A Little Background
The very word “test” is enough to make us cringe. Spelling tests, math tests—every school day brought another test. And then there were the “achievement tests”, which were supposed to find out how much we’d learned that year.
The Tests that Really Mattered in Our Lives
From high school, many of us went on to college. Here tests were crucial as we labored through the ACT, SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, et cetera. Our scores helped determine whether we would get into the college and profession we wanted.
Okay, So I’m a Rebel
I tried hard on all the standardized tests I had to take, but before the actual ACT began I had an interesting experience. We were given a page that wasn’t part of the test; the questions had to do with my parents’ occupation, income, and education level. None of this information, in my opinion, was relevant to my scholastic abilities. I knew what they were after; they wanted to connect my test grade to other life factors. At 17 I was already an accomplished rebel, so I lied on every personal family question.
Note to other rebels: I also don’t believe present-day schools have a right to know parental occupation, educational level, or income. But it’s your decision about whether to provide that information to an institution that will put it into a computer and send it all over the world.
I have also rebelled against giving the expected liberal answer if I believed it was incorrect. When I took the national teacher exam, one of the first questions asked whether intelligence was determined primarily by genetics or upbringing. I marked “genetics” even though I knew it would be counted wrong. Liberals insist environment is the determining factor for intelligence. It has to be, or people might figure out that all the tax money being poured into preschool programs is a complete waste. Follow the money.
I was proven right years later by the Minnesota Twin Study, which studied identical twins who were separated at birth. The study found a strong correlation between genetics and intelligence. But when did liberals ever listen to facts?
Escape and Evasion in Testing
Today I’m not concerned with the tests mentioned above. I want to discuss a much more sinister and invasive form of testing: tests that claim they can determine your personality or determine if you have psychological problems. They’re used by lazy psychologists who don’t know how to do real analysis and, more and more frequently, by corporations and law enforcement. They are also ignorant about true mental assessment.
The psychology/testing industry has convinced corporations that they should know as much as possible about the minds of those they hire in order to eliminate applicants who might be dishonest, have emotional problems, or whose personality may be considered a poor fit with the job. Presumably law enforcement believes it can pick up criminal characteristics.
It’s a Business
The testing companies have been very successful in promoting their products; it’s currently a $2-to-$4 Billion Dollar per year industry. That gives them several billion good reasons to convince buyers that their product is effective. Like I said, Follow the money.
Any Rebels Here?
With the rising use of these tests, you may be asked or required to take one of these tests as a condition of employment. My opinion of these tests is negative for two reasons. First, I don’t believe they produce accurate conclusions; second, I don’t believe anyone has the right to probe your mind without your free consent.
My Purpose—Teaching Test and Evasion
I want to explain some methods of taking these tests yet evading them. It’s not hard at all.
The “Forced” Test
There are three basic formats for personality tests. The first is called a “forced” test because the taker is forced to make a choice between one of two answers. Usually this is “yes” or “no”. For instance, a test may say:
|I admire my father.||
|My mother is my friend.||
|Most days are I’m happy.||
|Bad dreams often bother me.||
These tests try to prevent fake answers by asking the same question, with different wording, repeatedly. They assume that there are two possibilities about your test taking: (1) you’re carefully reading and trying to choose the answer that will please them, or (2) you’re being honest about your feelings. The test also claims it can determine which strategy you are using.
The simplest way to avoid giving psychologically revealing answers on such tests is to make an arbitrary, simple rule for how each question will be answered. For example, you might decide that questions with an even number of words will be marked “yes”, and those with an odd number of words will be marked “no”. This means you do admire your father (four words) but your mother isn’t your friend. This will prevent any chance of your true beliefs being reflected in your answers.
The Strategies Are Endless
The number of words is only the beginning. You might also try looking at the fourth letter in the sentence. If it’s a vowel, mark “yes”. If it’s a consonant, mark “no”. Or use the fifth letter. Or the last letter. You could even use different strategies for different parts of the test.
The second commonly used test format employs a Likert-type scale in which you indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with a statement. These present a sliding Likert scale such as this:
|Strongly Agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly Disagree|
|o ————||o —————||o ——————||o —————-||o|
…and they will ask you to respond to statements such as:
- I am assertive when I know I’m right.
- Challenges don’t scare me.
- I get along well with my wife.
- I genuinely like most people.
- Shy people don’t get ahead.
This test form is more difficult because you must have five strategies for choosing a random answer. Some possibilities include:
- For every question which begins with a vowel and has an odd number of words, mark “strongly agree”.
- For any question which begins with a vowel and has an even number of words, mark “strongly disagree”.
- For any question with a contraction, mark “agree”.
- For any sentence which begins with a consonant and has an odd number of words, mark “neutral”.
- For any sentence which begins with a vowel and has an even number of words, mark “disagree”.
The Result of Using These Strategies
If you follow a system such as this, your answers will have no relation to your true feelings. Try to make your system as simple and easy to remember as possible. The Lickert scale questions are harder to plot than simple “yes-no”, but much more fun.
A Blot is a Blot is a Blot
The third kind of personality test is called a projective test. There is no real answer, but your personality, conflicts, and emotional stability are supposed to be revealed by how you see something which is really nothing.
The best example of such a test is the Rorschach. This test consists of—literally—random ink blots which someone made. The blots don’t resemble anything; what you imagine them to resemble is supposed to reveal your emotional state.
Needless to say, I don’t believe the test reveals anything. One of my favorite movie scenes is from the movie Armageddon where the unlikely astronauts are being tested physically and mentally. One of them, seeing the assorted blots, responds to them something like, “Woman with large breasts. Woman with small breasts. Woman with medium breasts.” That’s a great example of how useful this test is.
Your best strategy, if faced with a compulsory Rorschach, is to be very, very creative. The test comes with an interpretive book which lists many common answers and what they supposedly signify. Forget ordinary; go creative.
“This is a Chinese woman who’s been abandoned by her lover and is about to jump off the top of a large Buddha statue. She’ll be reborn as a snail.”
“This is a triceratops mama defending her nest of eggs from little mammals that, in 70 million years, will turn into us.”
“This is a raincoat hanging off the Eiffel Tower on a windy day.”
If you have a crazy bone hiding in yourself somewhere, use it.
Tests That Are Relevant
The tests I’ve described are completely different from tests designed to actually determine your competency to do a job.
For instance, I worked as a secretary in college and every job required a typing test. This makes perfect sense; the ability to type was crucial to doing the job well. Side Note: My fastest time, on a Selectric II, was 119 wpm. Yes, I got hired.
Today, secretaries need far more knowledge; they need to know all about spreadsheets, word processing, faxing, etc. Companies are completely justified in testing for these competencies.
If You Do Choose to Evade a Personality Test…
Forced answer and Likert tests are usually scored by machines. Your answers are then evaluated by the machine to produce a personality type. A psychologist looks at the results, says “Hum” with great gravity, and declares what kind of personality you have.
If you use the methods I’ve described to evade the test, I have no idea what your test results may be. More than likely the examiner will also be confused because there probably will not have a discernible pattern. Even if the machine can find a pattern, if you’ve used these strategies it will be a false pattern which tells nothing about your true personality. This may or may not affect your chances of employment. It’s a decision you have to make.
Real Psychiatry vs. an Industry
Please don’t take this article as a condemnation of the very real science of the human mind. I have great respect for the medical specialty of psychiatry; I’ve seen psychiatrists, as needed, for many years. None of them used the tests I’ve described. They have all been intelligent, kind, and incredibly perceptive. Their ability to see things about me, and help me see them as well (after hours and hours of discussion), has given me great insight into myself and has helped me find peace with my own differences.
I also know many of you tough guys wouldn’t touch a psychiatrist with a ten-foot bump stock. You believe getting psychiatric help indicates weakness, or that you haven’t got enough inner strength to prevail over whatever is distressing you. Or you may believe, as my dear Hubby does, that a psychiatrist can take one look at you and know everything about you. I mentioned this belief to a psychiatrist once and she laughed, “If only!”
Think of it this way: if something goes wrong with your heart, you’d go to a cardiologist. A misbehaving appendix will send you to a surgeon. A broken leg will call for an orthopedist.
The mind can also do things we don’t understand or that make us uncomfortable. If you believe you have an emotional problem, visit a professional—a psychiatrist who has been through medical school, internship, residency, and also has years of experience helping every problem a human mind can have.