What Is A Personality Test

15 Mar, 2024
What Is A Personality Test

Curious about what is a personality test and what it reveals? Simply put, it’s a method used to decipher your unique blend of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Handy for everything from understanding your own quirks to determining job fit, personality tests offer insight across various contexts. Let's unpack the nuts and bolts of what is a personality test, giving you a clear view without any jargon or sales pitch.

Are You Ready?
Take this test and find out your type.

Key Takeaways

  • Personality tests are tools for assessing psychological attributes, with various formats like interviews and questionnaires, aiming to guide individuals in understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and behavior.
  • The field of personality testing has evolved from pseudoscientific beginnings to scientifically validated models like the Big Five, which assesses individuals across five broad dimensions: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness.
  • Personality assessments are used in diverse settings, such as workplaces for improving recruitment and team dynamics, in personal development to foster growth, and in clinical psychology to enhance diagnosis and treatment planning.

Relevant Articles: Understanding People's Personal Styles

Purpose Of The First Personality Tests

How To Use Behavioral Profiles

Understanding Personality Tests

Alt Text

Unveiling the enigma of personality is no simple task. Personality tests, however, provide an effective means to assess these psychological attributes, shedding light on an individual’s habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior. These tests delve into a wide spectrum of personal characteristics, including:

  • Motivations
  • Emotional responses
  • Interests
  • Social interaction strategies

The insightful information they reveal serves as a valuable tool, guiding individuals toward a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral patterns.

And the best part? Personality assessments, such as the Hogan Personality Inventory, come in various formats, including:

  • Interviews
  • In-basket exercises
  • Observer ratings
  • Self-report questionnaires

This caters to different preferences and circumstances.

Defining Personality Traits

At the heart of personality tests lie personality traits, the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that define us. Imagine these traits as distinct shades on a continuum, rather than rigid categories. Just as the beauty of a rainbow lies in the seamless blending of colors, the beauty of personality lies in the harmonic blend of traits that make us who we are. The key lies in understanding that no personality trait is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’; their value is context-dependent.

And while these traits shape our personality, they do not exist in isolation. They are influenced by language, the impact of situational contexts, and even the ongoing debate between personal situations. Moreover, while personality traits show stability over time, they are not set in stone. Life experiences and relationships can instigate changes, making the permanence of personality test results a subject of debate.

The Purpose of Personality Assessments

Just as a compass guides a sailor through uncharted waters, personality assessments provide a roadmap to navigate the vast seas of human behavior. By offering informed predictions about an individual’s potential future behaviors and their suitability for specific roles or environments, these tests prove invaluable in a variety of settings, from clinical psychology and forensic circumstances to educational domains.

The ability to predict job performance and anticipate behaviors with heightened accuracy through personality assessments is a powerful tool, facilitating more informed and effective decision-making.

Distinguishing Between Types of Tests

Just as an artist’s palette holds a variety of colors, the field of personality assessments boasts a broad array of tests. These can primarily be classified into two categories: self-report inventories and projective tests. Self-report inventories involve individuals rating statements or questions about themselves, often using Likert scales. These tests have the advantage of being standardized and easy to administer, leading to higher reliability.

On the other hand, projective tests like the Rorschach Inkblot Test and Thematic Apperception Test use ambiguous stimuli to elicit responses that reveal unconscious aspects of the personality, offering a more indirect approach to understanding personality. While self-report inventories rely on an individual’s self-awareness and honesty, projective tests aim to uncover deeper, often hidden emotions and conflicts.

Read more: What Are The Benefits Of Personality Profiling

How To Interpret DiSC Personality Assessment

List Of Best DiSC Profile Alternatives & Competitors

Using DiSC For Hiring

The Evolution of Personality Testing

Alt Text

The journey of personality testing is a fascinating tale of evolution, tracing its roots from the pseudoscientific practice of phrenology in the late 18th century to the scientifically backed approaches of today. This evolution has been guided by pioneering psychologists like Raymond Cattell, who distilled an extensive list of traits into 16 essential personality factors, and Hans Eysenck, who further streamlined the concept of personality traits by proposing three core dimensions.

From Phrenology to the Five Factor Model

The shift from discredited methods like phrenology to the scientifically-backed Five Factor Model signified a major turning point in the field of personality testing. The Five Factor Model, also known as the Big Five, is a comprehensive framework comprising five broad dimensions of personality:

  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness

This revolutionary model has become a cornerstone in modern personality assessments, providing a reliable and validated approach to understanding human personality.

Breakthroughs in Personality Measures

The field of personality testing has witnessed several breakthroughs, expanding our understanding of the human personality. One such advancement is the introduction of the HEXACO model, which expanded the Five-Factor Model by introducing Honesty-Humility as a sixth dimension. This breakthrough underscores the continual evolution and refinement of personality measures, unveiling new layers of the intricate tapestry of human personality.

Popular Personality Tests Explored

Alt Text

Over the years, a multitude of personality tests have emerged from the canvas of psychological theories. Among these, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five have gained widespread recognition due to their comprehensive and intuitive nature. Other notable assessments include the Enneagram and the HEXACO Personality Inventory, each offering a unique lens to view and understand personality.

The Big Five Personality Test

The Big Five Personality Test, also known as the Five-Factor Model, offers a comprehensive exploration of personality, assessing individuals across five broad dimensions:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism (OCEAN)

The facets within these personality dimensions, such as sociability, warmth, assertiveness, activity, excitement-seeking, and positive emotions, provide a nuanced analysis of a person’s personality.

In employment settings, the Big Five traits, often referred to as the five personality traits, are assessed to gauge traits like Extroversion, Emotional Stability, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a personality assessment built on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types, categorizes individuals into sixteen personality types. Each of these types is represented by a unique four-letter code, reflecting a combination of traits that define how individuals perceive the world and make decisions.

Despite its popularity, the MBTI has faced skepticism from the academic community due to concerns about its reliability and validity.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is another prominent personality assessment tool. Comprising 567 true or false items, the MMPI is designed to provide a clinical profile of an individual, making it a valuable tool for diagnosing psychiatric conditions.

The MMPI uses validity scales, like the Lie Scale, to check for underreporting of psychological problems, alongside reliability scales that help ensure consistent results over time.

Learn more: Myers Briggs Vs Disc

Everything DiSC Vs. DiSC Classic

Natural Vs. Adapted DiSC Graphs

Practical Uses of Personality Tests

Alt Text

Personality tests have found widespread use across a variety of contexts, serving as a powerful tool for understanding and predicting human behavior. They play a pivotal role in complex environments, tough decisions, and high-stress situations, where understanding personality traits can be a decisive factor.

From facilitating personnel selection in the workplace to aiding personal development and diagnosing mental health disorders in clinical settings, these tests have proven their utility time and again.

In the Workplace

In the realm of the workplace, personality assessments serve as a strategic tool, enabling employers to:

  • Identify traits that align with the company’s culture and the specific demands of job roles
  • Predict employee productivity and job performance
  • Enhance the accuracy and efficacy of the recruitment process.

By understanding team dynamics and communication strategies, these assessments also pave the way for a balanced and effective team composition.

In Personal Development

When it comes to personal development, personality tests serve as invaluable tools for fostering self-awareness and growth. By identifying individual strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral patterns, these tests illuminate the path towards more precise personal goals and nurturing better relationships. They complement therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, facilitating comprehensive personal growth and positive life changes.

And while personality traits show stability over time, they are not set in stone. Life experiences and deliberate personal development efforts can instigate changes, making the permanence of personality test results a subject of debate.

In Clinical Settings

In clinical settings, the use of personality tests is instrumental in refining clinical diagnoses and structuring psychological interventions. They can inform the prognosis of a patient and guide potential responses to various treatment modalities. These tests, like the Rorschach Inkblot Test and self-report inventories such as the MMPI-2 or the PAI, assist clinicians in understanding the nuanced aspects of a patient’s psychopathology, informing treatment planning.

By comparing baseline personality measures to subsequent assessments, clinical psychologists can also track progress in therapy.

The Science Behind the Assessment

Alt Text

Peering beyond the surface, the science behind personality assessments is a tapestry woven with threads of reliability and validity. Reliability and validity are not just statistical jargon but the pillars that uphold the credibility of these tests. They ensure that the results generated are stable, generalizable, and accurately measure what they claim to.

With the development of new statistical techniques and methodologies, the field of personality testing strives to advance the precision of these measures.

Ensuring Reliable Results

Reliability, the consistency of a test, is a cornerstone in the realm of personality testing. From comparing test results at two time points to confirm consistency (test-retest reliability) to evaluate the agreement between test measurements (Bland and Altman’s approach), various methods are employed to ensure reliable results. In addition to test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and inter-rater reliability are also pivotal for ensuring reliable results.

However, factors like significant life events, an individual’s mood, and mental state at the time of taking the test can affect the accuracy of results, leading to possible variations.

Validity: Measuring What Matters

Validity, on the other hand, is the ability of a test to measure what it claims to measure. From construct validity that confirms the test measures the intended psychological construct to face validity that assesses whether the test appears to measure the intended construct, various forms of validity ensure the test’s accuracy in measuring its intended attributes. Criterion validity, which shows when the test correlates with outcomes it’s supposed to be related to, provides evidence for the test’s accuracy in measuring the construct.

However, challenges such as personal factors like test anxiety and cultural background can affect the accuracy of personality test results.

Interpreting Your Personality Test Results

Interpreting personality test results can be akin to deciphering a complex code. It’s important to remember that these tests are tools for measuring behavioral tendencies and not definitive labels. Extreme scores highlight potential areas for personal development rather than fixed or unchangeable traits.

To gain the most from a personality assessment, it is crucial to approach the test with sincerity and to interpret the results as perspectives rather than absolute truths.

Beyond the Score: A Deeper Look

Peeling back the layers of a personality test score can reveal profound insights. These tests provide individuals with a language to describe their competencies, facilitating enhanced self-awareness and improved communication of their attributes. They illuminate a person’s inherent strengths, serving as a navigator that directs them towards opportunities conducive to their personal and professional growth.

Obtaining feedback from others after revealing one’s personality test outcomes can be integral in confirming and enriching the understanding of one’s personal strengths and areas for improvement.

When Personality Tests Can Mislead

While personality tests can be powerful tools, it’s crucial to be cognizant of their potential pitfalls. For instance, the Barnum Effect can lead individuals to believe that vague or generalized personality test results are highly accurate for them specifically, which can be misleading. Additionally, retaking a popular personality test can merely reflect changes in self-perception rather than actual behavioral changes.

It’s essential to approach these tests with an understanding of their limitations and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Integrating Personality Tests into the Hiring Process

In the corporate arena, personality tests have become a strategic tool in the hiring process. Companies are increasingly integrating these assessments into their recruitment strategy to:

  • Identify traits that align with the company’s culture and the specific demands of job roles
  • Aid in predicting job performance
  • Preempt how candidates may react in ambiguous situations, reducing the risk of hiring individuals unsuited to the role’s challenges.
  • Matching Traits to Job Requirements

Matching personality traits to job requirements is akin to fitting puzzle pieces together - a perfect fit leads to a complete and beautiful picture. Research suggests that compatibility between an individual’s character traits and their career leads to increased productivity and a positive work experience. Conversely, mismatched personality types and job roles can lead to employee disengagement and lower job satisfaction.

Employers rely on construct validity to ensure their personality tests accurately measure traits like personality, intellect, and aptitude.

Enhancing Team Dynamics

Just as a well-conducted orchestra creates beautiful harmony, understanding team members’ personality traits leads to a balanced and high-performing team environment. Recognizing individual personality traits can lead to better communication, clearer roles and responsibilities, and a more cohesive team.

Personality assessments offer valuable insights into each candidate’s preferred ways of working, vital for fostering a strong collaborative culture.

Avoiding Bias and Promoting Diversity

In the realm of recruitment, personality tests serve as an objective tool, reducing discrimination based on ethnicity and gender, and fostering greater diversity in the workplace. By providing a data-driven approach to hiring, personality tests mitigate the influence of unconscious biases.

However, these tests may also include questions that lead to biased hiring decisions, especially against members of protected classes, thereby raising ethical concerns.

Challenges and Critiques of Personality Testing

While personality tests offer a wealth of insights, they are not without their challenges and critiques. From the declining use of personality tests in recruitment due to lack of scientific support to the subjectivity in interpreting responses from projective personality tests, the field of personality testing faces several hurdles.

The Risk of Oversimplifying Complexity

One of the major critiques of personality tests is their propensity to oversimplify the complex nature of human personality. Personality tests that categorize people into types may greatly reduce the complexity of personality, which is hierarchically structured with continuous variables.

Ethical Considerations

The use of personality tests also brings to the fore several ethical considerations. While empirical evidence shows that a majority of candidates have experienced discrimination and objective pre-employment tests, including personality assessments, can help to address this issue, personality tests may include questions that lead to biased hiring decisions.


In our exploration of the world of personality tests, we’ve journeyed through the intricate landscape of personality traits, explored the evolution of personality testing, delved into popular personality tests, and examined their practical uses. We’ve also unearthed the science behind these assessments and provided guidance on interpreting test results. While these tests offer a wealth of insights, it’s crucial to approach them with understanding, skepticism, and a focus on continual learning. After all, the beauty of personality lies in its complexity - a tapestry woven with threads of traits that make us uniquely us.

What's Your DiSC Type?