Draw-a-Person tests are interpreted according to the age group in which the test-taker belongs. For example, a 5-year-old's drawing is expected to be less detailed and less complex than an 11-year-old's drawing. A psychologist determines if a child's cognitive development is progressing normally by comparing the child's drawing to the drawings of his peers.
A Draw-a-Person test is scored by psychologists using a points system. It is a cognitive and intelligence test that is scored based on the test-taker's creativity. The scoring system developed by J.A. Naglieri in 1992, called the Draw-A-Person: Screening Procedure of Emotional Disturbance (DAP:SPED), lists 55 things that psychologists can use to determine how an individual is developing mentally. For instance, one point is given for each detail, such as a person with two eyes or drawing the correct number of fingers on each hand. The points are added and this number is compared to an established development chart showing the typical number of points earned by the test-taker's peers. Psychological, neurological and emotional disturbances can be detected by studying how the test-taker draws body parts.
Although the Draw-a-Person test can be used to determine if a child has a psychological problem, this test has been found to be a better measure for determining cognitive, or intelligence, development in children.