What is a psychometrician? A psychometrician is someone who practices psychometrics – the Science of Assessment. That is, they are familiar with the scientific literature devoted to the development of fair, high-quality assessments, and they use this knowledge to improve assessments. Psychometricians learn about many different topics, and can take a number of slants, such as applied vs. academic, or quantitative vs. test development. Also, in some parts of the world, psychometrician refers to someone who administers tests, typically in an employment or counseling setting, and does not actually know anything about psychometrics. We will not consider that here since I consider that usage to be bogus.
What does a psychometrician do?
There are many steps that go into developing a high quality, defensible assessment. These differ by the purpose of the test. When working on professional certifications or employment tests, a job analysis is typically necessary. It’s totally irrelevant for K-12 formative assessments; the test is based on a curriculum.
Some topics include:
- Analyzing test data with item response theory or classical test theory to evaluate item performance
- Linking and equating
- Job analysis and test blueprint design
- Standard setting cutscore studies like modified-Angoff studies
- Item writing workshops
- Assessment program design and management
- Software design and development
Where does a psychometrician work?
They work any place that develops high-quality tests. Some examples:
- Large educational assessment organizations like ACT
- Governmental organizations like Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board
- Professional certification and licensure boards like the International Federation of Boards of Biosafety
- Employment testing companies like Biddle Consulting Group
- Medical research like Inflexxion
- Universities like the University of Minnesota – mostly in purely academic roles
- Language assessment groups like Berlitz
Are all psychometricians created equal?
Absolutely not! Like any other profession, there are levels of expertise and skill. I liken it to top-level athletes: there are huge differences between what constitutes a good football/basketball/whatever player in high school, college, and the professional level. And the top levels are quite elite; many people who study psychometrics will never achieve them.
Personally, I group psychometricians into three levels:
Level 1: Practitioners at this level are perfectly comfortable with basic concepts and the use of classical test theory, evaluating items with P and Rpbis. They also do client-facing work like Angoff studies; many Level 2 and Level 3 psychometricians do not enjoy this work.
Level 2: Practitioners at this level are familiar with advanced topics like item response theory, differential item functioning, and adaptive testing. They routinely perform complex analyses with software such as Xcalibre.
Level 3: Practitioners at this level contribute to the field of psychometrics. They invent new statistics/algorithms, develop new software, publish books, start successful companies, or otherwise impact the testing industry and science of psychometrics in some way.
Note that practitioners can certainly be extreme experts in other areas: someone can be an internationally recognized expert in Certification Accreditation or Pre-Employment Selection but only be a Level 1 psychometrician because that’s all that’s relevant for them. They are a Level 3 in their home field.
Do these levels matter? To some extent, they are just my musings. But if you are hiring a psychometrician, either as a consultant or an employee, this differentiation is worth considering!
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