What Is a Personality Test?
A personality test is a tool used to assess human personality.Personality testing and assessment refer to techniques designed to measure the characteristic patterns of traits that people exhibit across various situations. Personality tests can be used to help clarify a clinical diagnosis, guide therapeutic interventions, and help predict how people may respond in different situations.
Personality is something that we informally assess and describe every day. When we talk about ourselves and others, we frequently refer to different characteristics of an individual's personality. Psychologists do much the same thing when they assess personality but on a more systematic and scientific level.
History of Personality Tests
One of the earliest forms of personality tests, known as phrenology, emerged during the late 18th-century and was popularized during the 19th-century. This approach involved the measurement of bumps on the human skull, which were then attributed to specific personality characteristics.
Later, psychologists began attempting to determine how many different personality traits there were. Gordon Allport, for example, proposed that there were more than 4,000. Psychologist Raymond Cattell used a statistical technique known as factor analysis to whittle this list down to 16 different personality factors, while Hans Eysenck narrowed the list down to just three.
One of the most popular approaches to personality today is known as the Big Five theory of personality. This theory suggests that personality is composed of five broad dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
Today, a wide variety of personality tests have become popular and are often based upon specific theories of systems of personality. Commonly used personality tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), and the SixteenPersonality Factor Questionnaire.
Big 5 Personality Traits: The 5-Factor Model of Personality
Types of Personality Tests
There are two basic types of personality tests: self-report inventories and projective tests:
- Self-report inventories involve having test-takers read questions and then rate how well the question or statement applies to them. One of the most common self-report inventories is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).
- Projective tests involve presenting the test-taker with a vague scene, object, or scenario and then asking them to give their interpretation of the test item. One well-known example of a projective test is the Rorschach Inkblot Test.
The greatest benefit of self-report inventories is that they can be standardized and use established norms. Self-inventories are also relatively easy to administer and have much higher reliability and validity than projective tests. Projective tests, on the other hand, are most often used in psychotherapy settings and allow therapists to quickly gather a great deal of information about a client.
For example, a therapist can look not only at a person's response to a particular test item, but they can also take into account other qualitative information such as tone of voice and body language. All of this can be explored in greater depth as people progress through therapy sessions.
Uses of Personality Tests
Personality tests are administered for a number of different purposes, including:
- Assessing theories
- Evaluating the effectiveness of therapy
- Diagnosing psychological problems
- Looking at changes in personality
- Screening job candidates
Personality tests are also sometimes used in forensic settings to conduct risk assessments, establish competence, and in child custody disputes. Other settings where personality testing may be used are in school psychology, career and occupational counseling, relationship counseling, clinical psychology, and employment testing.
Reasons to Take a Personality Test
Impact of Personality Tests
Personality tests can be useful for a number of reasons. These tests can help you learn more about yourself and better understand both your strengths and weaknesses. And while all personality tests are different, learning that you might be high on a specific trait can help you gain greater insight into your own behavioral patterns.
For example, your results on a personality test might indicate that you rate high on the personality trait of introversion. This result suggests that you have to expend energy in social situations, so you need to find time alone to recharge your energy. Knowing that you have this tendency can help you recognize when you are getting drained from socializing and set aside quiet moments to regain your equilibrium.
Tips for Taking a Personality Test
There is no way to prepare for a personality test, but there are some things that you can do to make sure that your results are the best reflection of your personality:
- Be honest. Don't try to present an "ideal" version of yourself. Instead, try to just answer in a way that reflects who you are and how you feel.
- Read the instructions. Your results might not be an accurate reflection of you if you don't understand the guidelines or questions.
- Don't try to "beat the test." Avoid trying to guess what you think might be seen as the "ideal" answer. Just respond honestly.
As you start looking at all of the different personality assessments that are available, you will probably notice one thing quite quickly: There are a lot of "informal" tests out there! Just a simple online search will turn up an enormous range of quizzes and tests designed to tell you something about your personality.
The vast majority of quizzes that you'll encounter online are just for fun. They can be entertaining and they might even give you a little insight into your personality, but they are in no way formal, scientific assessments of personality.
While personality tests may be useful at times, this does not mean that they are not without drawbacks and possible pitfalls.
Deception Is Possible
One of the biggest disadvantages of self-report inventories is that it is possible for people to engage in deception when answering questions. Even though techniques can be used to detect deception, people can still successfully provide false answers often in an effort to "fake good" or appear more socially acceptable and desirable.
Introspection Is Needed
Another potential problem is that people are not always good at accurately describing their own behavior. People tend to overestimate certain tendencies (especially ones that are viewed as socially desirable) while underestimating other characteristics. This can have a serious impact on the accuracy of a personality test.
Tests Can Be Long
Self-report personality tests can also be quite long, in some cases taking several hours to complete. Not surprisingly, respondents can quickly become bored and frustrated. When this happens, test-takers will often answer questions as quickly as possible, often without even reading the test items.
Scoring Can Be Subjective
Projective tests also have a number of disadvantages and limitations. The first problem lies in the interpretation of the responses. Scoring test items are highly subjective and different raters might provide entirely different viewpoints of the responses.
Results May Be Inconsistent
Not all personality tests are reliable or valid. Reliability refers to the consistency of a test while validity involves whether the test is really measuring what it claims to measure.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Smith SR. Projective Assessment Techniques. In: Goldstein S., Naglieri J.A, eds., Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer, Boston, MA; 2011. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9(Video) Myers Briggs Personality Types Explained - Which One Are You?
Moyle P, Hackston J. Personality assessment for employee development: Ivory tower or real world?.J Pers Assess. 2018;100(5):507–517. doi:10.1080/00223891.2018.1481078
Iudici A, Salvini A, Faccio E, Castelnuovo G. The clinical assessment in the legal field: An empirical study of bias and limitations in forensic expertise.Front Psychol. 2015;6:1831. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01831
Bäckström M, Björklund F. Social desirability in personality inventories: symptoms, diagnosis and prescribed cure.Scand J Psychol. 2013;54(2):152–159. doi:10.1111/sjop.12015
Vazire S, Carlson EN. Self-knowledge of personality: Do people know themselves? Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2010;4(8):605-620. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00280.x
McCrae RR, Kurtz JE, Yamagata S, Terracciano A. Internal consistency, retest reliability, and their implications for personality scale validity.Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2011;15(1):28–50. doi:10.1177/1088868310366253
By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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The midpoint between the two opposing traits in the pair is 50%. The percentage values show your position on all five scales – the higher the percentage, the stronger you likely express the trait on the side of the high percentage. The closer the score is to 50%, the weaker the trait.What is personality test in simple words? ›
A personality test is a tool used to assess human personality. Personality testing and assessment refer to techniques designed to measure the characteristic patterns of traits that people exhibit across various situations.How many questions are in the 16 personalities test? ›
A. The test consists of 130 questions and takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.Can you trick a personality test? ›
Although personality tests supposedly have no right or wrong answers, some experts contend that results are surprisingly easy to manipulate to get "right." Experiments have shown that people consistently score higher in positive attributes on personality tests when they think they're applying for a job than when they' ...Can you fail a personality assessment? ›
A personality questionnaire, on the other hand, helps the employer figure out if your strengths and weaknesses match up with the job requirements. You can't actually flunk or ace a personality test—it simply shows if you're a good fit for the job.What is the most rare personality type? ›
INFJ is the rarest personality type across the population, occurring in just 2% of the population. It is also the rarest personality type among men. INFJ stands for Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judging.What is the quietest personality type? ›
ISFPs are introverted. They tend to be reserved and quiet, especially around people they do not know well. They prefer spending time with a close group of family and friends. ISFPs are very private and keep their true feelings to themselves.Can you have 2 personality types? ›
Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) A mental health condition, people with dissociative identity disorder (DID) have two or more separate personalities. These identities control a person's behavior at different times.Why is personality test so important? ›
Personality tests provide insight into employees' minds, behaviors, and preferences, and they can be extremely useful for enriching learning and development and improving workplace relationships. But as helpful as they are, personality tests are only a small part of the larger performance management process.What is the best meaning of personality? ›
personality, a characteristic way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Personality embraces moods, attitudes, and opinions and is most clearly expressed in interactions with other people.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. ...
- Caliper Profile. ...
- 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire. ...
- SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire. ...
- HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised. ...
- Revised NEO Personality Inventory. ...
- Eysenck Personality Inventory. ...
- DISC personality test.
Q: Can I retake the personality test? A: Yes! And if you do, your result history will show how your answers have changed over time.How do you pass the 16 personality test? ›
- 1) Answer honestly but from a professional perspective. ...
- 2) Review the instructions carefully. ...
- 3) Don't pick too many (or too few) extreme responses. ...
- 4) Keep the job role in mind as you go. ...
- 5) Don't try to game the test. ...
- 6) Be consistent in your responses. ...
- 7) Take your time.
Advocates (INFJs) may be the rarest personality type of all, but they certainly leave their mark on the world. Idealistic and principled, they aren't content to coast through life – they want to stand up and make a difference.Is it better to answer Strongly agree? ›
Be as honest as possible.
Strongly agree, strongly disagree answers should reflect your genuine personality, skillset, and feelings. By answering dishonestly, even if you're awarded the position, you may find yourself unhappy in your new job.
They measure a person's “state,” which can change depending on mood and environment, as opposed to enduring personality traits. Ones advises HR professionals to avoid using tests that put people into one of a handful of categories or personality styles because these types of tests are too simplistic.What are the 4 types of personality test? ›
Below we dive into four common models used to determine personality types: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), 16 Personalities, The Big 5 and Type A, B, C and D Personalities.Why you shouldn't take a personality test? ›
Personality tests don't predict job performance.
1. Personality tests results aren't reliable. 2. Personality tests are easily manipulated or gamed.
Personality tests assist employers to evaluate how you are likely to handle relevant work-related activities, such as: managing stakeholders, working in teams, complying with rules and regulations, solving problems in a practical manner, leading others, coping with stress and pressure, and more.What is the biggest problem with personality tests? ›
Researchers agree that while personality traits are valuable for analyzing group trends, they can't be used to predict individual behavior. Why? Because human behavior is context-based. People exhibit different personalities in different situations, and do not have fixed personality traits throughout our lifetimes.
“INTJ is the rarest personality type for women.” In fact, at about 0.5 percent of the population, INTJ women might be the rarest of any gender/type combination (perhaps only rivaled by INFJ men).Which personality type has it the hardest? ›
The INFP may be the toughest personality type of all for others to understand. They are seemingly easy-going and carefree, but when it comes to their values, they can become suddenly uncompromising. They're friendly to a fault, but they frequently find others hard to be around.What is the 2nd rarest personality? ›
ENFJs are the second-rarest personality type, making up only 2.2% of the population. These insightful, compelling types tend to know just the right buttons to push to motivate people towards their goals. Because they are so passionate and understanding, ENFJs have a gift for motivating people towards personal growth.What is the darkest personality type? ›
Dark personality traits include psychopathy, machiavellianism and narcissism, collectively called the "dark triad".Which personality type annoys easily? ›
The ISFP. These types tend to have varying responses to anger. According to the MBTI® Manual, they are the type most likely to get angry and show it, as well as the type most likely to get angry and not show it. This goes to show that no two people of the same type are exactly alike.What's the kindest personality type? ›
1. ESFJ. People who fit the ESFJ personality type can usually be recognized by their big hearts and kindly manner. ESFJs are warm and welcoming and their love of tradition means they value good old-fashioned manners highly.Can personality change? ›
While many may suspect that people's personalities are fixed in childhood, new research suggests that most people's personalities evolve throughout their lives.Can I change my personality type? ›
It has long been believed that people can't change their personalities, which are largely stable and inherited. But a review of recent research in personality science points to the possibility that personality traits can change through persistent intervention and major life events.How can you tell if someone is faking DID? ›
Individuals faking or mimicking DID due to factitious disorder will typically exaggerate symptoms (particularly when observed), lie, blame bad behavior on symptoms and often show little distress regarding their apparent diagnosis.Should I answer strongly agree or disagree? ›
Conversely to the previous tip, you should also avoid answering every question with "Strongly Agree" or "Strongly Disagree". This might make you appear wildly sure of yourself or closed to others' opinions.
The Big Five Personality Test is by far the most scientifically validated and reliable psychological model to measure personality. This test is, together with the Jung test (MBTI test style) and the DISC assessment, one of the most well known personality tests worldwide.What do the 4 letters mean in personality test? ›
It indicates your personality preferences in four dimensions: Where you focus your attention – Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) The way you take in information – Sensing (S) or INtuition (N) How you make decisions – Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)What are 3 methods of assessing personality? ›
- The Subjective Methods:
- The Objective Methods:
- The Projective Methods:
- Do assessment exercises. Components such as personality tests and interviews can also be practiced. ...
- Prepare interviews. ...
- Know your work values and motivation. ...
- Conduct a personal SWOT analysis. ...
- Do not make avoidable errors. ...
- Do not underestimate it. ...
- Know your rights and obligations.
How To Answer, “How Do You Handle Stress?” To answer this question successfully, you'll want to provide specific examples of how you've handled stress well in the past. You might also provide examples of times when pressure made you work more productively.Which personality is best? ›
- INTJ – The Scientist. Source: CNBC. ...
- INTP – The Professor. Source: CNBC. ...
- ENTJ – The Boss. Source: CNBC. ...
- ENTP – The Debater. Source: Snopes. ...
- INFJ – The Coach. Source: Ashoka. ...
- INFP – The Optimist. ...
- ENFJ – The Hero. ...
- ENFP – The Speaker.
Overall, the most common personality type is ISFJ
ISFJ stands for Introversion, Sensing, Feeling and Judging. This combination of traits means that people with the ISFJ personality type tend to be compassionate, caring and conventional.
The INFP may be the toughest personality type of all for others to understand. They are seemingly easy-going and carefree, but when it comes to their values, they can become suddenly uncompromising. They're friendly to a fault, but they frequently find others hard to be around.What is a 5 letter personality code? ›
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) considers five different aspects within your personality and combines them to indicate your 5-letter type (i.e. INFJ-A). The five aspects that we'll uncover in this episode are aspects of the Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics, and Identity.What are the 4 main personality types? ›
The four temperament theory is a proto-psychological theory which suggests that there are four fundamental personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.
Personality Test. Analysts. Intuitive (N) and Thinking (T) personality types, known for their rationality, impartiality, and intellectual excellence.What is the most common way to measure personality? ›
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) The most widely used personality measure used in pretreatment evaluation is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). This inventory was developed in the 1940s as a means of evaluating mental health problems in psychiatric and medical settings.What is the most common way of personality assessment? ›
The two most common methods for assessing a personality are the Myers-Brigs Type Indicator and the Big Five Personality Model. Of the two, the MBTI is the most widely used.