What is a Psychological Assessment?

Psychological assessments or tests are utilised to come to some diagnosis or determination about a person’s behaviour or cognitive functioning and is intended to direct interventions and treatments. A person who has been recommended for a psychological assessment has shown some difficulties in areas such as interpersonal relationships or social skills, challenging personality traits or behaviours, or concerns about their cognition have arisen. The purpose of these tests is to obtain a better understanding of the person’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memory and learning processes to formulate strategies to improve how the person deals with difficulties in behaviour, coping and interpersonal skills. However, the focus of the assessment depends on the purpose and reason why the assessment is being requested.
While there are various tests that can be administered depending on the person’s situation and needs, these tests are standardised and were formed from theories inherent in psychology. Their standardisation means that the testing process is conducted, and scores are aggregated in a consistent manner and measured against benchmarks in the general population. As such, factors such as the person’s age, social and family history are taken into account. A registered psychologist administers the assessment, scores and interprets the results, and provides feedback to the individual.

Are there different types of psychological assessments?

Yes, there are various psychological tests that can be executed depending on the goals and purpose of having the test done. Assessments can be “pencil and paper based” or administered using a computer. Different types of psychological tests include adaptive behaviour assessments, aptitude tests, cognitive assessments and educational tests, mental health assessments, forensic psychological test, personality assessments or neuropsychological tests.
A commonly utilised specific standardised test is the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) which is used for children and adolescents between 6 and 16 years old. The function of this assessment is to analyse the child’s intelligence and cognitive ability, which is useful to diagnose intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia).

How do I prepare for a psychological assessment?

It is important to be fully informed of the reason and focus of having the assessment, what is involved in the process and how long it is expected to take. It is also important to understand how the outcome of the assessment will be used and of help to you. If you have any special needs (e.g. communication difficulties or mobility issues), it is also important for the psychologist to be aware of these issues. Moreover, it is paramount to be alert and orientated for the assessment and try to manage any anxiety you may be experiencing. The psychologist will make a clinical judgement about whether anxiety or any other extenuating factors may have affected the assessment results.

What happens after the assessment?

The psychologist will discuss the results of the assessment with you and any significant family member or friend (of your choosing). For young children, his/her parents or guardians will be heavily involved. Any diagnoses or other determinations will be explained thoroughly. By this stage, you should already be aware of why the test was recommended and what the results will be used for; the results may be forwarded on to teachers and other health professionals involved in the person’s life, such as a Treating Specialist or GP. Moreover, the results of the assessment will be used to direct further therapy.

What are my options if I do not agree with the outcome of the assessment?

The psychologist will speak to you and your family (if applicable) in detail about the results of the assessment and what they mean in the context of therapy goals and recommendations. The psychologist may recommend not only interventions from a psychology perspective, but may also make suggestions for other therapies, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
If you disagree with the psychological assessment’s outcome, it is best to clarify any questions you have and voice your concerns to the psychologist. If you have tried to reconcile your concerns and still do not agree with the psychologist, it is an option to get a second opinion and re-do the assessment with another clinician.