A personality test aims to describe aspects of a person’s character that remain stable throughout that person’s lifetime, the individual’s character pattern of behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
There are many different types of personality tests. Common personality tests consist of a large number of items, in which respondents must rate the applicability of each item to themselves. Projective tests are another form of personality test which attempt to assess personality indirectly.
Personality tests can be scored using a dimensional (normative) or a typological (ipsative) approach. Dimensional approaches describe personality as a set of continuous dimensions on which individuals differ. Typological approaches describe opposing categories of functioning where individuals differ. Normative responses for each category can be graphed as bell curves (normal curves).
Personality tests assesses motivation, or purpose, of behavior, rather than the behavior itself, combine a dimensional and typological approach. Many, but by no means all, psychological researchers believe that the dimensional approach is more accurate, although as judged by the popularity of the Myers-Briggs tool, typological approaches have substantial appeal as a self-development tool.
The meaning of personality test scores are difficult to interpret in a direct sense. For this reason substantial effort is made by producers of personality tests to produce norms to provide a comparative basis for interpreting a respondent’s test scores. Common formats for these norms include percentile ranks, z scores, sten scores, and other forms of standardised scores.
One problem of a personality test is that the users of the test could only find it accurate because of the subjective validation involved. This is where the person only acknowledges the information that applies to him/her.
One problem with self-report measures of personality is that respondents are often able to distort their responses. This is particularly problematic in employment contexts and other contexts where important decisions are being made and there is an incentive to present oneself in a favourable manner. Several strategies have been adopted for reducing respondent faking. One strategy involves providing a warning on the test that methods exist for detecting faking and that detection will result in negative consequences for the respondent. Other researchers are looking at the timing of responses on electronically administered tests to assess faking.