The World of Work Project

The Big Five Personality Test

The big five personality test looks at five core components of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Individuals can have high or low levels of each trait. This test is one of the more accepted tests from an evidence perspective.

Summary by The World of Work Project

The Big Five Personality Test

The big 5 personality test is a behavioral continuum assessment of personality. The model is sometimes known as the OCEAN or CANOE model after the five scalar personality characteristics it is based on: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

As it is a continuum model the Big 5 doesn’t consider Jungian dichotomies. Instead, it is based on the premise that individuals can be anywhere along the scales associated with the characteristics of the model. How far along each continuum individuals are is determined through a series of questions.

It’s worth noting that the OCEAN model is one of the most empirically tested and respected of the models that are popular at the moment.

The Big Five Personality Characteristics

The Big Five model looks at Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. In some circles these are considered to be the core traits of personality. We’ve summarized the traits below, but other definitions are available on the internet.


Openness reflects curiosity, creativity and seeking novelty as opposed to routine. Open people appreciate the arts, adventures and unusual ideas and take more risks, but may lack focus or be unpredictable. They like careers in the arts and value self-actualization.

Less open people are fulfilled through perseverance and are pragmatic and data driven. They may be considered dogmatic or inflexible.

Open people appreciate the arts. Perhaps.


Conscientious people are dependable, dutiful, self-disciplined, structured and like to have a plan. They generally work towards a goal in a focused way. They can be perceived as stubborn.

Low conscientiousness individuals are flexible and spontaneous, but can also come across as sloppy and unreliable.


Extroverts seek stimulation and derive energy from others. They are energetic, talkative, sociable and assertive. They may be considered attention-seeking or domineering.

Low levels of extroversion, i.e. introverts, are reserved. They seek time alone to recharge and are less dominant in social settings. They may be considered aloof, distant or self-absorbed.


Agreeable individuals value people, cooperation and compassion. They  trust and see the best in people, like to help and are good-tempered. Highly agreeable people might be considered gullible, na├»ve or submissive.

Individuals with low agreeableness can be argumentative, untrustworthy, antagonistic, suspicious  of others, challenging and competitive.

This looks like an agreeable moment.


Neurotic people tend towards stress, worry, anxiety, perhaps anger and even depression. Highly neurotic people are less emotional stable than others. Low neuroticism results in stability and control, but might come across as unempathetic, uninspiring, undynamic of even boring.

High levels of neuroticism can create excitable people, but can also leads to worse psychological health.

Taking the Big Five Test

The big five test is available for free on the internet. There is currently a fair bit of research being done in relation to it, so if you do find a place to do it and they ask if they can use your data / results, please say yes.

We recommend completing the test here as part of the open source psychometrics project.

The World of Work Project View

We have significant doubts about personality tests in general, but this is the one which stands out as having the most credibility. It appears to be the most accepted of the tests currently being used, in terms of having evidence relating to its outcomes.

Our doubts in relation to personality tests are many and varied, but the key point for here is that we think many of them are over-relied upon. They can potentially be useful as a self-discovery tool or as team building activity, but we don’t think any serious decisions should be made based upon them.

We also think it’s important to point out that individuals don’t need to live within the definitions of their personality descriptions, and they shouldn’t use them as excuses for their behaviors.

For example saying “My OCEAN test said I’ve got low levels of agreeableness so that’s why I act the way I do” isn’t acceptable. Individuals need to own their own behaviors and grow and develop as people so that they manage themselves and work effectively with others.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post has been informed primarily by our experiences over our careers and the various tests that we’ve undertaken. It’s also been influenced by general reading on the Big Five test from a series of articles as well from the Open Source Psychometrics Project.

If you’d like to take the test, don’t forget you can do so for free here.


If you see any errors on this page or have any feedback, please contact us.

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