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Study Guide for the NEO Personality Inventory Test: with Tips

Study Guide for the NEO Personality Inventory Test: with Tips
Study Guide for the NEO Personality Inventory Test: with Tips

The NEO Personality Inventory is a psychometric tool used to evaluate personality traits.

It is acknowledged globally and is used by recruiters and employers before hiring and, more broadly, to evaluate career potential.

The NEO Personality Inventory test is heavily associated with the 'Five-Factor Model' (which you may also know as the 'Big Five Personality Test') to identify personality traits.

It is widely believed that each person's personality can be broken down into five main categories. The NEO PI personality test looks at each of these five categories separately to create an understanding of who you are.

In this article, we'll look at the NEO PI test, why employers use it, and what you could expect if invited to participate in a NEO Personality Inventory test.

What Is the NEO Personality Inventory Test?

The NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI) is a widely used personality assessment tool that measures five major dimensions of personality:

  • Neuroticism (N)
  • Extraversion (E)
  • Openness (O)
  • Agreeableness (A)
  • Conscientiousness (C)

The five personality traits also spell out the words OCEAN or CANOE. Therefore, you may also see it referred to by these acronyms.

The test, sometimes referred to as the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI R test), was first developed in the 1980s by Paul T. Costa and Robert R. McCrae, two psychologists who worked at the National Institute on Aging in the United States.

The NEO PI uses a statistical technique called factor analysis, which identifies patterns in large amounts of data.

The test consists of 240 items that are rated on a Likert scale. Respondents are asked to indicate how much they agree or disagree with statements about themselves.

The NEO PI aims to assess an individual's personality traits comprehensively. The five dimensions measured by the test are believed to be universal and stable over time.

In addition, they are related to a range of important life outcomes, including academic and occupational success, mental health and physical health.

The NEO PI is used by psychologists, researchers and other professionals in various settings, including clinical and counseling psychology, educational and vocational counseling and research on personality and individual differences.

It is also commonly used in employee selection and other workplace settings to assess job fit and performance.

The Formats of the NEO Personality Test

The NEO PI test is widely accepted to be suitable for use across various ages and cultures, delivering a comprehensive insight into an individual's personality traits.

Its use is so intuitive that it has even been deemed applicable for use with individuals whose first language is not English.

If a potential employer invites you to a NEO Personality Inventory test, you may wish to confirm which type of test you are being asked to sit.

Over the years, the test has evolved and adapted. Two distinct types of tests are commonly introduced under the umbrella of the NEO PI test:

  • The NEO-PI-3
  • The NEO-FFI (Five-Factor Inventory)

How Do the Two Tests Differ?

The NEO-PI-3 is the most recent version of the original NEO PI test.

It includes more detailed descriptions of each personality trait and more precise measurements of sub-traits. It also includes new facets and updated norms based on a more diverse sample.

The NEO-PI-3 takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete and has 240 behavior descriptions. Most of the test is self-reporting, but there is also a section for external observation.

The NEO-FFI is a shorter version of the NEO PI, with 60 behavior items assessed across the five personality domains.

It is designed for use when time is limited and is generally used for screening and selection purposes.

The NEO-FFI takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

When Are They Used?

Both assessments have been widely used in research and practice, including in employment settings.

Employers may use personality assessments to aid in selection and placement decisions, as well as in career development and coaching.

The choice of assessment will depend on the organization's specific needs, the resources available and the goals of the assessment.

Is There a Preference for Which Test Is Best?

The NEO-PI-3 is considered a more comprehensive assessment of personality, with greater precision and depth of measurement, making it well-suited for research or more in-depth evaluation.

The NEO-FFI, on the other hand, is a more streamlined assessment that may be better suited for use in screening or selection situations where time is a limiting factor.

Ultimately, the choice between these assessments will depend on the specific needs and goals of the organization.

Neo PI Test: Five Personality Traits

To understand the purpose of the NEO PI test, it's important to understand how it assesses your personality in the context of the five main personality traits.


Also linked to: Actions, Aesthetics, Fantasy, Feelings, Ideas, Values

This aspect of a person's character describes how receptive they are to new experiences in the world around them.

On a scale that ranges from 'closed' at one end to 'open' at the other, openness can be assessed anywhere along that scale.

A high openness score indicates that you are creative, inventive, at ease with abstract ideas and adventurous.

However, it also indicates that you may have trouble focusing and be prone to acting in surprising ways.

You may be dependable, work regularly and be cautious if you have a low openness score. But on the flip side, you may also appear close-minded because you fear and resist change.


Also linked to: Competence, Orderliness, Dutifulness, Achievement-Striving, Self-Discipline, Deliberation

Your dependability, organizational skills and level of self-discipline are all indicators of your level of conscientiousness.

It also examines how effectively you can regulate your impulses. This characteristic is evaluated on a scale that ranges from 'spontaneous' to 'conscientious'.

A high score indicates that you are well-organized, efficient, attentive to details and hard-working; yet, people may view you as stubborn and inflexible due to your high score.

A low conscientiousness score shows that you are easygoing and flexible. However, you could also be considered impulsive, thoughtless or unorganized.


Also linked to: Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement-Seeking, Positive Emotions

The trait known as extraversion refers to a person's propensity to hunt for excitement in other people. People with a high level of extraversion are prone to having traits such as attention-seeking or being viewed as bossy or overbearing.

If you have low extraversion, you tend to be quieter and more reflective, but you may also be seen as cold and unapproachable.


Also linked to: Trusting, Straightforwardness, Altruism, Compliance, Modesty, Tenderness

This is where your personality is explored in the context of your relationships with others.

It's about how you treat others, whether you are empathetic and trusting of others or aloof and skeptical of them. This characteristic is evaluated on a scale that ranges from 'hostile' to 'agreeable'.

A high score suggests you are cooperative, kind, caring and interested in people. However, you may act submissively to avoid offending, and others could exploit your trust.

If you have a low agreeableness score, it indicates that you are analytical and competitive. Still, you have difficulty trusting others; you could be perceived as manipulative in some scenarios.


Also linked to: Anxiety, Anger/Hostility, Depression, Self-Consciousness, Impulsiveness, Vulnerability to Stress

Neuroticism can also be viewed as emotional stability. It gives an insight into how you behave if you are impacted by adversity. On a scale from 'steady' to 'neurotic', this quality can be described as either.

A high neuroticism score indicates that you are sensitive and tense, worry a lot, are susceptible to the negative effects of stress and experience mood fluctuations.

A low score indicates that you are calm, secure, able to deal well with stress and are emotionally stable.

How Is the NEO PI Test Scored?

The NEO PI consists of 240 items rated on a five-point scale, ranging from 'strongly disagree' to 'strongly agree'. The scoring of the test involves several steps.

Raw scores are computed for each of the five domains and their corresponding facets.

The raw scores are then transformed into standardized T-scores (with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10), allowing for easier individual comparisons.

A narrative report is generated based on the T-scores, which provides an in-depth analysis of an individual's personality traits, including strengths, weaknesses and potential areas for growth.

There's no pass or fail mark, and your results could be a mix of personalities.

For example, you could have a high openness score, a mid-point neuroticism score, a low-to-mid extraversion score, a low agreeableness score and a high conscientiousness factor.

The potential mishmash of personality types is why a trained professional interprets the results, such as a psychologist or counselor.

It's important that a trained person can analyze the results alongside the context of that individual's background to gauge a true insight into their personality.

It's important to note that the NEO PI is a self-report measure, meaning that the accuracy of the results depends on the individual's willingness and ability to answer the questions truthfully and accurately.

Additionally, the test should not be used as the sole basis for making important decisions, such as hiring or clinical diagnosis, but rather as a tool to aid in understanding an individual's personality.

NEO Personality Inventory Test: Tips and Study Guide
NEO Personality Inventory Test: Tips and Study Guide

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How Will You Receive the Results of Your NEO PI Assessment?

A report will be given to the employer, you or both of you.

It will contain a separate summary and score for each section. As determined by the test, the characteristics of your personality type will be broken down and categorized according to each of the five personality factors.

The scores will be graded (using high, medium or low), and the benefits that come along with that grading will be summed up as well.

To aid the interpretation of the test, you can expect to receive a visual report, making it much simpler to comprehend and compare with the outcomes of other studies.

Can You Fake the Results of a NEO Personality Inventory Test?

The NEO PI test aims to assess your personality, so you must be as open and honest as possible to ensure that you receive an accurate assessment.

Research has shown that it is much easier to 'fake' conscientiousness than fake traits relating to openness and agreeableness.

However, for the most part, it's generally believed that most candidates won't know how to fake their responses for a personality test, which is why they are deemed relatively reliable.

Nevertheless, to add to the validity of the findings, the assessor will confirm the results of the psychology NEO Personality Inventory to check for any inconsistencies within responses.

Can You Prepare for the Online Neo PI Test?

The NEO PI assessment differs from other employment assessments you may be asked to take.

There are no correct or incorrect answers or any calculations that need to be remembered. Therefore, the NEO PI personality test does not require any preparation on your part.

When responding to the questions, the NEO PI test instead requires complete honesty rather than a pre-determined expectation of what you think employers want to hear.

You might find that taking a practice NEO PI test online could help you in your job search.

That's because an online NEO personality test can help you uncover personality traits that may outline whether you are right for the job you are applying for. You may find that you are ideally suited to other areas you had never considered.

Make the Most of Test Day

Be sure to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water and go into the process with an open mind, just like you would for a job interview.

Before providing an answer, think carefully about what each question is asking you.

Then, instead of giving an answer that you believe would make you a better candidate for the job, try responding in a way that accurately reflects who you are as a person.

Frequently Asked Questions

The NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI) is a widely used personality assessment tool that measures five major dimensions of personality: Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness (O), Agreeableness (A) and Conscientiousness (C).

Employers often use it as part of their hiring process to ensure they choose the right candidate for the position by focusing heavily on cultural fit.

There is no pass/fail score. In fact, the name 'test' is a bit of a misnomer. Instead, it's more of an accurate insight into your personality type.

There is little you can do to prepare for a NEO PI test other than answer the questions as openly and honestly as possible.

However, if you want to get an idea of the test format, you can take a practice NEO Personality Inventory test online before taking the real test.

The NEO Personality Inventory is a personality test used by firms all around the world. It focuses heavily on the big five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

There's no real preparation that you can do because it's not a pass/fail test. There are no formulas or grammatical tips to remember.

Instead, it's about assessing who you are as a person and whether your personality suits the job role and the company.

You may wish to use an example NEO PI test online to gain insight into your personality before you start searching for your dream job.

But it's important to note that any practice NEO personality test online will lack the nuances of the official assessment, which is assessed and analyzed by qualified professionals.

Yes, it is timed. Your allocated time limit will depend on the variation of the NEO Personality Inventory test that you are asked to sit.

The NEO-PI-3 takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete and has 240 behavior descriptions.

The NEO-FFI is a shorter version of the NEO PI, with 60 behavior items assessed across the five personality domains. It takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

You can take a free NEO Personality Inventory test online to hone your time management for the real test.

It is not possible to fail a NEO PI test unless you do not complete all the questions. This is because it's not a pass/fail test situation.

Even though certain characteristics will make some people more suitable for certain roles than others, there is no such thing as a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality type.

The NEO PI test is used globally by recruiters and businesses looking to enhance their recruitment processes. It's also heavily utilized in psychology and clinical roles where trained professionals want to get an insight into their clients' personalities.

There is no need to retake the NEO PI test because it's impossible to fail.

There is no pass mark required for the NEO PI assessment. Instead, it's about assessing your personality type to see if you are the right person for a job role.

You should answer each question honestly and openly and view the results as an opportunity to get a deeper insight into your own personality type.

This awareness can help you to identify whether you are working in the right job or whether you could be better suited elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

As with any personality test request, you should change your thought process about its purpose. For example, employers use NEO PI tests to see if you are right for the role. But you should also use it to see if the role suits you.

You can learn much about employers incorporating personality testing into their hiring processes. It could indicate that they are interested in their workforce and genuinely care about whether candidates are a good fit for the position.

The NEO PI test may be a hassle or an inconvenience, but you could use it as an opportunity. The results allow you to learn more about who you are.

We very rarely think critically about our own personalities, nor do we often have the opportunity to think about what our personality says about us to others. The NEO personality assessment gives a unique insight that could greatly benefit your future development. You may find that your personality is ideally suited to jobs you had never considered.

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