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How psychometric testing can be used to support exam reliability

2 October 2023
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The value of psychometric testing is being recognised within the field of continual professional development. More specifically, it is becoming instrumental in enhancing the reliability of high-stakes assessments - through the application of psychometric principles and statistical techniques.

This provides a framework that can be used to guide assessments for organisations from the design stage, ensuring consistency across the board, as well as a fair and unbiased evaluation process.

In short, psychometrics can be utilised as an analysis tool, helping to determine whether the assessment is fit for purpose.

At Kaplan Assessments, our team takes a comprehensive approach to the design, development, and delivery stages of assessment creation. Utilising our in-house psychometric expertise, we ensure the highest standards of quality and effectiveness - for an end product that reflects who you are as an organisation.

To learn more about how we can support your workforce, get in touch today.

A brief overview of psychometric testing

So, what is psychometric testing? In its simplest form, psychometrics is the measurement of psychological attributes, including cognitive abilities, personality traits, skillsets, and specialist knowledge.

Although frequently used during the recruitment process, psychometrics also plays a key role in standard setting and validation of high-stakes professional-level assessments.

Through a scientific approach, experts are able to examine how different groups of candidates interact with the assessment - whether that’s based on age, gender, ethnicity, or other relevant variables. Additionally, psychometricians use Cronbach’s alpha to determine whether a set of test items produces consistent results, ensuring accuracy and reliability throughout the assessment process.

By identifying specific differentials, valuable insights around potential biases and variations in test performance can be gained, improving overall effectiveness.

The connection between psychometric assessment, robust development programmes, and talent retention

One of the many benefits of psychometrics is that it can be used to interrogate whether an assessment is successful or not in raising standards within the workplace. In other words, it allows you to objectively measure the impact on skills development and performance enhancement.

  • Are the right day-one competencies being tested?
  • Are skills gaps narrowing?
  • Are employees becoming more proficient in their roles?

Without having confidence in the reliability of your development programme, it can be difficult to answer these questions.

Why is this so important?

Through the lens of an ever-changing professional landscape, the evaluation of an assessment’s reliability is essential - before, during, and after the development stage. Otherwise, it risks being inadequate.

Workforces are expected to adapt quickly to the developments that are currently taking place across multiple high-stakes industries. Upskilling roles and creating more agile professionals are fundamental to the long-term survival of many organisations. As a result, employers are under an increasing amount of pressure to retain and nurture talent.

The solution? Creating better development opportunities.

Employees are looking for an assessment that is targeted, inclusive, and fair. Ultimately, it should address the need for evolving skill sets in a way that tests the abilities of the candidate to meet rigorous industry standards and day one competencies. Taking a candidate-centred approach, supported by psychometric insights, will help you move closer to this objective.

Not sure where to begin? Our team has a wealth of expertise, along with a deep understanding of how to encourage professional growth in an increasingly challenging environment.

Discover tailored, industry-specific assessments that make a noticeable difference to the day-to-day. Contact our team now.

Psychometric assessment is highly effective in the evaluation and improvement of exam reliability

Ensuring validity through psychometric analysis

To have complete confidence in an assessment, you need to determine how well it measures the professional competencies required from your workforce. It should also be reliable over time, consistently providing accurate and stable results that support informed decision-making.

What does this look like in reality?

Take a certification exam for a finance professional, which will focus on anything from risk management and data analysis to soft skills, like communication. The specific content and emphasis of this assessment will depend on the unique needs and priorities of your organisation. In many cases, the impact of industry developments on the nature of job roles and day-to-day operations will necessitate a tailored qualification. For instance, the integration of technology has resulted in the need to upskill workforces in the finance sector, with a focus on financial technology (fintech) tools and cybersecurity.

This more flexible approach demands a quantifiable way to measure quality and effectiveness, through the use of statistical methods and techniques. As industries continue to evolve, and assessments begin to adapt, psychometrics analysis becomes increasingly valuable.

  • Content analysis: Working alongside subject matter experts, psychometricians ensure the content is both fair and representative of the key concepts, skills, and knowledge that professionals are expected to possess.
  • Reliability coefficients: Within psychometrics, reliability refers to the consistency of assessment results over time. A high-reliability score indicates that the questions are measuring the same underlying construct consistently.
  • Score interpretation: There is considerable weight placed on assessment scores, especially within high-stakes organisations. Failing to determine the precision of these scores could be detrimental to decision-making, whether that be career advancements or quality assurance. That’s where psychometrics comes in.

The use of pilot testing

In theory, an assessment sets out to evaluate specific skillsets and knowledge. But how can you be confident that it will effectively measure a candidate’s abilities and understanding in practice?

Without real-world insight, it can be difficult to determine whether an assessment is comprehensive in its design, accessible for candidates, and best positioned to serve your organisation. A pilot test helps to anticipate and fine-tune any inadequacies, ensuring that the assessment is robust, reliable, and aligned with your objectives.

A few considerations:

  1. Is it effective in its purpose of measuring the competence and real-life capabilities of your workforce?
  2. Is it user-friendly and designed with the candidates’ needs in mind, with clear instructions and an accessible format?
  3. Does it maintain a consistent level of rigour and coverage across all areas, with no content gaps or redundancies?
  4. Does it treat all candidates fairly and equitably?

We recognise that implementing a new assessment can be daunting. It plays a crucial role in standard-setting, impacting the credibility and reputation of your organisation, to an extent. It also has a direct bearing on your ability to identify and retain top talent - a prevalent issue in a climate that demands competent and adaptable professionals.

Our collaborative approach enables us to gain a full understanding of your organisational needs while drawing on our team’s expertise in assessments and qualifications, including psychometrics. Through the use of a pilot, we are able to review and action any areas of improvement for your unique assessment, utilising statistical analysis and feedback from all parties.

Discover quality assessments that combine specialist-led content with a rigorous evaluation process, giving you that much-needed assurance.

Addressing bias and fairness

Ensuring an assessment is inclusive and appeals to the diversity of your workforce is crucial. Not only will this have a positive impact on your reputation but it is fundamental to maintaining a high level of employee engagement.

There are several potential barriers that can affect a candidate’s performance, including unconscious bias and the failure to address accessibility requirements. These barriers can lead to disparities in how different candidates are assessed, regardless of whether they possess similar skill sets, and are therefore highly problematic.

The focus should always be on consistency of experience.

So, how can this be achieved?

Through the analysis of data, psychometricians are able to detect and mitigate potential biases within the assessment. For instance, the content may inadvertently favour candidates from specific cultural backgrounds or the assessment may fail to provide reasonable accommodations for candidates with disabilities.

Psychometric principles can help to reduce the likelihood of certain groups being disadvantaged and employees being overlooked.

  • Differential Item Functioning (DIF) analysis: This statistical method can be used to detect whether certain test items exhibit bias and therefore function differently for different subgroups.
  • Fairness reviews: Psychometricians are able to systematically examine assessment content and procedures. They are looking for relevant content with no potential for misinterpretation, as well as clear and unambiguous instructions being used throughout.
  • Standard setting: Performance categories are determined through an evidence-based approach, with insights taken from sources such as historical data or statistical modelling. This ensures that all candidates are accounted for, promoting fairness and transparency throughout the assessment process.
  • Examination of test scores: Data analysis can help to identify potential sources of bias by revealing certain patterns, such as one group consistently scoring lower on a test item than another group.

The need for feedback

The impact of professional certifications is far-reaching, with several stakeholders involved. From candidates and employers to awarding bodies, each has a vested interest in ensuring the credibility and quality of these certifications. And with the demand for ongoing professional development higher than ever, it’s not just about creating sound assessments but catering to the breadth of talent on offer.

While quantitative analysis is highly effective in addressing the barriers to performance, the input of stakeholders is just as important.

Gathering feedback in a variety of forms, whether that be candidate insights following the pilot or data-driven feedback from psychometricians, can be instrumental in the development and refinement stages.

From the design to the delivery, we strive to create inclusive assessments that support candidates, on an individual level, and your organisation, on a wider scale.

Psychometric expertise: Our professional assessments are fit for purpose

To have confidence in your workforce, you need to have confidence in your development programme. After all, the results of an unreliable assessment are just that: unreliable. Even if the candidate had scored 100%, you can’t gain an accurate picture of the level of competence within your organisation.

How can we help?

Combining a specialist team with innovative assessment design and development, we support organisations operating across multiple high-stakes industries - from legal services to education. And when it comes to quality assurance, our process is thorough. Leveraging a wide range of expertise, including psychometrics, we create assessments that are not only accurate but are reliable, fair, and valid.

Simply put, we offer tailored solutions that produce consistent results.

Partner with Kaplan Assessments today.

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