It is the position of the South African Professional Polygraph Association (SAPPA) that a polygraph examination, properly administered by a well trained and competent polygraph examiner, using validated testing principles and procedures, has a high degree of accuracy in detecting deception or otherwise determining the truthfulness of provided information.


Quality is achieved by way of training, experience and adherence to professional standards. Training and experience alone do not increase the probability of an accurate test result when professional standards or other validated testing principles and procedures are not followed.


To facilitate the conduct of valid and reliable polygraph examinations, the SAPPA has established Standards of Practice that are consistent with, or exceed those of, the American Polygraph Association (APA), of which SAPPA is a Divisional Member, and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM – International).


The APA is likely the largest worldwide professional organization of polygraph examiners, numbering in excess of 2,500 members. The ASTM International is a standards development body with more than a hundred years of developing testing and materials standards and has Memorandums of Understanding with more than 66 countries, including South Africa.

To inform the public and those utilizing polygraph related technologies in their search for the truth, the following non-technical SAPPA testing standards and policy are provided as a representative sample of SAPPA’s more comprehensive standards and policy:

  • All examinations shall be conducted in compliance with governing law.
  • The polygraph instrument shall be given a functionality or calibration test consistent with manufacturer recommendations.
  • Conditions under which testing occurs shall be free from distractions that would interfere with the ability of the examinee to appropriately focus on the issues being addressed. The examination site should be relatively free from noise, movement and other distraction.


  • The examiner must obtain the consent of the examinee prior to testing.
  • Sufficient time must be spent to ensure that the examinee has a reasonable understanding of the polygraph process and the requirement for co-operation.
  • Sufficient time must be spent to discuss the issues to be tested and to allow the examinee to fully explain his/her answers.
  • Sufficient time must be spent to ensure the examinee recognizes and understands each question.
  • An acquaintance test is required for all evidentiary examinations. It is recommended for all initial examinations for any specific issue or investigative examination. Research has demonstrated the use of this procedure increases the accuracy of subsequent testing.
  • The examiner must use a validated testing technique. Evidentiary examinations must not materially deviate from the protocol of a validated testing technique.
  • Questions to be evaluated for truthfulness must be asked with clarity and distinctiveness.
  • Examiners must collect a sufficient number of charts so as to acquire sufficient data for proper evaluation, in conformity with a validated testing technique. Empirical evidence has established that the more widely utilized techniques that have the higher degree of validity require between 3 and 5 repetitions (charts) of all questions to be evaluated for truthfulness.
  • An audio or an audio/video recording of the pre-test and in-test phases must be made and maintained for evidentiary examinations and an exam submitted for quality control review purposes. ASTM International standards require the recording of all employment related examinations.


  • Examiners must employ quantitative or numerical scoring for all evidentiary examinations and for all specific issue investigative examinations.
  • Examiners must not disclose the results of the examination until it has been adequately and sufficiently analysed.


  • SAPPA members must submit to a quality assurance review of their polygraph work product in accordance with Board issued policy. To date, no SAPPA member has refused an appropriate request to undergo a quality control review.


  • A conclusive diagnosis should not be rendered when the physiological records (charts) lack sufficient quality and clarity. Professional opinions concerning truthfulness must be a direct result of the test data (physiological recordings).


    • Each polygraph report shall be a factual, impartial, and objective account of information developed during the examination, and the examiner’s professional conclusion based on analysis of the polygraph data.
  • Polygraph reports shall not reflect “split decisions” (multiple decisions), e.g., truthful to one or more relevant question(s) from the same data (tests / charts) where deception indicated is reported to one or more of the other relevant question(s).

Absent exigent circumstances, the APA and ASTM International limit the number of daily tests to be done by an examiner to five (5). This standard is consistent with United States Federal Law which limits the number of daily employment related tests to be done by an examiner to five (5).