skip to main content skip to footer

Test Validity and the Ethics of Assessment

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Ethics, Test Interpretation, Test Use, Test Validity, Testing Problems


Questions of the adequacy of a test as a measure of the characteristic it is interpreted to assess are answerable on scientific grounds by appraising psychometric evidence, especially construct validity. Questions of the appropriateness of test use in proposed applications are answerable on ethical grounds by appraising potential social consequences of the testing. The first set of answers provides an evidential basis for test interpretation and the second set provides a consequential basis for test use. In addition, this paper stresses the importance of construct validity for test use since it provides a rational foundation for predictiveness and relevance, as well as the importance of taking into account the value implications of test interpretations per se. By thus considering both the evidential and consequential bases of both test interpretation and test use, the roles of evidence and social values in the overall validation process are illuminated, and test validity comes to be based on ethical as well as evidential grounds. (46pp.)

Read More