Appraisal Techniques in Counseling (Functions and Principles)

One of the seven core guidance services carried out by guidance counselors is appraisal. Appraisal is a service that is designed to gather, analyze, and utilize various personal, psychological, and social data about clients to gain a better understanding of them.

These data could either be gathered subjectively or objectively through various appraisal techniques.

Another name for appraisal is evaluation. It focuses on making judgments and conclusions from data obtained about clients after assessment. 

Assessment is the first step towards appraisal, but it is not appraisal.

Assessment, also known as measurement, focuses only on gathering data with no end in view. Once those data begin to go through interpretation to make conclusions, appraisal is being done.

10 Techniques of Appraisal in Counseling

There are two broad categories of techniques used for appraisal in counseling. They are the use of test devices and the use of non-test devices.

Use of Test Devices

Test devices are quantitative measures used to appraise clients’ behavior. They supply information about the client’s behavior in a way that makes them comparable to other clients’ behaviors.

The results are usually displayed within a range. The upper limit shows the highest representation of the behavior being measured, while the lower limit shows the absence or lowest representation of the behavior.

Test devices include aptitude tests, achievement tests, personality tests, interest inventories, and mental ability tests.

  • Aptitude Tests: Aptitude tests are used to measure a client’s potential to succeed in a particular field while they haven’t received any substantial training or experience in that field.
  • Achievement Tests: Achievement tests are used to measure the effect exposure to a learning experience has on a client. They are used after some form of training has been done or experience gotten to see how well the client learned.
  • Personality Tests: Personality tests are used to measure the affective characteristics of clients such as their emotions, motivation, and social adjustment. They evaluate the entire characteristics or traits that make a person different from another.
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  • Interest Inventories: Interest inventories are used to evaluate a client’s flare toward particular subjects or fields. Unlike aptitude tests that evaluate their ability to thrive, interest inventories simply measure their affinity toward the field. This can help in career guidance and counseling.
  • Mental Ability Tests: Mental ability tests are used to evaluate clients’ cognitive and intellectual capabilities. It measures traits such as their ability to comprehend and interpret information. Mental ability tests are popularly known as Intelligent Quotient (IQ) tests.

Use of Non-Test Devices

The second category of appraisal techniques in counseling is the use of non-test devices. Unlike test devices, non-test devices are measures that simply supply general information about a client without evaluating them and giving a basis for comparing them with others.

They only identify the presence or absence of certain traits without giving a quantitative measure of them.

Non-test devices used in counseling include observation, rating scales, anecdotal records, cumulative records, and sociometric techniques. 

  • Observation: Observation is the act of paying attention to and recording facts from a scene for a scientific study. It is used to gather data about individuals that can be acted out through their overt behaviors.
  • Rating Scales: Rating scales are used to give a range to observation. They are the primary method of recording what has been observed and they give a glance, although very superficial, at the observed person’s personality. Descriptive statements like strong, weak, present, and absent are used to record the observed traits like honesty and hard work.
  • Anecdotal Records: An anecdotal record is a descriptive report of a client’s involvement in a critical incident. It gives an objective and factual account of the client’s behavior, not the observer’s interpretation of it. It records the situation, the words, actions, and body language of the client in that situation.
  • Cumulative Record: A cumulative record is used for students to document their overall progress in different domains in the school. It encompasses data obtained from all the school guidance personnel to give a comprehensive picture of a student.
  • Sociogram: A sociogram is a pictorial representation of a client’s measured social value, preferences, and interactions. It documents their social worth and personal value as perceived by their associations and the social structures around them.

6 Principles of Appraisal in Counseling 

Appraisal must be carried out following some ethical guidelines that ensure the effectiveness of all activities and the protection of clients. Below are some of the principles of appraisal in counseling:

The information must be evaluated as a whole 

Regardless of where a piece of information is gotten from, it shouldn’t be taken as a complete descriptive picture of the client. Instead, other sources of information must be consulted for a holistic picture. 

For example, one anecdotal record cannot give a full picture of a client’s personality. A personality test can be administered as well for more context.

The information must be interpreted

The information obtained about clients, especially through various not-test devices does not give conclusions about the client.

The counselor must interpret such information to deduce conclusions that can be used to guide action.

For example, an interest inventory, although a test device, only gives information about what the client likes. It must thereafter be interpreted to, for instance, mean the client will thrive in a career.

The counselor must take full responsibility for the use of clients’ information

The guidance counselor must take full responsibility for all information gathered about the client during appraisal. This includes ensuring that they are confidential, and they’re not misused when transferred to necessary departments.

The counselor must also withhold information when they are unsure of what the person requesting it wants it for.

The counselor must integrate the report from appraisal into all guidance or counseling services

While working with a client, the counselor must continue to reference the information gathered through appraisal. They should inform a client, for instance, who thinks he is bound to fail in a career path that his aptitude test revealed that he has the potential to do well.

The counselor must suggest ways the information can be used 

The purpose of appraisal is to get as much information as possible to make informed decisions. However, the counselor must not simply hand over appraisal information to clients.

They must suggest to the client how the information can benefit them and the options before them as a result of the findings.

Information should be used as a reference in the demographic study

The appraisal results obtained from a wide range of clients can be combined to make decisions about a particular demographic. Trends in society, schools, and organizations can be identified through this. In a school setting, it can form the basis for the organization of a school guidance program.

Purpose of Appraisal in Counseling 

There are four primary purposes of appraisal in counseling. They are prediction, selection, classification, and evaluation.


Information obtained from measurement devices such as aptitude tests and mental ability tests can be used to make predictions about clients. While these predictions do not give a concrete picture of what will happen, they give a relatively reliable expectation of the client’s outcome.

For example, a client whose mental ability test reveals that they are intelligent can still perform poorly in school as against the prediction if other factors that make for academic excellence like effective study habits are missing.


The second purpose of appraisal in counseling is selection. This is used especially in schools where students are transitioning from one class to another.

The school counselor appraises the students based on information gathered from previous performances to know which class will be best for students.

Appraisal is also used in schools to select students to be admitted. This is in the form of the entrance exam.


Appraisal also serves the purpose of aiding classification. In a large population where grouping needs to be done based on similarities people possess, the results from appraisal come in handy.

For example, in a psychiatric hospital, patients can be classified into several wards based on their mental ability as perceived through a mental ability test.


Programs, treatment plans, teaching, counseling activities, and the like can be evaluated using appraisal techniques. 

This is the purpose of an achievement test, for instance— to give the counselor a sense of how well a client has transformed since they started exposing them to experiences.

Without evaluation, the success or failure of a process cannot be ascertained. It also gives feedback on what should be improved (and how) for the program to be effective.

15 Functions of Appraisal in Schools 

In school environments, appraisal benefits counselors, teachers, and school administrators. Below are some of the functions of appraisal in schools.

Functions of Appraisal To Teachers

  • It assists the teachers to gain an understanding of the achievement levels of each student
  • It assists teachers in determining whether to adjust the teaching method
  • It helps teachers diagnose students with learning difficulties
  • It helps teachers to make within-class decisions like grouping students for specific activities 
  • It helps teachers measure students’ attainment

Functions of Appraisal to School Counselors

  • It assists the school counselors in understanding their clients’ abilities, interests, and personalities
  • It helps counselors predict the future expectations of their clients
  • It gives counselors a basis to help clients with decision-making e.g educational and vocational
  • It helps counselors in diagnosing clients’ issues
  • It helps counselors assess the success and outcomes of guidance and counseling

Functions of Appraisal to School Administrators

  • It helps school administrators in educational planning 
  • It helps the administrators determine the strengths and weaknesses of the instructional programs
  • It gives the school administrators a basis for grouping students
  • It helps the administrators identify where supervision is needed
  • It helps administrators evaluate the overall effectiveness of the school in line with the national educational aims

In Closing

The success of other guidance services depends on the success of the appraisal service. It must therefore be treated as an important activity.

The techniques of appraisal in counseling include aptitude tests, achievement tests, personality tests, interest inventories, sociometry, anecdotal records, observation, and mental ability tests. The four uses of appraisal in counseling are prediction, selection, classification, and evaluation.

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