Chapter 2 - What are the nine major sources of information about tests?


What are the two common problems that require information about tests? 

There are two common problems in practice that require information about tests. The first is: How do I get information about a particular test? Sometimes, one is interested in a test, but knows little about it and wants to know more about this test before using it. The second is: What tests are available for a particular purpose? This is a different question. One is, for example, interested in the relationship between intelligence and SES and therefore wants to measure intelligence. The question then arises how to measure intelligence? Which tests are developed that measure intelligence; and how to choose between these tests? In this chapter, we will discuss the sources of information that help you to answer these types of questions. 

What are the nine major sources of information about tests?

Initial inspection of a test and its manual is usually based on a introductory kit or specimen set. Such a kit provides a copy of the most basic materials for the test, such as (a) the text booklet; (b) an administration and scoring manual; (3) an answer sheet; (4) a report profile, and; (5) a technical manual.

In the remainder of this chapter, nine major sources of information about tests are discussed. These nine sources are: (1) comprehensive lists of tests; (2) systematic reviews of published tests; (3) electronic listings; (4) special-purpose collections; (5) books about single tests; (6) textbooks on testing; (7) professional journals; (8) publishers' cataglogs; (9) other users of tests. In the sections below, we briefly discuss each of these major sources.

1. Comprehensive lists of test

 A comprehensive list of test provided a non-evaluative snapshot of a large number of tests. There are three comprehensive lists of tests that one can use to select a test: (1) the Test in Print VIII (VIP); (2) the Tests: A comprehensive Reference for Assessments in Psychology, Education and Business (simply referred to as "tests"), and; (3) the Directory of Unpublished Experimental Mental Measures. The latter, in contrast to the former two, focuses on unpublished work and does not include tests that are developed by commercial publishers. 

2. Systematic reviews

A second major force of information is provided by systematic reviews of published tests. A systematic review synthesises the literature (research studies) on a particular topic, in this case a psychological test. Two popular systematic review sources are: (1) the Mental Measurement Yearbook (MMY), originated by Buros (and therefore also called Buro's MMY, or simply Buros), and (2) Test Critiques. Both have serval editions and often provide useful indexes to assess the tests, such as an Index of Test Titles and an Index of Publishers. The second source, Test Critiques, will probably not plan a new edition in the foreseeable future, so the first source is likely to remain the dominant source of information provided through systematic reviewing.  

3. Electronic Listings

A third source of information is electronic listing: information found on the web. Four major electronic sources of information are: (1) ETS Test Collection on the Web; (2) many reviews that are published in Buro's MMY are available electronically, for example via EBSCOhost; (3) Health and Psychological Instruments (HaPI), a database of descriptions of tests, rating scales, questionnaires, et cetera; (4) PsycTESTS, an online database that is the product of the American Psychological Association (APA).

4. Special-purpose collections

Special-purpose collections are collections, often books, that provide information about tests on a specifically selected area, for example the Handbok of Personality Assessment, or the Integrative Assessment of Adult Personality. 

5. Books about single tests

Some single tests are the subject of entire books, because they are so widely used. For example, the Wechsler scales are the subject of a number of books. These books are commonly written with the assumption that the reader already has had considerable training in test theory and use. They are therefore not appropriate for novices. 

6. Textbooks on testing

In contrast to books about single tests, there are also books available that focus on the issue of testing without focusing on particular tests. Such textbooks aid in developing an understanding of the fundamental concepts of testing. This book is an example of such a textbook on testing. 

7. Journals

Many journals contain articles in which certain psychological tests are used. Although most journals include articles that use a particular test, rather than examining the properties of the test itself, there are also journal that specifically include articles that review tests. Examples of such journals are the Journal of Educational MeasurementApplied Measurement in Education, and Psychological Measurement

8. Publishers' catalogs 

Another source of information about a test is the publishers' catalog, which is almost always published online and also available upon request from the publisher. Of course, publishers' catalogs are useful for commercially published tests only. 

9. Other users

The ninth and last source of information about tests concerns other users of tests. Other uses can be a valuable source of information about (practical) features of a test, which may not become apparent from a technical manual or research report. 

How to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each test?

So far, we have discussed the nine major sources of information about tests. All these sources may be useful, yet each of these sources has its strengths and weaknesses. An overview of these is provided in the table below.

SourceStrengthWeakness
1. Comprehensive listings- Provide a broad insight into available tests- Do not provide a critical evaluation about the quality of a test. 
2. Systematic reviews- Excellent source of critical evaluation of tests.- Not available for many tests.
- Long time lag between publication of a test and the publication of reviews of it.
3. Electronic listings- Very time-efficient, quick method- Sometimes only descriptive and not a critical evaluation of the quality.
- Some information may be outdated (it stays on the web forever). 
- Sometimes: unavailability of an entry.
4. Special-purpose collections- Up to date at publication- Outdated within a few years after publication; not ordinarily updated on a regular basis.
5. Books about single test- Rich source of information about a particular test.- Not available for many tests.
- Often not written in a objective matter; writers may be biased and present an overly positive evaluation of a test.
6. Textbooks- Provides insight into the popularity of tests (which are then discussed in several textbooks)- Inclusion of tests in many textbooks does not mean that these tests are the best (they may be an easy illustration of particular point of discussion). 
7. Journals- Important source of information for the latest research on tests.- Tend to concentrate more on testing methodology rather than on the test itself. 
8. Publishers' catalogs- Best source for practical matters (costs, available material and so on).- Not an objective source; the publisher is in the business of selling the tests. 
9. Other users- Good source for practical matter, experiences, and peculiarities of a test. - Other users may not be familiar with the latest developments of a test.
- Their judgement may be less critical. 

Ideally, a test user combines all these different sources with this or her own expertise in making a judgement about the appropriateness of a particular test for a particular purpose.

Bullet points

  • There are two common problems in practice that require information about tests. The first is: How do I get information about a particular test? Sometimes, one is interested in a test, but knows little about it and wants to know more about this test before using it. The second is: What tests are available for a particular purpose? This is a different question. One is, for example, interested in the relationship between intelligence and SES and therefore wants to measure intelligence. The question then arises how to measure intelligence? Which tests are developed that measure intelligence; and how to choose between these tests?
  • In the remainder of this chapter, nine major sources of information about tests are discussed. These nine sources are: (1) comprehensive lists of tests; (2) systematic reviews of published tests; (3) electronic listings; (4) special-purpose collections; (5) books about single tests; (6) textbooks on testing; (7) professional journals; (8) publishers' cataglogs; (9) other users of tests. In the sections below, we briefly discuss each of these major sources.
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