Validity and validation are some of the most important, and most confusing, terms in workforce development and education.

There are three very different uses of the terms: two technical uses, and a casual use:

Validity expresses a quantified relationship between what a test actually measures and what it is intended to measure or predict. This sense governs the Standards for Educational and Psychological testing.

    1.  Educators want to measure mastery of content. The test score in this context must be validated to  

         indicate the individual’s mastery of course or program content.

    2.  Employers want to predict job performance. The test score in this context must be validated to predict job


There are meaningful differences between the way educators and employers are using the term, but both of these uses are technically correct. And both have an underlying requirement of quantitative analysis.

    3.  Finally, validity is also used in a common or casual context. Casual use of the term is improper in relation

         to tests and credentials.

  • Sometimes consensus alone is represented as a basis for validity. This is not supported by standards.
  • Validate is also used to indicate that a credential confirms the competencies held by the credential holder.
    When people say, “the credential validates the competencies of the credential holder,” they mean that the credential is an attestation of the competencies of the holder. Accordingly, some publications use the term "attestation" in this context. Hence, this is a casual use of the term validate.
  • Educators and workforce development professionals should reserve the terms valid, validity, validate, and validation to indicate validity in line with Educational and Psychological Testing Standards (Chart and Definition 1 above).

We use the terms in our Talent SCM Systems work as follows “employers need to define, validate, and communicate their competency requirements to talent suppliers and individuals.” In this context, we expect employers to use professional standards to validate that the competencies are predictive of job performance. Employers need to connect the two targets of competencies and job performance.

If you would like to learn more about validation, we’d recommend Alternative Validation Strategies: Developing and Leveraging Existing Validity Evidence, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), McPhail (Editor) 2007.