5 Things To Keep In Mind When Taking Personality Tests

5 Things To Keep In Mind When Taking Personality Tests

I’m an ISFJ-T, otherwise known as a ‘defender’. I’m considered supportive, reliable and patient as well as overly sensitive, humble and altruistic. My true colour is blue — the colour of empathy, loyalty, emotional instability and being a pushover. This is who I am according to the five personality tests I did this week. But is it really me?

Personality tests are all the rage in our label-loving world and have been for the past 20 years. From the Harry Potter Sorting Hat Quiz to Which Disney Princess Are You? we seem to always be looking for clues as to what makes us tick and why.

The idea is to help you build self-awareness — build on your strengths, navigate things that might hold you back and help other people understand how you act and react in particular situations. Who needs to go for a soul searching journey through life when you can just take a 12 minute quiz to find yourself?

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Some of these tests are slightly more reliable than others. For example, some quizzes *cough Buzzfeed cough* are fun but have broad answers to sweeping questions based on little to no psychological research. The Do you have a cat or a dog personality? is a particular favourite of mine.

On the flip side, those crafted by personality scientists including the classic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have a tad more credibility. These systems provide you with a personality type based on how you score against a range of traits including extroversion and introversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. These more reputable tests sometimes feature in job interviews or as part of team building workshops.

Never one to miss an opportunity to build self-awareness (a classic ‘defender’ desire I would soon learn), I tried not one but five different personality assessments. In no particular order I completed 16 Personalities, the Big Five Personality test, How to Fascinate, the Innovation Quotient Edge and (mostly just for lol factor) the True Colours Test.  

Here’s a few things I found along the way that you should keep in mind when giving personality tests a whirl:

#1 There are many things these tests get right and that you already know

Despite the promise that personality quizzes reveal hidden truths about us, this is mostly untrue. You already know how you do things and why — you just answered a bunch of questions that demonstrate exactly that! What the test does help you do is better articulate who you know yourself to be. So yes, it’s a mildly narcissistic exercise but it can be helpful to understand yourself in the context of how the world sees you. Which leads me to point 2.

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#2 There is a huge benefit in sharing your results with those around you (especially at work)

The brilliance of being human is that we are all made up of different experiences, ideas and talents that mean we understand and respond to things in unique ways. The tricky thing about this is that it can take a while to understand (especially in an office) how others will respond to information and actions, and how to tailor your behaviour accordingly. This is why sharing the results of your personality test (if you’re comfortable) can be empowering for both you and those around you.

#3 Tests that classify creativity and leadership as personality traits are silly

A person’s ability to be creative or to lead cannot be measured by a personality test. Sure, certain characteristics make us better suited to these things but these are skills that can be learned and moulded to different people. If you come across a test that suggests otherwise my advice is to steer clear. You can be an introvert and still be a great leader or public speaker.

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#4 There’s a big risk of over-simplifying things and jumping to extremes

Human beings are pretty darn complex. Personality is not a fixed or measurable thing. It’s the result of a messy web of tendencies and habits, all informed by some incalculable mix of biology, disposition, and learned behavior. While it’s nice to give ourselves some concrete words to better help others understand us, ultimately our personalities are never done changing and growing.

This sounds complicated but all I’m trying to say is don’t jump to extremes when thinking about your own or someone else’s personality. Just because someone “prefers alone time” doesn’t mean they fear leaving the house and hate talking to people. There are levels to which these traits will be present and that will vary moment to moment.

#5 Take test results with a big old grain of salt

Call me a cynic (my tests refused to) but much like a horoscope, these sort of things can become self-fulfilling prophecies — or even restrictive barriers — if you believe in them too much. You are more than your personality test. You’re a complex, evolving, shape shifting being that could never be summed up in a few letters or numbers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.