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Research Backing the ETS® Personal Skills and Qualities Tool

A substantial body of research, including seminal work by ETS leaders in the field of inter- and intrapersonal skills, supports the validity, reliability and fairness of the ETS® Personal Skills and Qualities (PSQ) tool, which has been verified in close collaboration with higher ed institutions and employers. A paper detailing the outstanding results from the Yale School of Management multiyear pilot is currently in consideration at a peer-review journal, but see the pilot results page for a sneak peek of key findings.

ETS researchers among leaders in this field

The Education and Career Development team housed within ETS's Research & Development division is working to build bridges between education and workforce research to inform best practices. ETS Distinguished Presidential Appointee Patrick Kyllonen leads the nonprofit organization's research on inter- and intrapersonal skills — also known as behavioral, noncognitive, social-emotional and soft skills. Whatever the nomenclature, this cluster of skills allow people to navigate their work environment, work well with others, perform effectively and achieve their goals. And learners who display proficiency in those skills will have an advantage over their peers.

Key research

Below are links to some of the most relevant research to which ETSers past and present have contributed.

  • Authors: Suarez-Alvarez, Javier; Fernandez-Alonso, Ruben; Kyllonen, Patrick C.; De Fruyt, Filip; Fonseca-Pedrero, Eduardo; Muniz, Jose (2020)

    Frontiers in Psychology, v11 n426 pp. 1–3, March 25, 2020

    This editorial provides an overview and references seven articles that suggest paths to mitigate the gaps between research and policy, and advance the field of high quality social and emotional learning research. In one article, Kreitchmann et al. provide new evidence on the use of forced-choice questionnaires to mitigate social desirability and acquiesce bias when assessing social and emotional skills.

  • Authors: Alina A. von Davier; Mengxiao Zhu; Patrick C. Kyllonen (2017)


    This edited volume provides a platform for experts from various fields to introduce and discuss their different perspectives on the topic of teamwork and collaborative problem-solving. This book seeks to channel this expertise toward advances in the measurement and assessment of cognitive and noncognitive skills of individuals and teams.

  • Author: Patrick C. Kyllonen (2016)

    Handbook of Test Development

    This chapter reviews why inter- and intrapersonal skills are important for both education and the workplace, various construct frameworks and a wide variety of methods for measuring them.

  • Authors: Naemi, Bobby D.; Seybert, Jacob; Robbins, Steven B.; Kyllonen, Patrick C. (2014)

    ETS Research Report

    This report introduces the WorkFORCE® Assessment for Job Fit, an assessment of inter- and intrapersonal skills utilizing the FACETS® engine core capability, which is based on innovations in forced-choice assessment and computer adaptive testing. This same capability underpins the PSQ tool. Fairness and validity, the creation of composite scores, and the generalizability of the assessment across languages and job types are discussed.

  • Author: Patrick C. Kyllonen (2013)

    Change, Vol. 45, No. 6, pp. 16–23

    This article presents an overview of research conducted on the role of cognitive and noncognitive skills in predicting academic and workforce outcomes. Recently, the predominant belief was that cognitive abilities mattered most. Further research suggests both skill sets play an important role in determining success.

  • Authors: J. Burrus, A. Betancourt, S. Holtzman, J. Minsky, C. MacCann, & R. D. Roberts (2012)

    Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, Vol. 4, pp. 151–166

    This article describes a study that examined whether people with higher emotional intelligence have greater well-being than people with less emotional intelligence.

  • Authors: A. A. Lipnevich & R. D. Roberts (2011)

    Learning and Individual Differences, Vol. 22, pp. 173–177

    This article is the introduction to a special issue of the journal on the topic of Noncognitive Skills in Education: Emerging Research and Applications in a Variety of International Contexts. The authors of this article were the editors of the special issue.

  • Authors: Kyllonen, Patrick C.; Walters, Alyssa M.; Kaufman, James C. (2011)

    ETS Research Report

    This report reviews the literature on noncognitive and other background predictors as it pertains to graduate education. The first section reviews measures typically used in studies of graduate school outcomes and qualities faculty members and administrators say they desire and cultivate in graduate programs. The second section reviews three categories of noncognitive variables that might predict outcomes and the definitions, measures, correlates, and the validity of those measures.

  • Editors: M. Ziegler, C. MacCann, & R. D. Roberts (2011)

    Publisher: Oxford University Press

    This edited volume presents different viewpoints on response distortion in assessment. The contributors consider the definition of "faking," the possible reasons for it and the types of tests that can be manipulated.

  • Author: Kyllonen, Patrick C. (2005)

    ETS R&D Connections

    This issue of R&D Connections examines noncognitive assessments, including their uses, measurement issues associated with them and ETS's work in this arena.