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What is an Ethics Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An ethics test is a test designed to measure someone's ability to adhere to a code of conduct and beliefs. The test usually presents a series of hypothetical situations and asks the test taker to explain how he or she would respond to those situations. Ethics testing can be used in many different ways, ranging from collecting data about participants in a scientific study to screening job candidates to determine whether they would be a good fit for a workplace.

Ethics is a set of principles that set out the differences between right and wrong. People can approach ethics from a number of perspectives. People from different cultures, for example, may view right and wrong differently. Likewise, many professions have ethical codes for their members, designed to ensure a high standard of behavior, and people who work in these professions may incorporate their professional ethics into their personal lives.

One reason to conduct an ethics test is to determine whether or not someone has absorbed professional ethics. Many workplaces rely on ethical behavior from their employees, whether they are providing financial advice or counseling people in need of psychiatric help. An ethics test screens people to see how they respond to given situations. If a job candidate answers questions in unethical ways, it suggests that this person may not be a good choice for the position.

Ethics tests can also be administered by professional organizations to people who would like to join. These tests are used along with other measures to decide whether or not someone is qualified to practice under the banner of the organization. People must also usually agree to sign a document indicating that they understand the ethical code of the organization and will adhere to it.

Sometimes people take ethics tests as a matter of personal interest. Answers to ethics tests can sometimes reveal interesting information about people and challenge the way people think about ethical issues. Sometimes students in philosophy and ethics classes are invited to take such tests as a way of exploring the role that ethics can have in their personal lives. People are sometimes surprised to find that they do not apply ethics universally and may struggle unexpectedly with ethically ambiguous situations presented on an ethics test.

It is important to note that although ethics purports to help people tell the difference between right and wrong, these concepts can be nebulous. There are not necessarily right or wrong answers to an ethics test, because ethical situations do not occur in a vacuum. Complicated circumstances can cloud a decision and make it difficult to determine the best course of action.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Oct 17, 2014

I took an ethics class in college. This class was designed specifically for journalism students, though not all people in the class were journalism majors. Anyway the reasoning was that there are so many grey areas in journalism that students should be prepared for they would encounter once they started their professions in the real world.

How far are you willing to go to get a story? Is it okay to lie and cheat, so that you can get a story about a politician who is lying and cheating? These are just a couple of the questions we debated.

During class, I soon learned that no matter how cut and dry a question seemed, and how obvious the right answer seemed someone would always go in the other direction. What I learned from that class is that there is no such thing as global ethics or universal ethics.

By Feryll — On Oct 17, 2014

@Drentel - I will go one step further and say that most people know what answers an employer wants to see on a work ethics test. Some of the questions are obvious, and others are a bit more subtle, but the average person is going to be able to figure out which boxes he should check if he wants to get hired or if he wants to keep the job he already has.

By Drentel — On Oct 16, 2014

The most dangerous people in terms of getting away with less than ethical practices are people who were taught right and wrong as kids, but have decided not to stick to what they were taught. This is the type of person who knows all of the right answers on the ethics test to make himself appear above board and a good person to hire.

In this case what you end up with is a con artist who knows how to steal and cheat without getting caught.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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