Personality Tests: Know Your Traits 

What is personality? This is an area which has a large amount of literature available on it. Experts disagree often about its various facets. Personality can be defined as the combination of qualities that make an individual. How accurate are these and are they really helpful in selecting a career?

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Assessment of personality refers to the measurement of personal characteristics of an individual. It involves questionnaires and psychological tests designed to measure an individual’s personality. A unique feature of personality assessment is the scientific approach to personality measurement. That forms the basis of how the human characteristics are described quantitatively and qualitatively. Personality assessment also throws light on how many traits are present and which of these is dominant. It also tells us which one acts negatively creating problems to the adjustment of the individual. 

Personality tests are based on established psychological theories and frameworks, such as the Five-Factor Model, which identifies five broad personality traits. They are as under:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism 

They can also be referred to as an ‘OCEAN’ coined from the first letter of five broad personality traits. These traits are further divided into sub-traits, creating a comprehensive profile of an individual’s personality. 

Personality assessment serves two major purposes viz. theoretical and practical. Theoretical assessment provides knowledge on different dimensions and aspects of personality development. It provides information about its nature, enables research on personality and helps develop new theories on personality. Practical purpose of personality assessment allows us to know the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. It tells which traits in a person are lacking and what are its implications and thereby helps in developing intervention programmes. For example, if an individual is extremely shy and refuses to move with others even though in all other aspects the person behaves well. It would be important to know what is it in the person that makes the person so shy that the individual avoids all relationships.

Understanding one’s personality is crucial for personal growth, career success, and fulfilling relationships. It allows individuals to leverage their strengths, address their weaknesses, make informed decisions, and navigate various life situations effectively.

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This article aims to provide valuable information and decipher all about the personality test and how it can be helpful for students.

History of Personality Test

The beginning of personality assessment dates back to ancient civilizations, where individuals were categorized based on their temperament and behaviour. One of the earliest evidence for personality assessment is found in the personality typing system called the Enneagram. Around 460 BC, Hippocrates described the four temperaments as ‘humours’ that is, moods. Each of these moods was based on the four elements of nature, that is the fire, air, water and earth. In the year 1926, William Moulton Marston, a psychologist at Harvard University, devised a DISC system. This could trap four traits of personality as follows:

  • Dominance (D)
  • Influencing (I)
  • Steadiness (S)
  • Compliance (C)

He referred to these moods as the normal emotions of people, however, it wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that systematic methods for assessing the personality of an individual began to emerge. Based on Carl Jung’s typology in personality development, the test called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) came to be in use mostly and it is used in the industrial parlance even today

The principle of projection, a defense mechanism in which a person projects his her own desires, needs and feelings onto another person or object became the basis for future personality tests. In projective tests personality is measured in an indirect manner by presenting the person with an unstructured, vague stimulus or situation. Use of projective techniques began when Leonardo da Vinci in 1400 AD when Vinci selected some children and tested them for creativity. He asked them to identify patterns in ambiguous form and shapes. This was followed by Binet in 1800 AD when he tried to measure passive imagination among children using a game called Blotto. 

In the 1920s, the term “personality test” was coined by psychologist Robert Woodworth. This marked a shift in focus from simply identifying mental health problems to understanding the broader spectrum of human personality.

The 1930s and 1940s saw the development of several personality tests based on projective techniques, including the Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). In the 1950s, the concept of the “Big Five” personality traits emerged. 

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Impact of Personality Tests

Personality tests have had a significant impact on the understanding of human behaviour. It has been used in a wide range of applications. They are as follows: 

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Research
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Personal Development

Methods of Personality Assessment

The methods of personality assessment can be categorised under three broad headings. They are as under: 

  • Personality Inventories
  • Projective Techniques
  • Observational methods

Personality Inventories was the most popular method of personality assessment initially. In this method statements about certain traits of personality are constructed and the testee is required to answer them as “ right/wrong” or “yes/no”.

Let us consider an example:

1) Do you have problem in sleeping?                           Yes/No 

2) Does your parent give you adequate protection? Yes/No 

3) Are you worried without reason?                             Yes/No 

Persons may differ over the responses they give for each of the above questions as it depends on their experiences and life situations. In personality inventories there are no right or wrong answers.

Projective Techniques – As already pointed out, in projective tests personality is measured in an indirect manner by presenting the person with an unstructured, vague stimulus or situation. It is well understood that when a person reacts to such a vague or unstructured stimulus or situation, he projects his unconscious desires, mental conflicts and unethical wants without being aware that he is doing so.

Types of Projective Tests

Projective tests have been categorised under five broad headings. They are as under:

  • Association Tests
  • Construction Tests
  • Completion Tests
  • Choice or Ordering Tests
  • Expressive Tests

Word association test and Rorschach test are the two main types of this type of Association tests that

involve presentation of vague and unstructured stimulus and the individual is required to respond to what he sees and with what he associates that stimulus.

Construction tests involve presentation of stimulus upon which the subject is required to construct some story or construct some other thing.

Completion tests have the situation where the subject is usually shown a part of the stimulus such as a sentence and other part of the stimulus which is blank. This has to be completed by the subject as he thinks fit.

In a choice or ordering test, the subject has to arrange stimuli in a particular order or he/she is asked to select stimulus form amongst the given stimuli on the basis of some dimension or according to his likes and dislikes.

Expressive tests allow the person to express himself through some drawing. A slightly different version of this test is the Kinetic Drawing Test. In this test the subject is asked to draw what is going on in the family and later on the subject is asked to tell in imagination or otherwise what exactly is happening in the drawing or the picture. 

Observational Methods

Observational methods involve the observation and recording of the activities of a person by the observer in a controlled environment or natural setting. These recordings are then analysed and an inference about the personality of the individual is drawn. Observational methods are categorised under two major headings. They are as under:

  • Rating Scales
  • Interview

Assessment of personality through rating scales depends on the following factors. They are as follows:

  • Rating scale being used should be sound and each category included in it should be defined clearly besides the rater should have exact knowledge of it. 
  • Rater should be familiar with the person being assessed or rated.
  • Person who is doing the rating should have the ability to avoid the halo effect and other sorts of biases which can influence the judgement.


Of all the techniques of personality assessment, the interview method is the most widely used technique. It involves recording of reactions to the questions asked by the interviewee in a face to face situation. They are usually of two types:

a) structured interview

b) unstructured interview. 

In a structured interview the questions asked by the interviewer are already decided. Even the order of presentation of questions, their language and the manner in which they are to be put to the subject are decided in advance following a standardised pattern. Biggest advantage of structured interview is that it allows comparative study of personality of different individuals since all of them are asked the same questions and in the same order. 

Unstructured interview allows the interviewer to ask questions as he deems fit depending on how the interview progresses. Unstructured interviews are majorly used for clinical purposes to diagnose the problems or abnormality in the personality of the individual as these are free of the constraints of structured interviews. Language of questions, their number and the manner of asking questions are incumbent on the understanding of the interviewer. 

Popular Personality Tests

Psychometric Tests: Psychometric tests rely on a standardized approach, employing questions or tasks that are designed to elicit quantifiable responses. These responses are then analyzed to generate numerical scores that reflect the individual’s standing on various personality dimensions.

1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers during World War II, with an aim to help women find war-time jobs that best fit their personalities. It is based on the theory of Carl Jung, which suggests that there are four main psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuition. The MBTI also suggests that people can be categorized into one of 16 different personality types, each of which is a combination of these four functions. The MBTI has been criticized for its lack of scientific validity. 

2. Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five Personality Traits is a theory that divides personality into five main personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience, often referred to as the “Big Five” or the “OCEAN” traits as already discussed.

The Big Five Personality Traits is a psychometric test, which means that it is designed to measure these five traits in a systematic way. The test typically consists of a series of questions that ask people to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating that the trait does not describe them at all and 5 indicating that the trait describes them very well. 

 3. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a psychometric test that is used to assess a wide range of personality traits and clinical disorders. It has 10 clinical scales and 3 validity scales. Clinical scales are as under:

  • Hypochondriasis 
  • Depression 
  • Conversion Hysteria
  • Psychopathic
  • Masculinity-Femininity
  • Paranoia 
  • Psychasthenia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Hypomania 
  • Social Introversion

Validity Scales are as under:

  • Lie scale  – this scale measures a person’s tendency to lie or project himself in a wrong manner.
  • Frequency or Infrequency – measures a person’s tendency to exaggerate symptoms.
  • K(correction) –  It detects a person’s defensive outlook or his tendency to exaggerate things about himself.

The MMPI is a very long and complex test, and it is not appropriate for everyone. It is typically only administered by clinicians or other trained professionals.

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is another well-known projective test. It was developed by the American psychologists Henry Murray and Christiana Morgan in the 1930s. The test consists of 31 black-and-white photographs that depict people in ambiguous situations. The test taker is asked to look at each photograph and tell the examiner a story about what is happening in the picture.

The TAT is a complex test that can be difficult to interpret. However, it is still used by some psychologists to assess personality traits, particularly motivation, conflict, and defence mechanisms.

Also Read: Inkblot Test – A Tool to Analyse Personality and Measure Social Behaviour

Also Read: Aptitude Test – All You Need to Know!

Significance of Personality Tests

Personality tests have emerged as valuable tools for personal development, career guidance, and relationship compatibility. Understanding one’s personality traits can open doors to self-awareness, self-improvement, identifying strengths and weaknesses, comprehending interpersonal dynamics, and enhancing communication. The significance of personality tests lies in the following:

  • Generation of Self Awareness 
  • Self Improvement

Besides, it ensures matching of personalities to most suitable and productive job roles leading to greater job satisfaction, increased productivity, and a more fulfilling professional life. Personality tests help unveil strengths and weaknesses, providing valuable information for career development. 

Criticism of Personality Tests

Personality tests have been widely criticised for lack of scientific validity. Cultural bias in testing is another point of criticism of personality tests. This is because the tests are often developed and standardized on restricted size or culturally biased samples. As a result, the tests may not accurately reflect the personality traits of people from different cultures. Reliance on self-reporting, limited nature of scope and misuse of test results are some of the critical elements that need to be looked at. Similarly, ethical concerns and issues related to privacy have led to severe criticism.

Future of Personality Testing

Personality testing has been a mainstay in psychology for decades, providing valuable insights into individuals’ traits, behaviours, and motivations. However, as technology advances and understanding of human behaviour deepens, the landscape of personality testing is evolving rapidly.

Advancements in Technology – Artificial intelligence (AI) is a revolutionary and a disruptive trend. It holds the potential to overcome the limitations of traditional self-report personality tests, which can be susceptible to bias and self-presentation concerns. An example of AI-powered personality assessment is the use of natural language processing (NLP) to analyze written or spoken language. NLP algorithms can identify linguistic patterns, such as word choice, sentence structure, and emotional tone, that can be associated with different personality traits. 

Online Personality Tests – The advent of the internet has made personality testing more accessible than ever before. Online personality tests are becoming increasingly popular, offering individuals a convenient and often free way to assess their personality traits. While the validity and reliability of online tests can vary, some reputable tests are based on well-established psychological theories and have been rigorously evaluated.

Integration with Other Fields – Personality testing is getting intertwined with the field of psychology, drawing on theoretical frameworks and empirical research to understand and assess individual differences. As psychology evolves, personality testing is adapting and incorporating new insights from various subfields. 

Neuroscience provides a deeper understanding of the biological underpinnings of personality. By studying the brain and its functioning, researchers are gaining insights into how personality traits are shaped by genetics, experience, and neurobiology. This knowledge is being used to develop new personality assessment tools that combine traditional psychological measures with brain imaging techniques and other biological assays.

Traits for Taking a Personality Test

  • Honesty and Authenticity – It is crucial to remain honest and authentic in responses. This means avoiding answering questions in a way that one thinks will make one look good or that will fit a certain stereotype. 
  • Understanding the Context – Personality tests are often used in specific contexts, such as for employment or education. When taking a personality test in a specific context, it’s important to understand the purpose of the test and the information that the test-giver is hoping to gather. 
  • Interpreting Results – It is important to interpret the results carefully. Don’t just take the results at face value; instead, take some time to reflect on what they mean to test takers. Consider your own experiences and perspectives, and try to understand how the personality traits might affect one’s life and relationships.

Additional tips for taking a personality test:

  • Read the instructions carefully. Make sure to understand the format of the test and how to answer the questions.
  • Don’t rush through the test. Take time to read each question carefully and think about the answer.
  • Be consistent with the answers. Try to answer all of the questions in a similar way.

Taking a personality test can be a fun and informative experience. By following these tips, one can make sure that they get the most out of their experience and that they gain a valuable understanding of their personality.

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Personality Test – FAQs

What is the Big Five personality theory?

The Big Five personality theory is a widely used theory that suggests that there are five broad dimensions of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

How can one take a personality assessment?

There are many ways to get your personality assessment done.There are available online tests. Interested applicants can take the tests at the suggestion of a doctor, with the help of  professional organizations.

What should one look for in a personality assessment?

While looking for a personality assessment, it is important to choose one that is reliable, valid, and unbiased. One should also consider their own needs and goals at the time of selecting a test.

I took a personality test and I did not like the results. What should I do?

It is important to remember that personality assessments are not perfect. If you do not like the results of a test, you can talk to a qualified professional to get a second opinion.

Why was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) created?

Developed by Starke R. Hathaway and J.C. McKinley, the MMPI was basically developed to measure pathological traits of personality. It has 10 clinical scales and 3 validity scales.

What is the Rorschach Inkblot Test used for?

The Rorschach test, created by Hermann Rorschach, involves interpreting inkblot images to gain insights into an individual’s thought processes, emotions, and personality.

Can personality assessment change over a period of time?

While some aspects of personality may remain stable, life experiences and personal growth can lead to changes in certain traits over a period of time.

Is there a “best” personality type or trait?

No personality type or trait is inherently superior.Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and the value depends on the context.

Does personality assessment determine career success?

Personality assessments can provide insights into one’s suitability for certain roles, but they are not sole predictors of career success.

Does personality assessment measure intelligence?

No, personality assessment focuses on traits, behaviours, and emotional patterns. Intelligence is typically assessed through cognitive tests, such as IQ tests.


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