Ipsative Tests – Key Facts

  • Ipsative tests describe the way the questions are presented, normally in the case of Personality assessment.
  • Ipsative tests use a forced-choice format, where you are required to choose an item that is ‘most’ like you and one that is ‘least’ like you from four equally attractive options. 
  • Employers use ipsative tests because they are less easier to ‘fake’ unlike ‘Normative‘ tests
  • Practice will reduce your anxieties, help you prepare and give you a better chance to succeed on the day

What are Ipsative Tests

Assessments for recruitment or development are normally undertaken online where an individual is required to self-assess by completing an online test or questionnaire. These assessments measure the extent of one’s ability or preferences.

The design of the questions used in a personality assessment can vary; these can be ‘normative’, ‘ipsative’ or even ‘nipsative’. See section on ‘normative‘ and ‘nipsative‘ for more information.

‘Ipsative’ questionnaires are often used in personality assessments and the term ‘ipsative’ indicates the use of questions that consist of 3 or 4 equally attractive behavioural statements from which the user has to choose one statement that is ‘most’ like them and one that is ‘least’ like them. The challenge here emerges when the choice has to be made between the comparative statements that are equally attractive.

The benefits of these assessments are that they are difficult to distort by the user. The items force a test taker to make a difficult choice between items that are all attractive and these types of assessments are very useful in recruitment settings, where the likelihood of individuals trying to portray a positive image is heightened.

The downside of these assessments is that the responses and scores are ranked by the test taker, and it is difficult to achieve normal distributions – a pre-requisite of the statistics which are subsequently applied – with only a small number of scales. For personality questionnaires and inventories that are more specific like SHL’s OPQ, these are ideal. However, this does not mean that smaller scales cannot be used to design an ipsative assessment that functions correctly.

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