Evaluating shortlisting methods for admission into the social work degree: personal statement versus psychological test

Audrey Roulston*, Colin Mcneill, David Hayes, Marian Traynor

*Corresponding author for this work

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Oversubscribed social work (SW) courses and a workforce review in Northern Ireland prompted a review of admissions, to ensure recruitment of applicants with strong core values. Concerns regarding authorship, plagiarism and reliability of personal statements, and calls for values-based recruitment underpinned this research. This study evaluates psychometric properties of an SW specific personal statement (PS) and a values-based psychological screening tool, Social Work Match (SWM). Social Work students (n = 112), who commenced the 3-year undergraduate route (UGR) or the 2-year relevant graduate route (RGR) were invited to participate. Their PS scores and SWM scores permitted investigation of scoring outcomes and psychometric properties. Statistical analysis was conducted using Minitab 17. Forty-nine participants (5 male, 44 female) completed SWM on two occasions (October 2020 and January 2021). Findings provide practical, theoretical, statistical, and qualitative reasons for concluding that the PS has substantial limitations as a measure of suitability. It does not compare well with international test standards for psychometric tests. In contrast, SWM is a valid and reliable measure with good discriminatory power, standardized administration and consistent marking. SWM is a viable alternative to the PS for assessing suitability/shortlisting applicants for social work interviews.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Work Education: the international journal
Early online date27 Nov 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 27 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Personal statement
  • psychological test
  • psychometric
  • selection
  • social work
  • social work students
  • values based recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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