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Top Competency and Personality Tests - a comprehensive review

Empowerment Coaching Krakow Blog-Personality tests comprehensive review

Nowadays, personality tests are no longer only the domain of psychologists. They find more and more use in the business world, and can also be an excellent tool for individual self-discovery.

I will try to briefly organize the knowledge on this subject and before we proceed to the comparison of specific tests, I will provide some information on the modeling methods of various tests.

Personality is a very complex structure and, frankly speaking, psychology as a science has a problem with an unambiguous and precise definition of this concept to this day. So before we decide to choose a test, let's be aware of whether we are talking about a personality, competence or behavior test.

It is also important to understand whether a given test is an ipsative test, i.e. showing how the subject assesses themselves, or a normative one, i.e. showing how the subject is perceived by others.

Personality tests - two basic types

In psychological practice, two types of research are distinguished:

  1. The first is psychometric tests. They are based on appropriately constructed (and, importantly, calibrated on a sufficiently large and representative test group) questionnaires and assume that the subjects will be completely honest when answering individual test questions. Proper testing and calibration of the test algorithm before it is available "on the market" is of great importance for the credibility of its results. The answers are influenced by such aspects as gender, age, or even the country's culture. In dry language, a credible test must meet 5 scientific criteria: validity, reliability, standardization, objectivity, and normalization.

  2. The second type is called projection testing. These are personality studies in which the examined person creates and presents various types of artifacts using their subconsciousness. In simplified terms, it can be said that it corresponds to the principle of associations. For this purpose, specially developed creative or introspective exercises are used. The examined person knows about being the subject of the test, but gives answers unconsciously, not knowing what the given exercise is related to.

I would also like to highlight one test in particular. This is the Highly Sensitive Personality Test. Highly Sensitive People make up about 20% of the entire population, but very often they are not aware of this very feature of their personality. And realizing the fact of having a Highly Sensitive Personality can significantly affect the level of satisfaction derived from life.

The description of the concept of high sensitivity, as well as links to free tests for high sensitivity, were placed on the penultimate place of the list presented here comparing various personality, behavior, and competence tests.

Comprehensive comparison of psychometric tests of personality and behavior

In our comparison, we will mainly focus on psychometric tests. They are easily accessible, especially online. And projection tests are mainly used in clinical practice, so they are really aimed at diagnosing serious disorders.

1. The Big 5 Model, a five-factor personality test by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae

The method called "The Big 5" is one of the best known. It also forms the basis for other personality tests available today to understand and measure human behavior (see e.g. Hogan Tests below).

The personality test of Paul Costa and Robert McCrae is divided into five main areas known by the acronym "OCEAN":

  • Openness to experience

  • Conscientiousness

  • Extroversion

  • Agreeableness

  • Neuroticism

This personality test has gained a lot of popularity due to its reliability:

starting from clinical applications and ending with interviews for work or coaching cooperation. Many professionals in these fields also see The Big 5 Model as a very good foundation for developing more detailed personality tests or supplementing it with behavior and competence tests.

It just so happens that the offer of the Great People Inside company, which I represent in Poland, also includes The Big 5 Test questionnaire. The Big 5 test includes 20 questions, and its cost is around 50 USD.

2. Personality Test - Sixteen Personality Factor (16PF)

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, abbreviated as the 16PF, is one of the most respected in-depth personality tests on the market. You can do it for free in different languages at the link above.

It is the result of many decades of work and analysis by Raymond B. Cattell. Dr. Cattel was a British psychologist known primarily for his immense contributions to the field of personality and intelligence research. It was Cattel who proposed, for example, the concepts of fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

The 16PF personality test is constantly updated and adapted to the changing realities of our world, but its essence remains the same. It consists of 16 primary scales (and five factors of secondary importance).

The key factors are as follows:

  • factor A (Warmth): cyclothymia – schizothymic

  • factor B (Reasoning): high intelligence – low intelligence

  • factor C (emotional stability): emotional maturity – neuroticism

  • factor E (Dominance): domination– submission

  • factor F (Liveliness): surgency – resurgence

  • factor G (Rule Consciousness): high superego – low superego

  • factor H (Social Boldness): mental resistance - lack of mental resistance

  • factor I (Sensitivity): sensitivity – insensitivity

  • factor L (Vigilance): excessive suspicion - lack of suspicion

  • factor M (Abstractedness): unconventionality-conventionality

  • factor N (Privateness): rationalism-simplicity

  • factor O (Apprehension): depressive self-confidence

  • Q2 factor (Self-reliance): self-sufficiency – group dependence

  • Q2 factor (Self-reliance): self-sufficiency – group dependence

  • Q3 factor (Perfectionism): high self-esteem - low self-esteem

  • Q4 factor (Tension): high ergic tension – low ergic tension

As a result of the test, we get an assignment to one of the 16 distinguished personality types, which in turn are grouped into 4 main categories:

  1. Analysts

  2. Diplomats

  3. Guardians

  4. Explorers

Here is an example of a preliminary description of an "Architect" personality that belongs to the Analyst category:

"There is loneliness at the very top, and people with one of the rarest and most strategically gifted personality types know it all too well. Architects make up only two percent of the population. This personality type is especially rare among women, with a percentage of just 0. 8% - so it is often difficult for them to find people who think similarly to them, follow their tireless intellect, and almost chess maneuvers. Architects have a vivid imagination but are determined, and ambitious, value privacy, and are extremely curious about the world but do not waste energy. "

Personally, I really like this test, and more specifically the report that you receive as a result of it. It is written in very accurate and imaginative language.

Compared to other personality tests, its great advantage is its fully free version and very interesting descriptions of individual personality types and linking them to the strongest points of a given type, as well as areas to which you should pay special attention.

3. Myers-Briggs personality test, otherwise known as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)

The MBTI questionnaire is a personality test known to be based on the work of Carl Jung. The test itself was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers.

According to Myers and Briggs, differences in human behavior can be described by four dimensions. Each of them can be imagined as a horizontal scale that extends from the maximum value on the left to the maximum value on the right:

1. Where do you get your energy from? Where are you directing your attention?

This is the E – I dimension (Extraversion and Introversion).

What's the best way to rest when you are tired: do you need silence and being alone or do you prefer to go out with people? Do you direct your energy and attention outward, or do you prefer to focus on your inner world of experiences and thoughts?

2. How do you prefer to collect the information you trust?

S – N Dimension (Sensing and Intuition)

Do you prefer to collect real and tangible information about what really is, or do you prefer to focus on the overall picture and the connections between facts?

3. How do you prefer to make decisions?

T – F (Thinking and Feeling) Dimension

Are you guided by logic and fairness in making your decisions, or do you prefer a more subjective process that takes into account the harmony and value system of those involved?

4. What is your work and lifestyle? How are you dealing with the world around you?

The J – P dimension (Judging and Perceiving)

Do you deal with your life in a planned manner, preferring "judgment" - that is, making a decision - or do you prefer a flexible lifestyle with a constant openness to new information?

As a result of this test, we can obtain 16 different types marked with the appropriate letters from the scale of a given dimension. For example, the INFP type is the type of person who is an introvert (I), prefers intuition (N), shows empathy (F), and is open and tolerant in observing the world (P).

The MBTI test consists of 64 questions, and you can do it online for free, but I would suggest taking a paid test with a review of its results by a certified advisor.

When comparing the MBTI personality test with the 16PF psychometric test, it is worth emphasizing that in the free version, the 16PF personality test wins over the MBTI test.

However, additional value can be obtained by taking the MBTI test and discussing it with a certified advisor.

4. StrengthsFinder 2.0 / CliftonStrengths test (also known as Gallup's test)

I like and appreciate this test. He opened my eyes to a few important things. Thanks to it, a long time ago, I started to think about the role of a coach.

The history (and the name of this test) is related to Don Clifton, who in the 1940s asked the following question:

"What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what's wrong with people?"

Clifton has devoted his adult life to developing a test that not only shows who people are but above all who they can become. Test the CliftonStrengths is by far the best test in the world to show a person's strengths.

To date, more than 25 million people have used it. It consists of 177 questions, each of which has 20 seconds. It measures the presence of talent in 34 areas known as topics. After completing the questionnaire, we receive a personalized report that presents the five most dominant talents. They are unique to an individual: 278,256 combinations of the five dominant themes are possible, and if the ordering (hierarchy) of the five dominant themes is taken into account, this number increases to over 33 million different combinations. This means that the probability of finding someone with the same five as you and sorted in the same order as you is 1 / 33,000,000.

The 34 talent themes are grouped into 4 areas:

  • Strategic Thinking: Analytical, Context, Futuristic, Ideation, Input, Intellection, Learner, Strategic

  • Executing: Achiever, Arranger, Belief, Consistency, Deliberative, Discipline, Focus, Responsibility, Restorative

  • Influencing: Activator, Command, Communication, Competition, Maximizer, Self-Assurance, Significance, Woo

  • Relationship Building: Adaptability, Connectedness, Developer, Empathy, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, Positivity, Relator

It costs around $ 50 to make a full CliftonStrengths tets, but the benefits that can be obtained many times exceed this investment.

In my opinion, the CliftonStregths Test (also known as the Gallup Test) has no competition in its class and no other test can stand up to it. This is the only such comprehensive test that meets all the scientific criteria of credibility and focuses on the natural talents of a human being.

The great advantage of performing this psychometric test in the full version is also the fact that the report contains specific suggestions for activities (professions) that allow the identified individual talents to be implemented as fully as possible.

5. Behaviours test - DISC and Extended DISC

DISC is not a personality test in the strict sense. However, it is widespread in the business world and for this reason, I also decided to write about it. DISC is a behavioral self-assessment tool (ipsative test), originally based on the 1928 emotional and behavioral DISC theory by psychologist William Moulton Marston.

This theory focused on four behavioral traits:

  1. Dominance,

  2. Inducement, the term Influence is also used today

  3. Submission, the term Steadiness is also used today

  4. Compliance

Interestingly, Marston was also the inventor of the lie detector.

Performing the DISC test allows you to find answers to such questions as:

  • what motivates you to achieve even better results?

  • how do you cope with difficult, crisis situations?

  • how do you see changes - as an opportunity or an obstacle? How quickly will you adapt to changes?

  • what attitude do you adopt towards applicable standards and procedures?

  • How do you try to influence the behavior of others or convince them to be right?

The test takes 10 minutes and its results are grouped according to 4 categories defined by specific colors. So when you meet the people who took this test, you may hear the question: What are you like? red or green? The price of the DISC test, without being discussed by a professional, is around 40 USD. A comprehensive package including a test report and a 90-minute session with a certified DISC coach costs around $ 100.

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There is also an extended version of the DISC test called Extended DISC Test D3 - DISC / TEAMS / VALUES / BAI, which deals with behaviors and roles in the team. It combines 4 analyzes:

  • DISC - behavior styles

  • TEAMS - team roles

  • VALUES - values

  • BAI - Inner Motivations

Team Analysis is a tool that combines the individual results of team members into one report. It describes the dynamics of the team and points to its strengths as a whole as well as potential shortcomings. It also shows how team members adjust their behavior to the current work environment.

Here is an example of such an analysis:

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DISC behavior patterns (both individually and as a team) are used on a large scale by companies as part of various development programs.

This is a very decent and reliable tool that can be treated as the first good step in getting to know yourself better.

6. Behaviours test - Insights Discovery

This test belongs to the same family as the DISC. It can be said that these are the two biggest competitors in the market. Even the way the results are presented is very similar, including the exact same set of colors that DISC uses (they only differ in their position on the wheel). Moreover, the model is based on the personality typology of C.G. Jung, namely three dimensions defined by him: Extraversion-Introversion, Thinking-Feelings, and Senses-Intuition. So it is very similar to the MBTI test in this area.

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Insights Discovery was founded in 1993 in Scotland by the company's current CEO, Andy Lothian, and his father, Andi Lothian. Interestingly, Andi Lothian began his career as a music agent and toured with the Beatles in the 1960s. In an interview at a Caird Hall Beatles concert, Lothian coined the term "Beatlemania" which would later appear in the headlines of major newspapers such as The Daily Mail. This helped to establish his first company: Lothian Theatrical Agencies.

Andi claims that his interest in the Jung-Jacobi theory led to the creation of a new business and the creation of a model that was approved by the British Psychological Society. The Insights Discovery test consists of 25 rounds of 4 questions each. Each question requires a choice from the pair of words presented. The price of an individual test, together with a review by a certified coach, is around $ 120.

As with DISC, there are extensions to the Insights Discovery method to study team dynamics.

And like the DISC behavior test, it is used by businesses and corporations. Comparing the DSIC and the Insights Discovery with each other, I would say that ... they are sisters or brothers.

And I hope that I will not offend the supporters of each of them if I find that in both cases we get the same (though not the same) effects.

6. Hogan Tests (HPI, HDS, MVPI)

The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) was constructed in 1997 by Dr. Robert Hogan and Joyce Hogan for Hogan Assessment Systems, Inc. (HAS). It is the first personality measurement tool dedicated exclusively to business use that is used by companies around the world. The test person's results are compared with the results obtained in an international sample validated on a group of over 500,000 working adults, in over 200 occupations covering all major types of business. The test is built around The Big Five personality test. In this sense, it differs significantly from the DISC and Insights tools described above.

HAS package consists of:




Let's devote a few words to the first of the above-mentioned tests, i.e. the HPI personality test (Hogan Personality Inventory). It describes the "bright side of personality", ie features that appear during social interactions that affect cooperation with other employees and the achievement of individual goals. It also describes the strengths of a given person and the predispositions supporting them in achieving success, especially in the context of fulfilling the role of a person in a managerial position.

It is a normative test, which means that it gives an insight into how the subject is perceived by others.

The survey consists of 206 TRUE / FALSE questions, and its completion time is approx. 20 minutes. The report includes 7 basic scales, 41 subscales, and a validation measure that detects careless or incorrect answers.

  1. Stability -> self-confidence, self-esteem, self-control under pressure

  2. Ambition -> initiative, competition, and leadership potential

  3. Sociability -> extraversion, a wealth of contacts, and the pursuit of social interactions

  4. Interpersonal sensitivity -> warmth, charm, tact, ability to maintain relationships with others

  5. Regularity -> conscientiousness, responsibility, self-control

  6. Inquisitiveness -> imagination, curiosity, creative potential

  7. Openness to knowledge -> achievement orientation, openness to learning

Compared to other tests on the market, HPI is not cheap. Its cost for an individual recipient is 250+ USD. However, it gives a very comprehensive picture calibrated to the working environment.

Comparing the Hogan Test to other psychometric tests, it should be emphasized that in order to truly use it, it is necessary to properly select a group of colleagues who will agree to complete it for us.

This test measures our person's perception in the selected group and we should mentally prepare for it. What does it mean? For example, some feedback providers will want to tell us something very constructive to say the least.

7. Reiss Motivation Profile (RMP)

This is a special and extremely interesting test. The method was developed by Prof. Steven Reiss, an American clinical psychologist at Ohio State University.

Its main assumption is to define internal human motivation with the help of the so-called 16 basic life motivators. A person who wants to get to know their own motivational profile completes a questionnaire consisting of 128 statements. The examination takes about 25 minutes. The test result shows how the hierarchy of values of a given person is shaped and through the prism of which values the reality is perceived by them. The price of the RMP test, together with a review of the results by a certified advisor, is min. $ 125.

At present, it appears to be the only comprehensive psychological concept that studies motivation that meets all 5 scientific criteria for psychometric research.

Interestingly, the Motivational Profile itself is relatively constant over time. This means that it can only be changed slightly. We are born with certain needs, and in the course of our lives, these needs crystallize under the influence of our parents, the environment in which we grow up, and our experiences and experiences.

Here is an example of an RMP report:

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Just as the StrengthsFinder Test has no competition in the field of tests to identify natural talents, the Hogan Test currently has no competition in the field of testing a person's motivation.

However, I believe that the Hogan Test is worth taking only after taking, analyzing, and digesting an individual personality or behavior test (i.e. one from the group: BIGFive, 16FP, MBTI, DISC or Insights Discovery).

This is because the test person must have an appropriate level of self-awareness and openness to the benefits that can be obtained as a result of such a test.

8. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

Out of respect for history and due to the complexity of the approach in the field of personality testing, the MMPI Test should also be mentioned here. The MMPI is the most commonly used adult personality test for clinical purposes. The original version contains 567 questions to be answered 'true' or 'false' or 'do not know'. As a result of the test, we get three control scales and as many as ten clinical scales. It was developed by Starke R. Hathaway and J. C. McKinley, researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Since 2008, a shortened version of the MMPI-2-RF with 338 questions is also available.

It is widely used to detect various types of mental disorders. This is because the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory personality test allows you to examine individuals based on very different scales. These include, for example, hypochondria, depression, schizophrenia, and antisocial behavior.

9. Highly Sensitive Personality Test (HSP)

The concept high sensitive personality trait is relatively young. It was discovered and described for the first time in the 1990s by Arons, a married couple of psychologists. Author of many books on Highly Sensitive Personality, Elaine. N. Aron is a Highly Sensitive Person herself.

It is estimated that Highly Sensitive People make up 15-20% of all people (results obtained using the full HSPS test Aron & Aron, 1997). This personality trait also applies to children. It is important that the feature of high sensitivity is associated with a particular type of the human nervous system. So it is an innate quality that we are born with.

In research conducted in 2010, Elaine, N. Aron divided the high sensitivity trait into four main categories:

1. Highly Sensitive People are distinguished by the depth of processing

Highly Sensitive People process all types of information more deeply than other people. They are more reflective and take longer to make decisions. The depth of processing occurs both at the conscious level, through the analysis of the information obtained, and unconsciously, through hunches and intuition.

2. Highly Sensitive People are characterized by increased sensitivity to external stimuli.

Highly Sensitive People notice much more than others in the same situation or environment. They see more details, can "read between the lines", notice body language and other human non-verbal messages, and hear subtle sounds. They also sense the emotions and intentions of other people very strongly. This can be beneficial, but it can also lead to overstimulation and chronic tension and stress.

3. Highly Sensitive People are emotionally intense and empathetic

Highly Sensitive People experience strong both positive and negative emotions. For example, simple sadness can quickly turn into deep melancholy. This can take place in response to a range of external sensations, as well as as a result of the deep processing of their own thoughts. It also increases their sensitivity to the feelings of others, making them very empathetic.

4. Highly Sensitive People are sensory sensitive, i.e. they have heightened senses

Highly Sensitive People's senses recognize subtle signals and stimuli that other people miss. This can help protect themselves as well as others in their group from threats. But in extreme situations, it can also lead to high levels of sensitivity to food, drugs, pain, noise, and light.

More information on Highly Sensitive Personality can be found in a dedicated column in which we have made every effort to describe this topic as comprehensively and reliably as possible:

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The Highly Sensitive Personality Test developed by the Aron couple consists of 27 questions that are answered "yes" or "no". When a person scores 14 or more on the 27-point HSP scale, they are considered to have a highly sensitive personality.

There is also a more detailed version of the HSP Aron and Aron test that uses a 7-point scale to answer each question. Nevertheless, previous studies confirm that obtaining at least 14 "yes" answers in the HSPS test consisting of 27 "yes" or "no" questions with a high probability confirms the feature of high sensitivity.

In addition, there are also shortened versions of the HSP test.

As we mentioned earlier, high sensitivity is an inborn trait. Therefore, children also have it, and the good news is that there are reliable tests for this personality trait in children. This is important because high sensitivity in children is often confused with a selected spectrum of autism, e.g. with Asperger's syndrome.

And most importantly, high sensitivity is not a disorder that needs to be treated. It's just one of the many colors of the human personality.

Original HSP tests in English

  1. HSP test for adults, developed by Aron and Aron (1997).

  2. More recent research at developed a shorter HSP self-test scale for adults.

  3. Parents can use a special test to assess their children for HSP based on Aron's (2002) Pediatric Research.

  4. At there is also an HSP self-test available for children ages 8-18.

Free Highly Sensitive Personality Test for adults based on the Aron and Aron method.

The Empowerment Coaching portal offers a free ebook featuring the original version of the High Sensitivity Test by Elaine N. Aron.

In addition to the test, this free booklet also includes an interpretation of the results, frequently asked questions, a list of links to authoritative HSP resources, and a list of books on the subject of high sensitivity available in English today.

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Rorschach Personality Test

If you've gotten to this point, you probably remember that we started this column by distinguishing between 2 basic types of personality tests. The Rorschach personality test will be the only one in this list that belongs to the group of projective tests.

After Hermann Rorschach published his work in 1921, the test immediately spread to the psychoanalyst community. It is currently one of the most widely used projective tests, including the Koch Tree Test or the Murray Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).

The test consists of 10 charts with inkblots (example of chart No. 8 below). Responses take into account:

  • interpreted area (whole, parts);

  • the determinant of the response (shape, color, apparent movement);

  • the level of the form (compliance of the image with the stimulus);

  • content (people, animals, etc.).

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The response time to individual tables is also measured. The statements are classified according to the key based on which the so-called psychogram is created. However, projection tests require a specialist to correctly evaluate the obtained results. A professional in the field must carefully evaluate all aspects. Beginning with the time in which the patient has to answer the content that he has to assign to each of the examined issues. He also has to pay attention to many more aspects. Ideally, therefore, this projective test should be combined with other methods and instruments to give the researcher more perspectives and get a more detailed description of this particular case.

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