Chapter 12 – Topic 12 B – Computerized Assessment and the Future of Testing
COMPUTERS IN TESTING: OVERVIEW AND HISTORY
Introduction to Computer Aided Assessment
To explore career options, Computer Aided Assessment is usually used (CAPA).
The umbrella term computer-assisted psychological assessment (CAPA) refers to the entire range of
computer applications in psychology assessment.
COMPUTER-BASED TEST INTERPRETATION: CURRENT STATUS
Computer-based test interpretation, or CBTI, refers to test interpretation and report writing by the
Scoring reports consists of scores and/or profiles – a scoring report may include statistical significance
tests and confidence intervals plotted for the test scores – they do not include narrative test or explanation
of scores by definition (scoring reports).
A descriptive report goes one step further than a scoring report by providing a brief scale by scale
interpretation of test results – they are especially useful when test findings are conveyed to mental health
professionals who have little knowledge of the test in question – MMPI to a random mental health
practitioner for example.
Actuarial Reports: Clinical Versus Actuarial Prediction
In clinical judgement, the decision maker processes information in his or her head to diagnose, classify,
or predict behavior.
In actuarial judgement, an empirically derived formula is used to diagnose, classify, or predict behavior.
A common type of actuarial formula is the regression equation in which subtest scores are combined in a
weighted linear sum to predict a relevant criterion (other approaches may work too such as simple cutoff
scores and rule based flow charts)
BOTH can be validated against an external criteria such as a detailed interview (clinical judgement).
Although computers facilitate the use of the actuarial method, these two are not synonymous – for it to be
truly actuarial, test interpretations must be automatic and based on empirically established relations – if a
computer program embodies the thinking and judgement of a clinician, then it is making a clinical
Meehl specified two conditions for a fair comparison of these contrasting approaches to decision making.
First, both methods should base judgements on the same data and second, we must avoid conditions that
can artificially inflate the accuracy of the actuarial approach. When the conditions are met for a fair test, the later method (actuarial) is superior in the vast majority of cases (for example the case of differential
diagnosis of neurosis vs. Psychosis from MMPI data).
The lesson to be learned from the literature is that computerized narrative test reports should incorporate
actuarial methods, when possible.
Actuarial Interpretation: Sample Approach
The developers of the Personality Inventory for Children (PIC) produced an exemplary system for
computer based actuarial test interpretation. Descriptive statements were correlated with the 20 PIC scales
to identify significant scale correlates; then the significant correlates were analyzed further to determine
the relationship between descriptive statements and T score ranges on the PIC scales What you end up
getting the a series of actuarial tables which capture a wealth of information useful in clinical practice.
Computer-Assisted Clinical Reports
In a computer-assisted clinical report, the interpretive statements assigned to test results are based upon
the judgement of one or more expert clinicians. The difference between this and the computer assisted
actuarial approach has to do with the origin of the rules: empirical research (actuarial approach) vs.
clinician judgement (clinical approach).
There is one main advantage of the clinical approach; clinical approach can be