At TTS, our advisory service and consultants regularly field questions about the validity period of assessments and assessment data. Indeed, this question is of concern for both end-users of assessment data and IO practitioners alike. For end-users, the question is often relevant because they want to use assessment as efficiently as possible: that is, not expend cost for data that is already available.
In addition, there is a concern about having candidates expend time and effort in completing assessments when data about them already exists.
IO Practitioners share these concerns but are also interested in the scientific basis of assessment results longevity. Their questions reference professional ethics that require IOPs to use data that are valid as observed by scientific studies on the stability of assessment results (or at least the guidelines of the test developers).
Indeed, a key ethical requirement for IO psychologists involved in the assessment of individuals is to ensure that they base their decisions or recommendations on test results that are valid and not outdated for the purpose at hand (see Clause 55 of the Professional Board for Psychology’s Rules of Conduct Pertaining Specifically to the Profession of Psychology).
Yet another consideration is fairness. As practitioners, we would like candidates to have the best possible opportunity to perform well at assessments (in the case of skills and ability tests) as well as give an accurate representation of themselves (in the case of behavioral measures).
As such, allowing assessment candidates to re-do assessments in order to illustrate change or development of competencies is important, assuming sufficient time has elapsed since last they completed the measure.
Despite such requirements, there is not wide-spread consensus among test publishers or practitioners, resulting in longstanding uncertainty and confusion regarding this topic. In this article, we will review various guidelines based on both publisher and scientific recommendations and present our own best-practice recommendations that we have found both practically and ethically sound.
As laid out in this article, our position is that, unless there are extenuating circumstances, something extraordinary has happened to the individual that merits a case for re-assessment or if their test results and behaviour suggest otherwise, the behavioural style and aptitude assessment results of a mature individual should remain stable for at least 12-24 months.
Key considerations: Type of assessment
To understand how we arrived at our conclusion regarding the validity period of assessment data, it is important to first look at a factor that is often overlooked: that different types of assessments’ results may have different validity periods.
For example, a test measuring a basic skill such as typing would likely have a very short shelf-life, because individuals can improve their typing skill relatively quickly and easily with the help of basic training and practice. On the other hand, while an individual’s personality develops from childhood to adulthood, the personality of mature adults tends to be relatively stable. This is reflected in longer validity periods typically being recommended for personality assessment results.
As part of our research on assessment result validity periods, we reviewed test manuals, sample reports and consulted with various test publishers. More specifically, the feedback from various test publishers regarding different types of assessments were as follows:
- The CPP, MCPSA and CPA are valid for 5 to 10 years, respectively (Cognadev and BIOSS). Typically, the first assessment completed by an individual is considered to be the most valid. However, after five years an individual can be reassessed in order to account for growth and development from training or a change in position or organisation.
- Simulations and similar results tend to be valid for a period of 18 months (Psi and Evalex). It is based on the argument that there is no “maximum validity” as results from these assessments indicate a competence level. If an individual has demonstrated the required level of competence for a role, there is no need to reassess. If one has failed to demonstrate the required level of competence, test publishers suggest retesting after 18 months. This, however, is merely a guideline and individuals are sometimes reassessed sooner if they have undergone significant training or development.
- Integrity related assessments (e.g. GIP, IMI and IP200) vary between 12 to 24 months. The construct of integrity tends to become more stable once individuals have reached a stabilising period in their life (i.e. individuals older than the age of 25 or that have been in the workforce for more than six months). Prior to the age of 18 (and completing high school), the results are considered valid for a period of up to six months.
- Specific skills tests are regarded as valid for six months as an individual’s level of competence may have changed after this time due to training and development focused on a specific skill.
- When it comes to ability assessments such as verbal and numerical reasoning and more, depending on the provider results are typically valid for up to 12 months (e.g., Aon/cut-e) to two years (e.g., Saville). Such abilities can potentially be developed with concerted effort and training but requires time.
- When it comes to personality assessments, results are typically valid for a range between 12 months and two years. As mentioned, barring major events and interventions, the personality preferences of mature adults tend to be relatively stable over time.
Despite the concrete periods that are suggested above, best practice guidelines and experience alike suggest that it may be unwise to treat the validity period of assessment results in such a mechanistic manner.
In most cases, the answer will invariably be “it depends”. With a focus on the measurement of personality and cognitive ability – both widely used in occupational assessment applications – research has demonstrated that personality tends to be more stable over time, allowing for a validity period of up to 24 months.
Nevertheless, despite these timeframes, the purpose for which the assessments were originally conducted needs to be taken into account. In addition, it is useful to also consider other personal aspects of the candidate, such as their career or life phase.
Key considerations: Applications of assessment data and retesting considerations
An important consideration that may also be relevant to the validity period of assessment data is its intended application.
For instance, it may at times be acceptable to reuse assessment data even when the age of the data has exceeded the recommended timeframes. Generally speaking, the reuse of potentially dated assessment data is unlikely to cause harm when used for development or for bench-strength purposes.
However, the use of outdated assessment data can have a substantial negative consequences when used for selection or promotion purposes.
When it comes to retesting, there are several instances where assessing a candidate a second time might be beneficial. These include following a traumatic or stressful life event (e.g., death of a family member or close friend, marriage or divorce, or a personal injury or illness), a radical change in circumstances or experience (e.g., new position or team, lockdown or governmental regulations), as well as formal training and development undertaken by an individual.
In these cases, circumstances may have influenced the individual to such a degree that there could be an impact on their behavioural preferences or personality style. Retesting under these circumstances would therefore be recommended for a more accurate reflection.
Key considerations: Legislation and regulations
In line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI), TTS stores personal information and assessment data for up to 24 months, after which the data is anonymised and retained for research purposes. This is based on:
- The validity period of the results;
- The need to comply with legal and record retention obligations;
- That candidates provide their informed consent regarding the use of their anonymised data for research purposes; and
- To meet TTS’ legitimate interests.
For example, to provide services, to conduct analysis and validation studies that help to improve services and be able to legally defend fairness in assessments, to ensure that any complaints or concerns can be promptly dealt with, and to ensure records are kept up to date and accurate.
Nevertheless, other assessment providers such as Saville Assessment, a Willis Towers Watson Company, take a stricter approach by storing data for up to 24 months, after which the data is deleted entirely.
While there are a number of general guidelines concerning the validity period of assessment data, there are also a number of factors that can impact such general guidelines in specific circumstances.
As such, TTS’ recommendation for test users is that, provided the purpose and applications, individual circumstances and applicable legislation is taken into consideration, ability and personality assessment data typically remains valid and can be reused for a period of 12 to 24 months after date of administration.
For more information on this and other best-practice principles of assessments, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.