Chapter 7: Using, Scoring, and Interpreting Assessment Instruments

This chapter describes some of the most common assessment instrument scoring procedures. It also discusses how to properly interpret results, and how to use them effectively. Other issues regarding the proper use of assessment tools are also discussed.

Chapter Highlights

  1. Assessment instrument scoring procedures
  2. Test interpretation methods: norm and criterion-referenced tests
  3. Interpreting test results
  4. Processing test results to make employment decisions-rank-ordering and cut-off scores
  5. Combining information from many assessment tools
  6. Minimizing adverse impact

Assessment instrument scoring procedures

Principle of Assessment: Ensure that scores are interpreted properly.
Test publishers may offer one or more ways to score the tests you purchase. Available options may range from hand scoring by your staff to machine scanning and scoring done by the publisher. All options have their advantages and disadvantages. When you select the tests for use, investigate the available scoring options. Your staff's time, turnaround time for test results, and cost may all play a part in your purchasing decision.

Test interpretation methods: norm and criterion-referenced tests

Employment tests are used to make inferences about people's characteristics, capabilities, and likely future performance on the job. What does the test score mean? Is the applicant qualified? To help answer these questions, consider what the test is designed to accomplish. Does the test compare one person's score to those obtained by others in the occupation, or does it measure the absolute level of skill an individual has obtained? These two methods are described below.
Principle of Assessment: Ensure that scores are interpreted properly.
It is important to ensure that all inferences you make on the basis of test results are well founded. Only use tests for which sufficient information is available to guide and support score interpretation. Read the test manual for instructions on how to properly interpret the test results. This leads to the next principle of assessment.

Interpreting test results

Test results are usually presented in terms of numerical scores, such as raw scores, standard scores, and percentile scores. In order to interpret test scores properly, you need to understand the scoring system used.

Processing test results to make employment decisions-rank-ordering and cut-off scores

The rank-ordering of test results, the use of cut-off scores, or some combination of the two is commonly used to assess the qualifications of people and to make employment-related decisions about them. These are described below.

Rank-ordering is a process of arranging candidates on a list from highest score to lowest score based on their test results. In rank-order selection, candidates are chosen on a top-down basis.

A cut-off score is the minimum score that a candidate must have to qualify for a position. Employers generally set the cut-off score at a level which they determine is directly related to job success. Candidates who score below this cut-off generally are not considered for selection. Test publishers typically recommend that employers base their selection of a cut-off score on the norms of the test.

Combining information from many assessment tools

Many assessment programs use a variety of tests and procedures in their assessment of candidates. In general, you can use a "multiple hurdles" approach or a "total assessment" approach, or a combination of the two, in using the assessment information obtained.A key decision in using the total assessment approach is determining the relative weights to assign to each assessment instrument in the program.

Figure 3 is a simple example of how assessment results from several tests and procedures can be combined to generate a weighted composite score.

Assessment instrumentAssessment score (0-100)Assigned weightWeighted total
Mechanical ability test6010600
H.S. course work905450
Total Score: 1,690
An employer is hiring entry-level machinists. The assessment instruments consist of a structured interview, a mechanical ability test, and high school course work. After consultation with relevant staff and experts, a weight of 8 is assigned for the interview, 10 for the test, and 5 for course work. A sample score sheet for one candidate, Candidate A, is shown above. As you can see, although Candidate A scored lowest on the mechanical ability test, the weights of all of the assessment instruments as a composite allowed him/her to continue on as a candidate for the machinist job rather than being eliminated for consideration as a result of the one low score.
Figure 3. Score-sheet for entry level machinist job: Candidate A.

Minimizing adverse impact

A well-designed assessment program will improve your ability to make effective employment decisions. However, some of the best predictors of job performance may exhibit adverse impact. As a test user, there are several good testing practices to follow to minimize adverse impact in conducting personnel assessment and to ensure that, if adverse impact does occur, it is not a result of deficiencies in your assessment tools.

A document by the:

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration