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Is there a word for this? For instance, a medical test where a positive result would be conclusive but any other result would not be.

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I know only of the terms 'false positive' and 'false negative'. –  Barrie England Nov 4 '11 at 20:18
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unfalsifiable? –  Henry Nov 4 '11 at 20:50
    
I'd have thought the medical profession wouldn't be too keen on such tests in the first place. Most tests are actually considered indicative, where a positive result needs further confirmation, but a negative result usually means the doctor can ignore that possibility and look for other causes. A test that can't actually eliminate the possibility of whatever you were testing for seems to me to be of limited value. –  FumbleFingers Nov 4 '11 at 21:13
    
I regard unfalsifiable as not the proper word here because falsifiability is an unrelated concept. –  jwpat7 Nov 4 '11 at 21:18
    
@FumbleFingers: such a test, in medicine or any other science, would not be as desirable a test as one that gave a definitive positive or a definitive negative. But then it would also be better than no test at all, and sometimes you don't have a choice of test. –  Mitch Nov 5 '11 at 12:03
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You might use go/no-go test, which refers to a test that either certifies an item is satisfactory or does not so certify. In that regard, a go/no-go test is much like the vast majority of tests used in statistical hypothesis testing or in confirmatory data analysis, i.e. tests which "either fail to reject the null hypothesis or reject it in favor of the alternative." I suggest reviewing the vocabulary in hypothesis testing and statistical inference references.

A neologism to consider: "witness test", as inspired by Miller-Rabin testing, which either provides a witness (a certificate) that a number is composite, or fails to do so.

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A test "where a positive result would be conclusive but any other result would not be" (i.e. a test with very few false positives) has high specificity. A test with a small number of false negatives has high sensitivity.

The Wikipedia page on sensitivity and specificity currently provides a good overview. It also refers to the word pathognomonic, which is a characteristic of one, and only one, disease.

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