Chinese-Language Assessment Methods

Houcan Zhang. The International Handbook of Psychology. Editor: Kurt Pawlik & Mark R Rosenzweig. Sage Publications. 2000.

Historical Background

About 2500 years ago, in ancient China some great thinkers and educators like Confucius (551-479 B.C.E) and Mencius (468-312 B.C.E.) pointed out the existence of individual differences and that the mind of a person can be measured. ‘Scaling makes it possible to understand weight, measurement makes it possible to understand length, these are true for all things, especially true for the mind,’ (Mencius) is a clear statement of the importance of the quantitative measurement of the human mind. An application of this kind of thought to the then Imperial Administrative System was the introduction of the Civil Service Examination from the early seventh century to 1905.

Psychological testing came to China along with the introduction of the Western educational system and psychology at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1931 the Society of Psychological Testing was founded, beginning a period in which many Western tests were translated and revised for use in schools, and psychological assessment became popular in China. However, the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 halted the development of psychological testing, and then during the early 1950s, for ideological and political reasons, psychological testing was criticized as a pseudoscience and was totally abandoned in China. Also during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Psychology was criticized as a pseudoscience and abandoned as a discipline. Only after the Cultural Revolution, was psychology rehabilitated as a science. With the advent of academic freedom, together with the demands from practical needs of society, in both educational and clinical fields, psychologists started work towards the re-establishment of psychological testing in China. Due to the shortage of well-trained personnel and tests available at that time, the Testing Commission of the Chinese Psychological Society held its first nationwide workshop in Wuhan in 1980, which can be seen as a landmark in the development of psychological testing in the People’ Republic of China (see also Zhang, 1998; Zheng, 1993).

Contemporary Development

In the early 1980s, the first stage of development of psychological testing occurred in the field of education in the training of the young scholars in test construction, and to gain practical experience. Some Western tests were translated into Chinese and tried out in China; some other tests were revised and Chinese norms were developed for use in China, for example (‘∗’ indicates the test was revised, the year indicates the time of revision or introduction into China):

  • Binet—Simon Scale III (B-S Scale III), by Wu Tian-min, 1981
  • Learning Ability Test for 6-8 Grades, by Lin Chuan-ding and Chen Zhong-geng, 1982
  • Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), revised by Chen Zhong-geng, 1982
  • Sixteen Personality Factors Inventory (16PF), revised by Y. H. Liu and S. Y. Li, 1982
  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), revised by Song Wei-zen and Zhang, Miao-qing, 1984
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), revised by Gong Yao-xian, 1984 Draw-A-Person Test, 1985
  • Raven Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM), by Zhang Houcan and Wang Xiao-ping, 1985
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), revised by Lin Chuan-ding and Zhang Hou-can, 1986
  • California Personality Inventory (CPI), revised by Song Wei-zhen, 1986 Torrence Test of Creative Thinking, 1987 Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM), 1988
  • Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS), revised by Gong Yao-xian, 1988
  • Wechsler Pre-school and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), revised by Zhu Yue-mei, 1988
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), 1989 Sensation Seeking Scale, 1990

Several years later, in order to fulfill the practical needs of society, eliminating the bias on test results from cultural differences of Western tests, besides introducing well-known foreign tests into China, some indigenous intelligence, aptitude, and personality tests were developed, for example:

  • Juvenile Character Inventory, Li De-wei, 1985
  • Young Children’ Developmental Scale, aged 0-3, Fan Cun-ren, 1990
  • CDCC Children’ Developmental Scale, aged 3-6, Zhang Hou-can and Zhou Rong, 1993
  • Chinese 5-Phase Character Inventory, Xue Zhong-cheng, 1994
  • Group Intelligence Test for Children, Jin Yu, 1995
  • Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory, Song Wei-zhen and Zhang Miao-qing, 1995
  • Mental Health Inventory (PHI), Song Wei-zhen and Zhang Miao-qing, 1995 Meta-Memory in Adulthood Questionnaire, Wu Zhenyun, 1996
  • Chinese Adult Intelligence Scale (CAIS), Zhao Jie-cheng, 1997

In the field of clinical psychology, assessment and tests were used most frequently for the purpose of diagnosis. Formerly, tests were used only by psychiatrists as a kind of measurement in the diagnosis of people with mental disorders, but along with the rapid social and economic development in China, the number of people having adjustment problems to the changing environment and interpersonal relationship problems increased, and psychological counseling became a new profession where testing and assessment played important roles. Counseling centers were established and some private clinics also appeared. At present, over two-thirds of the people working in counseling clinics have their background in medicine.

Lacking knowledge in test-construction, they just adopted already existing tools for use. Thus, in addition to the tests developed in the educational field, not many new tests were developed (Zheng, 1993). Some of the rating scales for mental health used in China are shown below (∗ denotes tests developed by Chinese authors):

  • Symptom Checklist 90 (SCL-90), 1984
  • Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS), 1984
  • Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA), 1984
  • Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD), 1984
  • Rorschach Inkblot Test, 1985
  • Self-Rating Depression Scale and Depression Status Inventory (SDS & DSI), 1985
  • State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), 1986
  • Life Event Scale (LES), revised by Zhang Ya-Lin and Yang De-Sen, 1986
  • Clinical Memory-Scale, revised by Xu Shu-Lian, 1986
  • Social Support Rating Scale, revised by Xiao Shui-Yuan, 1986
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), revised by Xu Jun-Mian, 1986
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), revised by Zhang Yu-xin, 1987
  • Psychological Skills Inventory for Sport (PSIS), revised by Qiu Zhuo-ying, 1987
  • Halstead—Reitan Neuropsychological Battery, revised by Gong Yao-xian, 1987
  • Rutter’ Children Behavior Questionnaire, 1988
  • Cornell Medical Index (CMI), 1988
  • Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI), revised by Ye Ren-min, 1988
  • Toronto Alecithymia Scale (TAS), 1990
  • Family Environment Scale—Chinese revised (FES-CV), revised by Fei Li-peng et al., 1991
  • Family Adaptability and Cohesion Scale—Chinese revised (FACESII-CV), revised by Fei Li-peng et al., 1991
  • Achenbach’ Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), 1992
  • Interpersonal Trust Behavior Scale (ITBS), 1993
  • Myers—Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), 1996
  • Strong—Cambell Interest Inventory (SCII), 1996

In recent years, due to the introduction of a market economy in China, the application of psychology has expanded to the field of human resource development. Theories and techniques in assessment greatly benefited the Chinese government’ personnel administration, in the selection of employees, and uncovering of everyone’ talent potential. As a result, psychology has gained a much better recognition from society. For the special purpose of this field, several tests and assessment systems have been developed, for example:

  • Leadership Behavior Scale, Xu Lian-cang, 1994
  • Vocational Assessment System for Managers, Yan Gong-gu et al., 1997
  • Psychological Testing System for Vocational Application, Shi Kan, 1998


Psychological assessment has had a long history in China. The philosophical foundation of psychological measurement lies in the ancient Confucian ideology that mental activities can be measured. The Civil Service Examination dates back to the seventh century, and was the earliest form of educational measurement put into use in the world. Along with the introduction of modern Western psychological testing into China in the early part of the twentieth century, testing began to be a topic of research and application in the field of education. But several political events, especially the ‘cultural revolution’ resulted in its suspension for many years. Only after the opening up of China and the introduction of a market economy in the 1980s, did the demand for psychological measurement by society become imperative, and its application went beyond the educational field into mental health and personnel selection areas. In the meantime, regulations and a code of ethics for guiding the use of psychological testing were also established (Jing & Hu, 1998).

At the present time, research into the theory and practice of assessment, the training of qualified testing personnel, and the development of indigenous tests are being emphasized. It can be seen that the research and application of psychological assessment are expanding to a wide range of areas in China.