The 16 Personality Factor Test (16PF) - Full Guide & Preparation

What is the 16PF Test?

The 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire is a personality test that contains 185 items presenting everyday situations. Based on their answers, respondents receive scores that rank them across 16  core personality factors. The test isn't timed, but takes between 30 minutes to 50 minutes to complete. 

The questions are multiple choice, with three options - agree, disagree, and neither agree nor disagree. The 16PF test was developed back in 1949 by Dr. Raymond Cattell, and has been further researched and developed since leading to the current fifth version. 

The 16 PF assessment is unlike many other personality tests for a number of reasons:

  • You are asked to respond to statements regarding scenarios, as opposed to directly answering about your own personality.
  • The test produces an accurate analysis of where you stand in 16 different personality traits (derived from the big five model), more than most personality tests. This, alongside the accessible language it uses, allows it to be used in a broad range of fields, from human resources to counseling. 
  • The 16PF assessment has been in use for longer than most personality tests, meaning it is has been fine-tuned based on many years of research and countless respondents

Read more about Cattell's 16 personality factors. 


Sample 16PF Test Questions

The following 16PF test questions are close representations of what you will face when taking the test, and will give you a glimpse of what the test feels like and what it aims to find out about you.

Tip: there is no "one size fits all" answer in this test - it depends greatly on the purpose for which you've been asked to take the test. 


My thoughtfulness and charitable nature are my foundation. 


What lies behind this question?

Each question in the test is related to at least one personality factor (oftentimes a question will reflect upon several), and in this case the question is primarily about Warmth. 

If you are applying for a position that involves caretaking, such as nursing, this question and the Warmth factor could be central. 


I continue until everything is perfect. 


Perfectionism is another of the 16 factors, and sometimes, such is the case in this question, you can understand what the question is about through a key word - Perfect. 

although many people might think being high in perfectionism is always a positive thing, it isn't this simple. 

Some employers actually seek candidates who can tolerate disorder, in which case a high level of perfectionism could be negative.  



I am not especially interested in abstract ideas.


This question focuses on the Reasoning factor, which moves on a scale from concrete to abstract. 

The tendency for abstract thinking is essential in some fields, and less so in others. While you should always answer honestly, understanding what lies behind the questions can help you reflect the aspects of your personality which best portray your strengths. 


How to Prepare for the 16PF Questionnaire

Although many people believe that personality tests require no preparation, this is a misconception that could lead to you missing out on your goals. Understanding the theory behind personality tests and experiencing what it's like to take one can help ensure your answers reflect your abilities in the best way.

With JobTestPrep's accurate 16PF test preparation pack you will receive everything you need in order to pass the test. 

How the Sixteen Personality Factor Test Was Developed

Raymond Cattell was a British psychologist best known for his work in developing the 16 PF personality test. He was one of the pioneers of factor analysis, a statistical technique used to identify clusters of related personality traits within large amounts of data.

Through this method, he developed a personality theory that helps understand the underlying patterns of behavior and emotions that create personality. The sixteen factors of the test, such as Emotional Stability, are those that Cattell determined through his research would best encapsulate the human personality. 

The test is designed to be self-administered and consists of a series of questions that assess an individual's opinions, attitudes, and behaviors. The results are then compared to norms and can be used to make predictions about an individual's future behavior or to diagnose certain behavioral problems and personality disorders.

The results also help determine a wide range of underlying personality traits, such as self awareness, or how self satisfied or free thinking someone is.

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The 16 Personality Factors

One of the most unique attributes of Cattell's 16 Personality Factors test is the wide range of traits that it includes. Each one of these factors is in fact a scale between two opposing traits, and your answers on the test will place you somewhere along this scale on each factor. 

One end of the scale reflects someone in whom the factor is very dominant, while the other end reflects someone in whom the factor is almost non-existent.

Let's review each of the 16 personality factors, and the scale that belongs to each one:

  1. Warmth - Reserved vs Warm
  2. Reasoning - Concrete vs Abstract 
  3. Emotional Stability - Reactive vs Emotionally Stable
  4. Dominance - Deferential vs Dominant
  5. Liveliness - Serious vs Lively 
  6. Rule Consciousness - Expedient vs Rule-conscious 
  7. Social Boldness - Shy vs Socially Bold
  8. Sensitivity - Utilitarian vs Sensitive
  9. Vigilance - Vigilant vs Trusting
  10. Abstractedness - Grounded vs Abstract
  11. Privacy - Forthright vs Private
  12. Apprehensiveness - Self-assured vs Apprehensive  
  13. Openness to Change - Traditional vs Open to Change
  14. Self-reliance - Group-oriented vs Self-reliant 
  15. Perfectionism - Tolerates Disorder vs Perfectionist 
  16. Tension - Relaxed vs Tense

A Personal Career Profile - The PF16 Career Success Report

Your PF16 Test results also depict the general career areas that you are best suited for based on your personality, which can help you plan your career development. There are seven career areas included in the career success report:

  • Influencing - describes your ability to convince and direct others, in order to exert control over others in important matter. This attribute is necessary in management, sales, or politics. 
  • Organizing - describes your ability to manage and supervise, with a focus on organizational details. A generally useful attribute for any type of supervisory work. 
  • Helping - describes your ability to solve problems through discussing issues and encouraging others. Essential in education, social services and other humanistic professions. 
  • Creating - describes your ability to express yourself creatively, and is a common attribute among artists or professionals whose job contains creative elements, such as design. 
  • Analyzing - describes your ability investigate, observe and solve problems in a work setting. People with this attribute tend to be attracted to solution oriented professions such as engineering and medicine. 
  • Producing - people in whom this tendency is strong tend to prefer systematic work with tools and machines, being self sufficient, as well as outdoor work.
  • Adventuring - these types are drawn to physically demanding, self disciplined, tough minded and competitive work with some degree of danger, such as law enforcement. 

The PF16 is frequently used by law enforcement to select candidates. Learn more about the police psych test, and becoming a police officer.  

Understanding Your 16PF Test Scores

How Your 16 PF Answers Are Scored

Each of the 16 personality factor questionnaire questions has three options, each of which is given a different value. The approval answer choice (True/Agree) is ranked as a 3, the question mark answer choice (?/Neither Agree Nor Disagree) is ranked as a 2, and the anti-approval answer choice (False/Disagree) is ranked as a 1.

After you have completed the 16PF, your answers will be scored and summarized in a report which will explain exactly how you rank across each of the 16 factors.

The score report outlines your personality-based strengths and weaknesses. Since Cattell's 16 Personality Factors test is so versatile, the report can be used for many different purposes, from helping employers select new employees or develop existing ones to assisting counselors understand their clients.

For professional purposes, the traits measured serve as useful indicators of your learning abilities, problem solving skills, stress coping, interpersonal attitudes work styles, and overall professional effectiveness.  

Preparing for Personality Tests with JobTestPrep

In order to prepare for a personality test such as the sixteen personality factor questionnaire understanding the theory behind it is your first step. On the one hand, you certainly want to be truthful and present yourself as you really are, but at the same time you want to be sure that you don't fall for the many pitfalls that these tests present. 

At JobTestPrep, we have been preparing candidates for for over thirty years, and based our preparation on vast experience and research. To learn more about the your psychological assessment and the prep that we offer, and to read more about the fascinating theory behind many of the most widely used tests being used today, follow the links below:


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