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What is an Objective Test?

By Donn Saylor
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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An objective test is a type of psychological testing that gauges the test taker's conscious thoughts and feelings without regard to the test administrator's beliefs or biases. The conclusions drawn from an objective test are generally considered more accurate than other types of psychological tests; projective tests, which reveal unconscious motivations on the part of the test taker, and subjective tests, which are self-reporting tests, are two prime examples of less reliable testing. If a test taker is forthcoming and honest in his or her answers to the questions posed, an objective test can help greatly in determining the test taker's personality. Objective tests are primarily given as a type of employment testing or in psychoanalytic settings.

The defining trademark of an objective test is that it must be able to be graded according to a universal standard. A multiple choice, true-false, or straightforward question and answer format are the most commonly administered styles. A definitive set of answers allows the administrator to gauge the results of the test against a benchmark, thereby eliminating any personal beliefs, opinions, or prejudices the test administrator might have.

There are several aspects involved in the creation and development of an objective test. Utilizing data from the field of psychometrics — the study of psychological measurement techniques — and clinical psychology, test developers embark on a series of steps to craft a successful test. These steps include a determination of what populations will take the test, the goal of the test, and the precise psychological results the test is attempting to deduce. The developers will then put together a roster of questions that correspond with the goals of the test.

Each question on an objective test is then gauged for its psychological soundness. If experts or statistics support the aim of the question, it remains as part of the test. This step is undertaken to ensure the test is as accurate as possible in meeting the specific aims of the process.

After developers have designed a format for the objective test, they will launch a sample version that helps determine which tests are more effective than others. When this preliminary testing procedure is complete, the test is edited and revised as necessary. Another preliminary testing process takes place, and developers utilize the findings of these tests, in conjunction with statistical practices, to institute a universal standard by which all objective tests can be measured.

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Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Jul 19, 2011

I took an objective personality test in my college English class. I thought it a strange test, because I had so many different aspects to my personality that I felt a test could not pigeonhole me into a certain type.

After we got our test results, we had to write an essay about how we felt about the test. I did not agree with the process, and I wrote about how unpredictable my personality could be. Though the test inevitably assigned me a specific type, I knew the results were inaccurate.

I think the professor got a kick out of my aversion to the test. He liked my writing style, so that was all that mattered for the course, but I think he viewed objective tests in a more favorable light than I did.

By shell4life — On Jul 18, 2011

I had to take an objective test as part of the interview process for a job stocking shelves at a department store. The questions seemed strange, and I doubt that anyone would have answered them truthfully if they had ill intentions.

The test asked us if we had ever shoplifted, did we think it was wrong to take items from the store without paying for them, and had we ever been convicted of stealing. That last one I’m sure they could have figured out from a background check, but the others could only indicate the intelligence or lack thereof of the applicant.

By Crispety — On Jul 18, 2011

@Sneakers41 - I wonder how objective these tests can be. I think that people might answer a question one way in order to get the job because they know what the most favorable answer is.

I think that is what is wrong with these types of testing exams. How do you know if the person answered truthfully? I think that the only objective test is an IQ test because it is basically the same for everyone and there is no way to prepare or answer questions that will boost your score.

The score is based on a series of subtests that are completely objective. This test can offer insight as to a person’s potential but it does not offer insight as to their drive or personality outside of their intelligence.

By sneakers41 — On Jul 17, 2011

@Icecream17 - I understand what you are saying, but I don’t know if those questions offer an objective test format because they are usually asking the potential jury pool questions like how do they feel about the death penalty?

These are not objective questions, but these are questions that all jurors will get asked especially if they might serve in a murder case. I think that these types of objective personality tests are most often used by employers to determine the likelihood of success that a person will have in a given job.

There is a test called the Myers-Briggs exam that measures the dominant characteristics of a person’s personality that will determine if they are leadership material or not.

For example, if the majority of your answers are D answers it means that you tend to be more directive and can manage people. People like this tend to be structured and results oriented and are great for very specific goals, however, they can also be abrupt and not as motivating for longer more strategic goals.

This type of insight gives the employer a huge advantage when placing someone in a job or deciding not to hire them at all.

By icecream17 — On Jul 16, 2011

I think that people that received jury summons are subjected to an objective personality test. Usually these potential jurors will be given a questionnaire and based on the answers on the questionnaire both lawyers in the case will either try to eliminate or include the potential juror in the case.

The questioning is the voir dire portion of jury selection and a lot goes into this. Many of these lawyers also use psychological experts like jury consultants to help them select a jury based on these questionnaires. They say that many cases are won at this stage because the makeup of the jury is one of the most important aspects of a trial.

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