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Psychometrics Spotlight: The 16PF Personality Questionnaire


In the second of a new series putting the range of psychometric tests under the spotlight we look at Raymond Cattell’s 16PF questionnaire.

The 16PF® questionnaire was developed by Raymond Cattell in 1949 and it has been continually enhanced and updated. In creating the 16PF questionnaire, Cattell sought to create a tool that could capture every observable trait of human behaviour and to analyse the factors that influence this. He therefore created a framework that accounted for the full range of observable human behaviour rather than being theory-based.

For ease of use, these traits were categorised into sixteen personality factors. Each of these factors represents a related collection of behaviours, such as how somebody responds to new situations or the way they will act in a group of people. These sixteen factors can be combined into a further five groups. For example, deeper understanding of an individual’s style of interaction with others and behaviour in social situations can be gained by looking at the results of many of the factors together.

The 16PF questionnaire is now widely used in selection and in development. It is trait-based, meaning that it shows the extent to which somebody will act in a certain way, rather than categorising them.

The names of the factors cannot fully capture what it is being measured and it is therefore important to understand what is being measured by each one. They are:

Desire to develop close relationships with others.
Extent to which you can solve numerical and verbal problems.
Emotional Stability
How calmly you respond to life’s demands.
Tendency to want to control others.
How freely and spontaneously somebody will express themselves.
How much value is placed on externally imposed rules.
Social boldness
How much at ease you feel in social situations.
Extent to which emotions and sentiments influence outlook and judgement.
The extent to which you are cautious of others’ motives.
How much attention is given to abstract rather than concrete observations.
How much you like to keep personal information to yourself.
How much you are prone to self-criticism.
Openness to change
Extent to which you enjoy new situations and experiences.
How much you enjoy your own company and trusting your own judgement.
Need to rely on structure rather than leaving things to chance.
How easily situations can cause you frustration.

The feedback provided by the 16PF questionnaire enables individuals to understand and predict how they will behave in a given scenario and how they approach daily situations. It is easy to apply in both occupational and non-occupational settings. These include:

The behaviours assessed by the 16PF questionnaire can be mapped against those required for a role. For example, employers recruiting for a client-facing role can measure the extent to which candidates enjoy building relationships with people. Although these results are very incisive, the 16PF questionnaire should not be used as the sole selection method. The results are most informative when analysed along with the outcome of structured interviews, and can also be used to inform interview questions.

Management development
Similar to a selection context, results from the 16PF questionnaire can highlight areas which may hold the individual back from performing well in a management context. This informs the identification of development needs.

Career guidance
The skills needed for particular roles can be matched against the results of the 16PF questionnaire. These can provide guidance as to the suitability of an individual for a particular role, and where there is a gap, to advise career development.

Team building
16PF profiles can highlight areas that are likely to facilitate effective team working and also any that might lead to conflict. Teams then have an increased understanding of how they can work most effectively together and can create development plans where necessary.

The 16PF questionnaire can be administered either manually or electronically. Reports can then be generated, which provide a profile of the individual. These give more detailed analysis of the results, within different contexts, such as development and selection. In keeping with best practice, this information should then be fed back to the individual, providing the opportunity for discussion.

For further information, please contact OPP on 08708 728727 or visit the website at

® 16PF is a registered trade mark of the Institute for Personality & Ability Testing, Inc (IPAT). IPAT is a wholly owned subsidiary of OPP Limited. ® OPP is a registered trade mark of OPP Limited.

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