless one is opting for a position that requires great competence in this sector, but rather measures the amount of successes and errors in a specific time).

6. Linked to executive functions

Working memory, decision making ability, response inhibition, planning and problem solving… all these capabilities can be analyzed through different tests. Generally are used in neuropsychological assessment and in the clinic , although some can be adapted for other uses.

Areas of application

If most of us know what a psychometric test is, it is because at some point in our lives we have had one. In fact, nowadays they are very frequent in different contexts in which it is required to know the mental aptitudes of a specific person with some specific objective. Among the different possible contexts, some in which they are more frequent are the following

1. Field of work

The area where we are probably most often in need of passing one of these tests. Companies usually have a series of requirements about the skills that their employees must meet , so by passing these tests they can obtain a score in skills such as writing speed, verbal comprehension, lexicon, numerical ability, problem solving or visuospatial abilities among many others. This is why they are part of most recruitment processes (although the interview is usually more important).

2. Educational field

Psycho-technicians are also often employed in education and training as a way of observing students’ abilities. They can be used to adjust the level and content to the student’s abilities, to see their level of development or if improvements have been made in the course of an educational programme or even to establish selection criteria for acceptance in some universities or centres.

3. Clinical practice

Another area in which psychometric tests are used is in clinical practice, to evaluate the capacities and aptitudes of patients. This is very useful to assess, for example, the existence of disorders in patients with dementia or other disorders that may generate variations in mental abilities , or simply to assess the patient’s current abilities.

4. Driving licence

Driving a vehicle is a great responsibility. We are in control of a powerful and heavy machine that is about to enter into circulation and that must be operated with great caution and skill to avoid causing or suffering accidents. This is why an evaluation of the future driver’s skills is required before a permit is granted, to observe his attention and concentration skills, visuoperceptive and visuo-spatial ability and reaction capacity.

5. Weapons license

Although much less frequent than the previous two, some people need to carry a firearm. This is the case of policemen, security guards and hunters . But a gun should not be given to just anyone, as they pose a great responsibility and a great danger to others if they do not use it correctly. For this purpose, different psychometric tests are usually used, among other tests, in order to decide whether or not the requirements for having a gun license are met.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cohen, R.J. & Swerdlik, M.E. (2002). Psychological testing and assessment. McGraw-Hill: Madrid.