Is the MBTI® Assessment a Test?

People will often refer to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument as a personality "test" or the "MBTI test." But is it a test? The name itself suggests otherwise. The MBTI assessment is called an indicator because it is designed to sort and indicate your natural personality preferences based on your answers to the self-report questionnaire.

What does the word test mean to most people? It is an examination of abilities and skills. There are right and wrong answers, along with better or worse results, and a percentage score tells whether you pass or fail.

This is not the case for the MBTI assessment. It does not measure ability or skill, it measures personality type. There are no right or wrong answers, better or worse results, and the percentage score on the report refers to the probability of getting the same result if you took the assessment again and how accurate the results may be for you.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is not a test, it is an indicator that sorts people into preferred aspects of personality based on how they answered the items.

Not a Personality Test: We Need All Types

The real contribution of psychological type and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is the emphasis on understanding and valuing differences between people. Those who learn about type learn first to appreciate their own strengths, value their own instincts, and use these strengths to manage their lives. In addition, type teaches people to understand and value the way other people see and do things.

The essential message is that one person's way is not the only way; it is not even necessarily the best way. The strengths of all types are needed to live and work together effectively.

Not a Personality Test: Here is Why

Certain principles, that differentiate the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tool from being called a test, are critical to understanding and using type:

  • Type is believed to be inborn (innate).
  • No one type is better than another.
  • Type does not predict skills or success in any endeavor.
  • Type alone should not be used to choose a partner, a career, a school or make other important decisions. Type is information that contributes to making these decisions.
  • Type should not limit you—you may have a preference to do things one way but can choose to do it another way if the situation calls for it.
  • Certain types are attracted to certain careers, but we find all types in all careers. Remember, type does not determine ability.
  • People may ignore their preferences because of pressures (subtle or overt) from family, work, or close relationships.
  • All types have potential gifts (strengths) and possible challenges (stretches).
  • People use both preferences in each pair but tend to rely more on one than the other.
  • With practice, people can better learn to use nonpreferred approaches, but this often takes energy and effort to do so, especially at first.
  • Only the individual can determine his or her best-fit type.

The MBTI assessment is not a personality test. There are no right or wrong answers, better or worse types, and it does not reflect a pass or fail, like we see with most "tests."

It is an indicator that sorts people into categories based on their natural preferred way of being and doing. It does not dictate behavior; it describes behavioral characteristics typical of people with certain preferences but recognizes that we can choose to use our natural preference (strength) or the opposite preference (stretch) as necessary.