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Personality Test: Definition, Process, and Type

Personality Test

A personality test is a questionnaire that analyzes human characteristics. Personality tests identify underlying traits and patterns of behavior in the answers given by test takers. From these answers, personality tests produce a detailed approximation of the taker’s personality. The goal of personality tests is to provide a deeper understanding of an individual’s characteristics, though effectiveness is subjective.

The first personality test emerged during the First World War. It assessed soldiers’ traits in order to identify their susceptibility to shell shock (now better known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD). Today, both businesses and individuals alike use personality tests to identify traits and learn more about personal motivations.

The five types of personality tests reviewed in this article are as follows.

  1. Enneagram
  2. The Big Five
  3. DISC test
  4. CliftonStrengths
  5. Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI)

What is a personality test?

A personality test is a psychological examination of our traits and preferences. Personality tests assess our base characteristics by measuring responses to different stimuli. For example, personality tests may examine how we react to stress and deal with past traumas. Personality tests also analyze personal interests and base preferences in different situations.

What is the origin of the personality test?

Personality tests originated during the First World War as a way of measuring a soldier’s likelihood of developing shell shock, an early definition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). American psychologist Robert S. Woodworth created the first personality test, the Woodworth Psychoneurotic Inventory, also known as the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (WPDS).

The Woodworth Psychoneurotic Inventory consisted of approximately 100 questions that attempted to analyze a soldier’s mental state. The questions on the personality test were rudimentary but set the foundations for the popular personality tests of today.

Below are six example questions from the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (WPDS).

  • Can you sit still without fidgeting?
  • Do you often have the feeling of suffocating?
  • Do you like outdoor life?
  • Have you ever been afraid of going insane?
  • Has any of your family committed suicide?
  • Are you troubled with dreams about your work?

Who invented the personality test?

American psychologist Robert S. Woodworth invented the first widely used personality test during the First World War. Woodworth created the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (WPDS) to prevent and measure the susceptibility of shell shock in military recruits. Woodworth was an experienced researcher in the world of psychometrics, the technique of psychological measurements. The WPSD was ultimately not used by military officials, but it opened people’s eyes to the concept of psychometrics and its potential benefits. The Woodworth Personal Data Sheet was the grandfather to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

What are the types of personality tests?

Below are five personality tests widely used today.

  • Enneagram
  • The Big Five
  • DISC Test
  • CliftonStrengths
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

1. Enneagram

The Enneagram of Personality is a personality test that categorizes nine personality types. The Enneagram additionally sorts the nine personalities into three sub-categories called Heart, Head, and Body Types. The Enneagram claims personality is the result of nurture rather than nature. Therefore, the Enneagram assesses an individual’s motivations, life events, and reactions to trauma rather than their innate traits.

Individuals use the Enneagram to gain a deeper understanding of their character. The results of the Enneagram personality test often focus on the potential for growth and the fluidity of personality. The Enneagram test consists of 105 questions and takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete.

The Enneagram is one of the preferred personality models, though its effectiveness is not scientifically backed.

2. The Big Five

The Big Five is a personality test that veers away from the notion of personality types. The Big Five typology states that all personalities comprise the same five base traits of extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. These five traits appear in varying degrees and intensities. Therefore, the Big Five personality test focuses on traits as opposed to multiple types.

Companies use the Big Five personality test to help identify which employees might be best suited for various roles. The Big Five test takes around ten minutes to complete and comprises sixty questions.

The Big Five is not the most commercially used personality test, but its effectiveness has a degree of reliability among the scientific community.

3. DiSC test

The DiSC test (also called the DiSC Assessment) is a personality test that defines personality by four functions, Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). The DiSC test is primarily used by companies as a means of improving communication between colleagues and within work teams.

The DiSC personality test consists of twenty-four questions, each answered according to a five-point scale. DiSC tests have sixteen personality results, the four core traits being attributed to a primary function. The DiSC test is easier to understand and utilize than the MBTI.

The DiSC personality test is both highly reliable and consistent, making it more effective than other personality models. As with all personality tests, the honesty and self-awareness of those taking the test are paramount.

4. CliftonStrengths

The CliftonStrengths is not a true personality test but an assessment of character strengths. Individuals utilize the CliftonStrengths test to better understand their innate skills and abilities. It is primarily used by employees and people preparing to enter the workforce.

CliftonStrengths breaks down talents into thirty-four themes across four core domains—strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing, and executing. CliftonStrengths focuses on identifying and improving a person’s strengths. The CliftonStrengths test is 177 questions long. The test also has a time limit of twenty seconds per question, forcing test takers to answer naturally.

The effectiveness of the CliftonStrengths is not scientifically supported. However, the test may serve as a good indicator of a person’s skills and guide individuals toward a career path that plays to their strengths.

5. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test that defines a person’s character according to four psychological dichotomies. The MBTI groups personality into one of 16 personality types. Each personality type is driven by a dominant function within each dichotomy.

The Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator views personality as a static entity shaped by early childhood development. Companies primarily use the MBTI personality test to assess the best possible role for employees and potential hires. Companies also view the MBTI personality test as a means of increasing business productivity while also reducing the severity of staff turnover.

Questions on the MBTI typically only provide a choice of two absolutes, whereas other personality tests offer a gradient score for their questions. The MBTI personality test’s effectiveness is not scientifically proven, but it remains to be one of the most popular mechanics of personality assessment.

What are the uses of personality tests?

Below are six different uses of personality tests.

  • Self-identification: Personality tests are a powerful tool that help people gain a better understanding of themselves. For example, personality tests such as the MBTI enable self-discovery and help individuals assess potential career paths.
  • Assessing theories: Researchers use personality tests as an assessment device to analyze different psychological theories of personality.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of therapy: Personality tests are subjective because they rely on self-image. Results are likely to fluctuate as an individual’s self-perception changes. Therefore, experts may measure the effectiveness of therapy by assessing changes in personality test results over time.
  • Identifying personality changes: Personality tests such as the Enneagram view personality as a product of experiences and offer growth lines for personal development. Individuals who retake personality tests can follow these growth lines and use their results to identify personality changes.
  • Screening job candidates: Personality screening is an excellent way for companies to assess new hires. It helps recruiters measure whether a new hire’s personality is compatible with the rest of the team and if the position they are applying to is the best for everybody concerned.
  • Relationship Counseling: Relationship counselors use personality tests to help couples gain a stronger understanding of one another.

Why should you take a personality test?

You should take a personality test if you’d like to have a better understanding of who you are. Personality tests assess your strengths and weaknesses. They also help identify everything from friendship and relationship compatibility to career choices and hobby advice. Taking a personality test is a good idea if you struggle to choose a career, a college major, or other life choices. By having a deeper understanding of your personality, you can better position yourself for success.

What is the importance of a personality test?

Personality tests are important because they allow for a deeper understanding of character and personal motivations. Personality tests identify an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Test takers can apply this knowledge to better their lives and work on flaws.

Is a personality test needed for applying for a job?

No, a personality test is not needed to apply for a job. However, some companies may request that all candidates take a personality test as part of the interview process.

Are personality tests reliable?

No, personality tests are not fully reliable, but they can still be useful. It is important to recognize that psychological self-assessments are inherently subjective, and thus every personality test relies on honesty and self-awareness by the test taker. Additionally, there is the possibility that personality test results can be engineered by strategic answers, making some of them unreliable. However, if answered honestly and with an objective frame of mind, personality tests provide valuable insight into our motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.