What is the Big Five Personality Test?

big 5 personality test brainAs potential job seekers are researching the internet for personality tests, they may come across references to the Big Five Personality Test and wonder what it is. The Big Five Personality Test is a test that measures the “big five” personality markers of a person. It is also commonly referred to as the Five Factor Model. From an employment standpoint, don’t stress about what the Big Five Personality Test is. It is not used for job application purposes, only in research settings to measure personality traits.


The five personality traits that are measured with the test are:

  • Openness to Experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

These five factors were the result of an evolution of academic research on personality traits, tracing back to research in 1961. They are occasionally referred to as the acronym CANOE or OCEAN. Ironically, there were four separate sets of researchers over time working on personality research that independently generated conclusions that were condensed to the five factors to measure personality.

The traits are commonly summarized as:

Openness to Experience

Individuals that score high on Openness to Experience typically possess an open mind to new ideas, trying new experiences and emotions and have a vivid imagination.


Individuals that score high on Conscientiousness tend to have a high attention to detail, carry out their tasks, aspire to have a routine and like planned order.


Predictably, those that score high on in the extraversion trait scale are outgoing, interact with strangers, are comfortable around different groups of people and are conversation starters.


The agreeableness factor measures how a person relates to others, is willing to agree with and get along with others, as well as assist others for a common good. Higher scores indicate that someone is able to put aside personal differences to do so.


Neuroticism refers to a person’s anxiety, mood swings, jealously, and level of worry. Those that score with higher levels of neuroticism tend to carry traits of depressions, guilt, anger and tend to respond very negatively to stress points.

Big Five Personality Test Makeup

Taking the test will generate a result that will place you in one of several personality categories. The test is 50 questions that are framed as statements about personality and emotional tendencies. The scale in which to answer them is based on a checkbox response based on inaccurate, neutral and accurate statements

An example question could be:

“I make plans and I stick to them”            Inaccurate – Neutral – Accurate

Other test may offer a wider scale for answers for a similar question between the check boxes such as:

Disagree strongly – Disagree – Disagree a little – Neutral; no opinion – Agree a little – Agree – Agree strongly

Answering a series of these types of questions generates a score across each of the 5 factors, along with a percentile rating. Example results could be:

Extroversion – raw score of 88 in the 95th percentile of those that took the test. This result would indicate that the participant is very outgoing and social.

What is critical to understand is that unlike the Wonderlic or Myers-Briggs, the Big Five Personality is not used in job application or interview settings. Several sites that offer the practice test provide disclaimers and guidance that specific test results should only be used for casual or entertainment purposes, not for official psychological evaluations. Additionally, many sites ask a variety of questions that deal with a test taker’s family background, geography and political orientation before giving the results. These extra questions vary from test to test.

The important takeaway about what the Big Five Personality Test is that it is an informal test that measures a person’s personality traits as it relates to the big give personality markers that can make up a person’s overall mental traits. This test is not used for any official purposes, making it different from other various tests that users may take to prepare for job application.