Following Standard Procedures For Administering Tests

When we are reciting the instructions to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) or the Halstead Category Test for the five hundredth time, we may experience the urge to break the monotony, liven things up, and let our originality show through. And particularly when we are in a hurry, we may want to abbreviate the instructions. After all, we assume, the client will catch on as we go along.

The assumption underlying standardized tests is that the test-taking situation and procedures are as similar as possible for everyone. When one departs from the procedures on which the norms are based, the standardized norms lose their direct applicability and the "standard" inferences drawn from those norms become questionable. Reasonable accommodations for assessing people with disabilities may sometimes include changing the method of test administration. Lee, Reynolds, and Willson (2003) wrote:

The 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing adopted by AERA, APA, and NCME requires examiners to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities when administering psychological tests to such persons. Changes in test administration may be required, but the Standards also require the examiner to provide evidence associated with the validity of test score interpretation in the face of such changes in administration. Departures from standard procedures during test administration may change the meaning of test scores, because scores based on norms derived from standardized procedures may not be appropriate; error terms and rates may also be affected [p. 55].

The Committee on Professional Standards of the APA (1984) published a finding that allowing a client to take home a test such as the MMPI departs from the "standard procedure." The "Casebook for Providers of Psychological Services" (Committee on Professional Stan dards, 1984) describes a case in which a psychologist permitted his client to take the MMPI home to complete. When the complaint was filed with APA, the Committee on Professional Standards stated that whenever a psychologist "does not have direct, first-hand information as to the condition under which the test is taken, he or she is forced (in the above instance, unnecessarily) to assume that the test responses were not distorted by the general situation in which the test was taken (e.g., whether the client consulted others about test responses). Indeed the psychologist could have no assurance that this test was in fact completed by the client. In the instance where the test might be introduced as data in a court proceeding it would be summarily dismissed as hearsay evidence" (p. 664).

Unless the assessment is carefully monitored, there is no way to know the conditions under which the person filled out response sheets and completed other aspects of the testing. Psychologist Jack Graham, an expert in the MMPI, described an interesting MMPI administration in an inpatient setting (Pope, Butcher, & Seelen, 2006). He observed a large gathering of patients. Several times a minute, some of the patients would raise their hands. Graham became intrigued and asked one of the patients to tell him what was going on. The patient explained that a psychologist had given an MMPI to one of the patients, asking him to complete it and then return it to the psychologist's office. The patient had asked for help from the other patients. The patient was reading each MMPI item aloud, and the patients raised their hands to vote on whether that item should be answered true or false. Psychologist Jim Butcher, another expert in the MMPI, observed a patient sitting with his spouse outside a psychologist's office while filling out an MMPI. From time to time as the patient marked an answer, his wife, reading along, would tell him he was wrong and should change his answer, which the patient dutifully did (Pope, Butcher, & Seelen, 2006).

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