APAs CPTA Statement on the Use of Secure Psychological Tests

The Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment (CPTA)

Statement on the Use of Secure Psychological Tests in
the Education of Graduate and Undergraduate
Psychology Students

The Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment (CPTA)
encourages the education of undergraduate and graduate psychology
students in the appropriate and ethical use of psychological tests and
assessment instruments. Such education must be consistent with the
Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing,
(AERA/APA/NCME, 1999) and the Ethical Principles of Psychologists,
(APA, 1992) as well as guidelines and procedures for test use and
security provided by test developers and publishers ii. The purpose of
this statement is to address issues of test security in the context of
teaching and training of students in psychology. It is intended to guide
professionals who use secure psychological tests in education only with
regard to those areas in which they can exercise control of access to
test materials.

Security of Test Materials

It should be recognized that certain tests used by psychologists and
related professionals may suffer irreparable harm to their validity if
their items, scoring keys or protocols, and other materials are publicly
disclosed. Examples include tests such as graduate school admission
or college entrance examinations, or tests of cognitive function. Access
to psychological test materials (e.g., test booklets, protocols,
administration manuals, scoring keys) should be granted only to
qualified psychologists or other professionals who use the material in
their teaching, research, or clinical practice. Students who use the
materials in the course of their research or training should be directly
supervised by a psychologist or other appropriate supervisor. For
example, when testing materials are stored in a library, access should
be limited to appropriate personnel and to students in training. Test
materials sold for the purposes of student training must not be
available to the casual purchaser in college and university bookstores.
Preferably, such materials should be distributed through an arranged
venue such as from the test publisher directly. University or college
psychology or other administrative departments and professors must
store all psychological test materials under conditions that prevent
access by unauthorized individuals. Psychologists who maintain test
materials for teaching or research purposes should be aware of the
importance of protecting such documents, and should be familiar with
the issues surrounding their security.

Testing Demonstrations

It is entirely appropriate to demonstrate testing materials and
procedures in undergraduate courses such as general psychology or
personality theory. In this situation, simulated test items should be
used to demonstrate any given device or technique. For example,
instructors may make their own inkblots or invent "similarities" items
to illustrate the content, administration, or scoring of a test.
Alternatively, a film or video may be used to illustrate administration,
without revealing or compromising the security of the stimulus
materials or scoring. When students are administered a psychological
test for demonstration purposes in an upper division undergraduate or
graduate course, the instructor has the same responsibilities as though
the test were administered for its regularly-intended purpose. That is,
the instructor becomes the test user and the student the test-taker.
The instructor must have the necessary training to administer, score,
and interpret the test on an individual or group basis, as appropriate.
Although the administration, scoring and interpretation will serve a
pedagogical function, they must be carried out in a manner consistent
with the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. In
addition, students should be informed that a demonstration of a test
for training purposes may have the effect of invalidating the test in the
event that the students would take the test in the future, with the
tests intended purpose

Teaching Students to Administer and Score Tests

Before students administer any kind of psychological test, they should
have completed appropriate prerequisite coursework in tests and
measurements, statistics, and psychometrics, and they should be
thoroughly trained in the proper administration of the specific test
being used. It is advisable that the students be supervised in practice
and initial administrations, as well as in scoring of responses and
deriving interpretations. It is inappropriate for students to administer
tests in an environment that does not allow for a controlled, private,
and standardized presentation. Communicating the results of a test to
a test-taker is a serious matter in any circumstance. Results or
interpretations should be reported by students only under the
supervision of a qualified faculty member or supervisor. Students
should be thoroughly trained in appropriate language and procedures
to report all types and levels of scores.

Using Tests in Research

The use of tests in psychological research is bound by the ethics that
apply to research with human participants. Issues such as the
necessity of informed consent, the nature and extent of debriefing,
including feedback of test results, and the disguised use of test
materials, must be addressed on a case-by-case basis with due
attention to the protection of the participants and the integrity of the
test. Unauthorized modification of a published or unpublished test for a
research project is a violation of the publishers or authors copyright,
and is thus both unethical and illegal. As with tests used in training,
when tests are used by students in their research, the faculty
supervisor bears the responsibility for assuring appropriate testing
practices. Security of test materials, confidentiality of records,
standardized administration, and appropriate methods of score
reporting must be maintained as in any other testing situation.

i) CPTA is a standing committee of the American Psychological
ii) Test publishers regularly publish guidelines on secure test use. To
obtain the guidelines for a specific test, contact the relevant test

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© PsycNET 2002 American Psychological Association

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