What Is The Big 5 Personality Test? An In-Depth Look

Taking a personality test, such as the Big 5 Inventory, is an excellent way to get a better understanding of your behavioral patterns. This test is used by psychological scientists, so you can trust that your results on the Big Five personality traits questionnaire have some merit. So what is the Big 5 personality test, and why is it so popular?

The Big 5 personality test is based on the Big Five model and is also known as the OCEAN personality test. Because of its accuracy and reliability, it’s used recreationally as well as for psychological and business purposes.

Our article is going to take a detailed look into what the Big 5 personality test is used for, which test to take for the most accurate results, and which factors influence the Big 5 traits.

Key Takeaways

  • The Big 5 personality test was developed and built upon by scores of experts in the fields of psychology and psychometrics over many decades, and its purpose is to measure where an individual falls on the spectrum of these five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, or OCEAN for short.
  • Scoring particularly high or low in the OCEAN traits can give powerful insights into your personality and help you better understand your behavior, preferences, and decisions.
  • The Big 5 personality test works by presenting you with a series of questions, and it takes around 10 minutes to complete.
  • Temperament, heritability, and the stage of life (childhood vs. adulthood) are all factors that impact the Big 5 traits.

What Is the Big 5 Personality Test?

The Big 5 personality test, also known as the five-factor model, is a personality inventory that has been in development for decades. A few generations of psychologists have concluded that there are five traits that are crucial for our individual makeup.

Those traits are:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

The goal of the test is to help individuals uncover where exactly on the spectrum of these five particular dimensions they fall. Due to its accuracy and use in business and various psychological applications, there have been many iterations and improvements to this methodology.

The five-factor model of personality even influenced the development of our 16-personality test, although the latter is primarily based on the Jungian theory. 

You might be able to get the most accurate results by coupling the Big 5 personality test with the 16-personality factors test, which was developed by psychologist Raymond Cattell.

The Big 5 test and the 16-personality factors test are two of the most popular and widely used contemporary personality tests. They both work by measuring different aspects of your personality, but they differ in the way they categorize the factors. The only direct overlap between the two is the Extraversion dimension.

The five-factor model can help you gain an understanding of how other people perceive your actions and personality, which will ultimately improve your self-awareness and behavior. Businesses and psychological research frequently use it because it is a potent tool for predicting and understanding human behavior.

History of the Big 5 Personality Test

While personality traits are believed to have originated in ancient times, it wasn’t until Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert—trait research pioneers—that the traits were grouped into three categories (cardinal, central, and secondary.)

According to a paper written by Florencio Kabigting from Claremont Graduate University, Raymond Cattel was the very next researcher who made a significant leap by constructing a questionnaire and asking his acquaintances to rate how characteristic some traits were for them.

While trait research came to a halt in the 1960s and 1970s, things picked up again with Lewis Goldberg. In the 1980s, he asked a group of university students to rate themselves against certain traits. His work produced the famous five-factor structure, and he would go on to develop marker scales for the five sectors.

During the new millennium, the Big 5 personality model remained the central model of many research studies, as it is now considered to have the most scientific validity and reliability.

Big Five Personality Traits

The goal of the test is to see how high or low you score in the 5 personality traits.

Here is a detailed overview of those traits and the behaviors people exhibit when they score high/low on them:

#1. Openness

If you take the Big 5 personality test and it shows that you score high in terms of openness, then you are likely someone who is creative and has a broad range of interests. You are open to the world and other people, so you love to learn new things and take great pleasure in experiencing something for the first time.

Because of their adventurous streak and incredible imagination and creativity, people with an ENFP personality tend to score highly in terms of openness.

What Is The Big 5 Personality Test?

People who are high in the openness personality trait are also likely to:

  • Enjoy thinking about abstract concepts.
  • Love encountering new challenges.
  • Be willing to go to an impromptu activity that leads to an adventure.

On the other hand, people who score low in openness are likely to:

  • Be on the more traditional side.
  • Feel uncomfortable thinking outside of the box.
  • Resist new things and ideas.

#2. Conscientiousness

Individuals who are highly conscientious tend to be very organized and responsible people. They enjoy making long-term agendas and planning how to achieve their goals within the timeline they have created for themselves. They don’t just make plans—they stick to them, as they are committed to following through on their decisions and obligations.

Since they are rather goal-oriented, organized, and responsible, the ISTJ personality type is the perfect example of someone with high conscientiousness.

If you score high in conscientiousness, you are likely to be:

  • Detail-oriented and attentive.
  • Passionate about routines and schedules.
  • Responsible and reliable when it comes to deadlines and important tasks.

However, if the Big 5 personality test shows that you are low in conscientiousness, then you might:

  • Be prone to procrastinating and failing to meet deadlines.
  • Make a mess and not be very eager to clean it up right away—or at all.
  • Resist structure and routine.

#3. Extraversion

Otherwise called extroversion, the extraversion trait describes someone who likes to spend time around other people and can talk their ear off—mostly in a good way. Extraverted individuals get energized and excited by being in the company of others, whether they are friends, acquaintances, or people they've never met.

As they are the epitome of extraversion, the ESTP personality type is a stellar example of someone who scores highly in this trait.

If the personality character test shows that you are high in extraversion, then you are likely to:

  • Love taking center stage and being the life and soul of any party.
  • Have a large circle of friends.
  • Be impulsive and speak before you think.

On the other hand, if you happen to be low in this personality trait, then you probably:

  • Feel drained by being in large crowds for too long.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Feel your best when you are alone.

#4. Agreeableness

Individuals with an agreeableness personality trait exhibit prosocial behaviors such as kindness and cooperativeness. They are very helpful and like to share with people. Thus, you can often see them volunteering and donating stuff.

As warm and welcoming people, individuals with an ISFJ personality type are likely to score high in terms of agreeableness.

Big Five Personality Traits

Those who have this personality trait as the dominant one tend to be:

  • Helpful to everyone around them.
  • Interested in the lives and feelings of others.
  • Eager to make other people feel happy.

When it comes to people who score low in this personality trait, they are likely to be:

  • Unbothered by other people’s problems and feelings.
  • Manipulative, with an ‘it’s my way or the highway’ attitude.
  • At times, even belittling others.

#5. Neuroticism

Constant mood swings and emotional instability both characterize the Neuroticism personality trait. If a personality test shows that you have a dominant neuroticism trait, then you might be prone to feeling sad and irritable quite frequently.

Since they are known for getting emotional and moody, people with an INFJ personality type could score high in neuroticism.

With a dominant neuroticism personality trait, individuals are likely to:

  • Feel stressed out fairly often.
  • Be constantly worried and upset.
  • Find it difficult to alleviate stress.

Conversely, people who score low on neuroticism have:

  • A relaxed mindset.
  • Great coping mechanisms and low stress levels.
  • Emotional stability and stable mood most of the time.

How Does the Big 5 Personality Test Work?

If you’ve taken our free personality test and were intrigued by the results, then you might want to know what the Big Five Inventory has to say about you as well. And that’s fair, as both of these systems are valuable tools for assessing different aspects of personality, and they can help a person understand themselves better.

In both the 16 personality test and the Big 5 test, you will be presented with a series of questions and a scale of 1 to 5 to decide whether you agree or disagree with the statement.

Most Big 5 personality tests consist of 60 to 120 questions, and they usually take around 10 minutes to complete.

You’ll want to keep in mind that, due to their popularity, there are many different versions of the test. So, what is the most reliable Big 5 personality test that you should take if you want to get the most accurate results?

For most people, that’s going to be NEO PI-R. It’s considered to be the original and most comprehensive personality assessment, developed by Paul T. Costa and Robert R. McCrae. The original NEO Personality Inventory (or NEO-PI) measured three traits—neuroticism, extraversion, and openness. Together, Cost and McCrae have created a Revised NEO-PI (or NEO PI-R), which added two other traits to be measured—agreeableness and conscientiousness.

3 Key Factors That Influence the Big 5 Traits

Many debates have been had about whether we are all products of our environment. Therefore, there are many external as well as innate factors that can influence the Big 5 traits and, consequently, the test results.

Thus, before you Google ‘What is the best Big 5 personality test?’ where you can potentially get frustrated with the results, please consider the following factors and their influence on the Big 5 traits:

#1. Temperament

There are many debates about whether biological differences are a part of temperament or personality. Some believe that temperament refers to dynamic features of behavior and that personality is a more psycho-social construct.

The two overlap in some of the Big 5 traits. For example, neuroticism was studied by Jerome Kagan’s group, and it reflects the traditional temperament dimension of emotionality.

#2. Heritability

It’s been studied and proven that heritability has a huge influence on all five factors. Many twin studies have been conducted, and they concluded that the mean percentage for heritability for all five factors ranged from 42% to 57%.

#3. Childhood vs. Adulthood

Findings show that adults become more agreeable, conscientious, and less neurotic with age. This is in stark contrast with late childhood/early adolescence, as research shows that the mean levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness start to decline in this period, which lasts up until late adolescence.

Big 5 Personality Test

The Big 5 personality test is a great way to learn some profound insights about yourself. Theorists consider it to be one of the most accurate personality tests around, which is why the five-factor structure is used in psychology, business, and management.

However, don’t consider the results to be the be-all and end-all of your personality, as one test can’t determine who you are as an individual. You might be able to zero in on your true character by coupling the Big 5 personality test with our free 16-personality questionnaire.

The combined results will likely help you learn quite a few new things about yourself and understand your actions and behavior much better.

What is the Big 5 Personality Test FAQ

#1. What is the most accurate Big 5 test?

The most accurate Big 5 test is the NEO PI-R. It is considered the standard questionnaire for assessing an individual on five dimensions of personality.

#2. What is the Big 5 personality test used for?

The Big 5 personality test is used to get a deeper insight into individuals and the reasoning behind their reactions. As such, it’s used for more than just personal development, as it’s a handy tool in counseling and management.

#3. Is the Big 5 personality test accurate?

The Big 5 personality test is accurate. However, while the test does provide valuable insights into your personality, it’s just a test, and, as such, it isn’t perfect.

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