Testing Adults

Administering an intelligence test, or any other psychometric instrument, is not simply a matter of reading a set of printed directions to the examinees. Even when administering a group test to many people simultaneously, the examiner should study the test format and directions carefully beforehand, making certain that the test is scheduled at a convenient, appropriate time, ensuring that the testing environment is conducive to the examinees' doing their best without cheating, and obtaining the required informed consent of the examinees or persons legally responsible for them. During the test, the directions should be followed carefully, and the examiner should remain alert and prepared for special problems and emergencies. Although the establishment of rapport, a cordial, friendly relationship between the examiner and the examinees, is less crucial in group than in individual administration, in either case, the examiner should remain interested, patient, and tactful.

The preceding recommendations are applicable to the administration of tests to all persons, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, or social class. In addition, the examiner should be sensitive to physical or cultural differences among examinees and take them into consideration in selecting and administering the tests. Some flexibility may be appropriate even on standardized tests, but deviations from the standard directions for administration should be noted when reporting the test results. This is particularly true when testing physically handicapped or emotionally disturbed individuals, very young children, or persons who express strong negative attitudes toward the testing procedure.

Because of a lack of time, perception of the test tasks as meaningless, fear of doing badly, or other factors, older adults are often more reluctant to be tested than other age groups. Laboratory-type tasks such as memorizing a set of numerical digits or nonsense syllables or solving math problems and puzzles may strike an older adult as silly and irrelevant to real life. In addition, older adults tend to be slower, more cautious, more distractible, and

1In addition to revised forms of the 11 subtests on the WAIS-R, the WAIS-III, which was published in 1997, contains three new subtests: Matrix Reasoning, Symbol Search, and Letter-Number Sequencing. The sample on which WAIS-III was standardized consisted of 2450 Amerian adults aged 16-89 years, stratified by race/ethnicity, sex, educational level, and geographical region within each age group.

more easily fatigued by the test materials. And when the examiner is much younger than the examinee, establishing rapport with the examinee and motivating him or her to do well on the test may be especially difficult. This is more likely when the examiner has had little or no training or experience in testing older adults.

Even when older adult examinees are motivated to do their best, sensory defects, other physical disabilities, and the tendency to respond more slowly and tire more easily can interfere with test performance. For these reasons, special procedures may be needed for older examinees to demonstrate their capabilities. Among these procedures are the following:

1. Provide ample time for the examinee to respond to the test material.

2. Allow sufficient practice on sample items.

3. Use shorter testing periods than with younger adults.

4. Watch out for fatigue and take it into consideration.

5. Be sensitive to, and make provisions for, visual, auditory, and other sensory defects.

6. Arrange for the examination room to be as free as possible from distractions.

7. Employ a generous amount of encouragement and positive reinforcement.

8. Do not try to force examinees to respond to test items when they repeatedly refuse to do so.

Of course, most of these recommendations are appropriate for examinees of all ages.

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