Glossary of Assessment Terms

ability test A test that measures the current performance or estimates future performance of a person in some defined area of cognitive, psychomotor, or physical functioning.

achievement test A test that measures acquired knowledge or skills, usually as the result of previous instruction.

adverse impact A situation in which members of a particular race, sex, or ethnic group have a substantially lower rate of selection in hiring, promotion, or other employment decisions.

alternate forms Two or more forms of a test that are similar in nature and intended to be used for the same purpose.

assessment Any test or procedure used to measure an individual's employment or career-related qualifications or characteristics.

basic skills test Assessments of competence in reading, simple mathematics, and other skills that are widely required in training and employment settings.

coaching Instructional activities designed to improve the test performance of prospective test takers.

compensatory approach See counterbalanced approach.

concurrent validity See criterion-related validity.

construct A theoretical characteristic or concept (e.g., numerical ability, conscientiousness) that has been constructed to explain observable patterns of behavior.

construct-related validity The extent to which a test measures a specific theoretical construct, characteristic, or trait. In employment testing, this characteristic should be important for job success. Examples of constructs are mechanical ability and physical endurance.

content-related validity The extent to which the content of a test samples or represents the subject area or behavior it is intended to measure.

converted score A raw score that has been converted by numerical transformation (for example, to percentile ranks or standard scores) to facilitate comparison of individual scores with group norms.

correlation A statistic that indicates the degree to which two variables relate to each other, such as a test score and job performance, or one test with another test.

counterbalanced approach An approach to personnel assessment that allows high scores in one or more areas to be counterbalanced with low scores in another area.

criterion A measure of performance, such as productivity rate, accident rate, or supervisory ratings. Test scores are used to predict criteria.

criterion-related validity The degree to which scores on an assessment instrument correlate with some external criterion, such as job performance. When the assessment instrument and the criterion are measured at about the same time, it is called concurrent validity; when the criterion is measured at some future time, it is called predictive validity.

derived score See converted score.

equivalent forms See alternate forms.

expectancy table A table that shows the probability of different criterion outcomes for each test score.

hurdles approach See multiple hurdles approach.

inventory A questionnaire or checklist that elicits information about an individual in such areas as work values, interests, attitudes, and motivation.

job analysis A systematic process used to identify the tasks, duties, responsibilities and working conditions associated with a job and the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics required to perform that job.

mean The average score in a group of scores, computed by adding all the scores and dividing the sum by the number of cases.

median The middle score in a group of ranked scores. It is the point or score that divides the group into two equal parts. The median is also known as the 50th percentile.

multiple hurdles approach An approach to personnel assessment that requires a candidate to pass all tests in sequence in order to qualify.

normal curve A mathematical curve that is the basis of many statistical analyses. The curve is bilaterally symmetrical, with a single bell-shaped peak in the center. Most distributions of human traits, such as height, mathematical ability, and manual dexterity, approximate the normal curve.

norms Descriptive statistics that are used to summarize the test performance of a specified group, such as a sample of workers in a specific occupation. Norms are often assumed to represent a larger population, such as all workers in an occupation.

parallel forms See alternate forms.

percentile score The score on a test below which a given percentage of scores fall. For example, a score at the 65th percentile is equal to or higher than the scores obtained by 65% of the people who took the test.

predictive validity See criterion-related validity.

rank ordering The process of ranking individuals based on their relative test scores, from the highest to the lowest score.

raw score The obtained score on a test, usually determined by counting the number of correct answers.

reference group The group of individuals used to develop a test.

reliability The degree to which test scores are consistent, dependable, or repeatable.

reliability coefficient A coefficient of correlation that indicates the degree to which test scores are dependable, or repeatable.

standard deviation A statistic used to describe the variability within a set of scores. It indicates the extent to which scores vary around the mean or average score.

standard error of measurement (SEM) A statistic that gives an indication of the amount of error in a measurement system. It indicates a range within which a test taker's "true" score is likely to fall.

standard score A score that describes the location of a person's score within a set of scores in terms of its distance from the mean in standard deviation units.

standardized test A test developed using professionally prescribed methods that provides specific administration requirements, instructions for scoring and instructions for interpreting scores.

target group The population or group of individuals whom the employer wishes to assess.

test Any instrument or procedure that samples behavior or performance. A personnel or employment test is the general term for any assessment tool used to measure an individual's employment qualifications, capabilities, or characteristics.

validity The degree to which actions or inferences based on test results are meaningful or supported by theory and empirical evidence.

validity coefficient A numerical index that shows the strength of the relationship between a test score and a criterion, such as job performance.

A document by the:
U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration

Copyright © 1998, 1999  All Rights Reserved.
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