Personality tests are based on one of two basic test concepts and a ‘mixed type’:

Normative tests:

Normative tests demonstrate: The general, specified in a number of singular factors or personality traits that collectively form a personality model (examples of normative tests are NEO-pir, 16PF and e-stimate’s Five-factor profile).

Normative tests show the result compared with a norm group.

The score is calculated and converted into percentages showing the distribution in relation to the average of the norm group (e.g. DK norm).

The calculation of the norm figure is based on a psychometric processing of responses from a comprehensive demographically representative group.

Thus, the result in a report shows the focus person’s score placed in relation to the current norm group.

In normative tests, items (statements/questions) are rated on a Likert scale – typically a five-point rating scale from ‘mainly agree’ to ‘mainly disagree’. In order to show a score related to the norm, it is necessary to process norm figures and score statistically. It is necessary to include, for instance, the calculated average for the score and the norm group as well as the calculated standard deviation from the norm group.

Pros: Detailed, high level of precision, high degree of predicative value.

Cons: Take a long time to answer, difficult to interpret, low degree of communicability.

Ipsative tests

A normative test compares a person to the norm figures – i.e. the result is interpreted in relation to a reference material of other people.

Ipsative testing compares various traits in the person. In a way, the person is compared to him/herself.

When carrying out intelligence tests, an ipsative test would not show the general intelligence level in relation to the norm, but show something about the strengths and weaknesses in a person’s cognitive function.

An ipsative test would not show how high or low a person scores in verbal and mathematical intelligence but rather that the focus person is stronger in, say, the verbal than the mathematical part of the intelligence test.

Ipsative tests applies forced choice among several answers. The response technique can vary in the choice of different basic expression in a series that the test person has to choose from and thereby excluding the remaining possibilities. The technique is called ‘forced choice’ and it enables you to provide a fairly accurate feedback about the test person even on the basis of a limited number of choices.

Pros: Do not take long to answer, easy to understand, high degree of communicability.

Cons: Low degree of detail, lower accuracy, typologically descriptive and not traits.

The mixed types

Some test concepts mix the basic score techniques and test types.

For instance, they apply the ‘forced choice’ score technique otherwise attached to ipsative testing – but the result is shown in the same way as with normative testing.

Since it is impossible to calculate standard deviations, average, norm figures, etc. in a forced choice score, the person is compared to estimated or more ‘fictitious’ norm figures.

Accuracy and validity in these types of test are therefore lower than with real normative testing.

Pros: Do not take long to answer

Cons: Low degree of detail, lower accuracy

Displaying the result – the report

The score is often displayed graphically as well as via written interpretation.

Whether columns, lines or some sort of network is used, is a matter of taste. General practice has shown that a column chart is easier to read when the relation between different factors are important to the general interpretation.

The textual feedback is based on an interpretation of the quantitative data and therefore more subjective than the charts. The idea behind the written interpretation is to make the result more comprehensible by creating pictures of the current situation depicting how the result may influence concrete situations.