Big Five Personality Test: What does it say about you?

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Big Five Personality Test: What does it say about you?

Who are you really? What makes you, what distinguishes you from others? And if there are ways to find out - how can you benefit from this knowledge? Will it help you live a better life? Personality tests are supposed to show us where our strengths and weaknesses lie and how we can develop ourselves further. The Big Five personality test is one of the most frequently conducted personality tests of the present.

The test describes personality on the basis of five central characteristics, the so-called OCEAN model. How meaningful is it - and how can it help you realize yourself and tap your full potential? Find out here.

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What are the "Big Five"?

The Big Five are basic your personality traitswhich are more or less pronounced in every human being. They represent something like a basic inventory of human ways of experiencing and reacting. Here is a brief overview in keywords:

O - Openness; the willingness to open up to new information and experiences, tolerance and curiosity;
C - Conscientiousness; the tendency to proceed systematically and according to plan, an eye for detail and a love of order, reliability and consistency, Need for predictability;
E - Extraversion; the tendency to be sociable, talkative, and generally more outwardly oriented; the opposite represents introversion - the tendency to withdraw into oneself or to live in a relatively narrow circle of friends and acquaintances.
A - Agreeableness; good ability in dealing with others, friendliness and diplomacy, seeking closeness with others;
N - Neuroticism; a tendency to be anxious, to be Brooding and to problem-focused thinking with increased susceptibility to stress. Neuroticism is a factor of psychological instability; psychologically stable individuals usually have a low neuroticism factor.

The OCEAN model

At first glance, these characteristics seem arbitrary and also a little sobering. Only these five characteristics are supposed to make up a person? Aren't there many more personality traits that need to be taken into account? Or can you really reduce a person to these five traits?

To do this, one must know: The OCEAN model (also known as the CANOE model) is actually an intermediate result in a long process of scientific theory building. In this process, groups of researchers summarized the multitude of characteristics that can be summed up under the term "personality" into groups of similar or related characteristics, which in turn were further reduced.

Thus, these five characteristics remained as the core inventory of personality. It may not be possible to form a complete personality description with them. But they do cover a large part of what constitutes human behavior and experience. The five traits of the OCEAN model comprise more than just one trait: Each one represents complex action and reaction tendencies with many facets.

How did the Big Five personality test come about?

The concepts that led to the Big Five personality model date back to the 1920s. Psychologists and researchers such as C.G. Jung or H.J. Eysenck, G.W. Allport, R.B. Cattell and many others contributed terms, theories and models to describe personality in the first half of the last century. Subsequent researchers took them up and developed them further in a professional discussion that continues to this day. Numerous scientific studies were (and still are) conducted and published on this topic, with five personality traits increasingly becoming the focus of research groups over the course of time.

The term "Big Five" was first introduced in 1981 by American psychologist Lewis R. Goldberg to express that these five characteristics have general validity for all people. The Big Five personality model has since been tested and refined in many tests and studies. In the process, psychological research groups developed various test procedures that differ in the number of questions and the characteristics covered.

Thus, the NEO-PI-R test by Paul T. Costa and Robert R. McCrae, 240 questions, while their shortened test version NEO-FFI (NEO Five-Factor Inventory) manages with only 60 questions. Other versions, such as the B5T (Big Five Test) by L. Satow (2012), integrate additional questions to obtain information about strong basic motives - for example, the desire for power, recognition, or security. Thus, the Big Five personality model became the basis for a large number of test inventories, some of which focus on very different questions.

What can a "Big Five" test do?

In its simplest form, a Big Five personality test shows how strongly or weakly each of the five personality traits is expressed in a test person. With its help, fundamental dimensions of human experience and behavior can be measured and correlated with other characteristics - for example, job satisfaction or the frequency of certain illnesses. In this way, the Big Five personality test not only provides an individual personality description. It also allows assessments of how comfortable a particular person feels in specific work environments or what types of risky behavior he or she should watch out for, and much more.

Important to know: Each of the five traits represents a continuum where the test-taker falls somewhere between a high score (very strongly expressed) or a low score (very weakly expressed). For example, one may be very extroverted and agreeable, but at the same time not very conscientious. Or very conscientious, moderately extroverted and hardly neurotic. All possible combinations can occur. They allow conclusions to be drawn about how a person behaves, reacts and feels under certain conditions or how they get along with other people.

How does the "Big Five" personality test work?

The test result comes from a self-description using standardized questionnaires (inventories or inventories). During the test, subjects can either agree or disagree with various statements about themselves. All answers taken together allow an assessment of how strongly each of the five OCEAN factors is pronounced in the test person.

For example, a statement might read, "I like to travel and learn about foreign cultures." This question is aimed at the "openness" factor. Another question aimed at the "agreeableness" factor could read: "I love lively conversations with other people. Choices to check off would then be something like "completely agree," "tend to agree," "tend not to agree," or "not at all agree." Some tests also work with more than four possible answers.

Each answer results in a certain number of points. The scores are then added together for each of the five factors. The result shows for each OCEAN characteristic whether it is weak, average, above average or even strong in the test person.

Can you cheat on the personality test?

Of course, it is possible to answer questions misleadingly when describing yourself. The temptation is strong to answer yes to a question like "I love to do my job conscientiously and without mistakes" in an employment test, even if the opposite is true. Who wants to admit that in front of others? Some test inventories integrate special test questions to assess whether a respondent answers questions truthfully or not. If the answers indicate a high probability of deception, the test result is not very meaningful - except as far as the intention to deceive is concerned.

One should ask oneself whether it is really purposeful to describe oneself inaccurately in a recruitment test. If the test person overemphasizes qualities that are generally considered desirable, this can backfire if, for example, a completely different personality profile is required. Or if one pretends to be a sociable, communicative and sociable person and later feels uncomfortable both in a team and in constant customer contact. And even if you only take the Big Five Test for yourself, you still want accurate feedback. Anything else would be a waste of time and self-deception.

Where and how is the "Big Five" test used?

Companies and personnel agencies use the Big Five Test to create applicant profiles. In addition, of course, it is still used in psychological research to expand our knowledge of the psychology of personality and its many effects. Private individuals use personality tests such as the Big Five Test, the DISG, MBTI or Insights to learn more about themselves.

Where are my strengths, where are my weaknesses - and what can I do to get ahead in life? When these questions are answered reliably, personality tests facilitate career planning and the personal development and development. That is why they also play an important role in the Coaching play a major role when it comes to developing and promoting individual potential.

How accurately can the test describe me?

A personality is not like a cabinet with different compartments, where everything is kept in order and separated from each other. The OCEAN factors are multi-layered in themselves and interconnected in many ways. In addition, people show different sides of themselves in different environments and situations. In the private circle of family or friends, one is not a completely different person than in the workplace.

But there are still very different requirements, relationships and conditions that are encountered there. So we will make use of our abilities to different degrees at different times. Our ability to communicate, to be comfortable with others, to absorb new things, to be thorough and conscientious, and so on.

Apart from these situational dynamics, the Big Five Test primarily attempts to capture relatively permanent features of personality. Long-term studies were able to show that the test scores of young people often changed little over the course of their lives. Only for the traits openness and agreeableness did the researchers show a tendency to increase - the older they get, the better many people learn to relate to others.

What about personality development?

The interaction between heredity and environmental factors also plays a central role in the Personality Development. Research groups have been able to demonstrate in twin studies, among other things, that about 40 to 60 percent of the expression of the Big Five personality traits can be traced back to genetic factors.

We are therefore given fundamental orientations and reaction patterns as a disposition on our way through life. Developmental psychologists refer to this as the "nature and nurture" interrelationship: We receive the foundations of our personality traits as a biological inheritance (nature), but they must be nurtured and nourished (nurture) in order to emerge and develop.

So it's quite possible that we have hidden potential that the Big Five Test doesn't reveal - simply because we haven't had the opportunity to make use of it yet. So it can certainly depict fundamental strengths and weaknesses. However, it does not allow us to make any statements about the extent to which we can develop beyond this framework.

DISG® vs. Big Five
Personality test models in comparison


focuses on four predominant types of behaviour
different behavioural characteristics in different situations
the world's leading tool for optimizing communication and interpersonal relationships
shows the influence of personality on behaviour
easy to use and remember

Big Five

also known as the OCEAN or five-factor model
measures the 5 main dimensions of personality: openness to experience, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism
the world's most famous personality test
difficult practical application due to individual expressions on scales instead of types
Neuroticism as a trait has a negative social connotation and, depending on the outcome, often leads to Dissatisfaction After the test

Are there alternatives to the "Big Five" test?

The psychological testing landscape is tremendously diverse. By no means all test procedures deal with personality. Variables such as intelligence, orientation, Motivation, depressiveness, insecurity in social contacts and much more can now be reliably tested. In the field of personality tests, there are also many others, which can often also be used free of charge online:

  • DISG (in English DISC);
  • Insights Discovery;
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI);
  • Gallup Strengths Finder;
  • Enneagram;
  • Profiles according to Reiss;
  • the Bochum Inventory for Job-Related Personality Assessment (BIP)
  • and many more.

So the question is not whether there are alternatives, but which test best measures what you want to learn about yourself. It probably makes the least sense to randomly try one personality test after another. You'll just collect a lot of unrelated statements about yourself, at best confusing and at worst giving you the feeling that you're a chaotic mess of conflicting impulses and talents. This is of no use to anyone - especially since many psychological tests often only become clear when you talk to a competent coach or psychologist. Potential and opportunities can be clearly seen.

If you want to develop further, you should take your time - also with regard to psychological diagnostics. Every test measures something different or is based on different psychological models and assumptions. If you want to get to know yourself better, it is advisable to first create a solid basis and from there clarify more specific questions.

Start now with your individual personality development

The DISG test you free of charge on our homepage, gives you such a basic orientation. Instead of five characteristics as in the "Big Five" test, it is based on four points: Dominance, Initiative, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. It thus takes a similar approach to the Big Five test, but defines a slightly different spectrum of personality traits.

The advantage of the DISG model is that it allows you to reliably assess not only yourself, but also others - simply based on their self-expressions and behaviors. If you learn to assess yourself and others with the help of the DISG model, you can quickly find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. It also tells you what to look for when dealing with others and how to persuade people by addressing them in the right way.

This is a good introduction to working with and on oneself. It considers from the beginning how different personality styles harmonize with each other or how problems arise when different personalities clash. In this way, you can give yourself the basic tools to learn more about yourself and become more aware of your reactions and behaviors.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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