All you need to know about NEO Personality Test (2024)

NEO Personality test is one of the common personality assessment tools used in various fields: psychology, humanities research, and recruitment. This article will provide you an overview of the NEO Personality test: the definition, format, assessment models and how to prepare for the test.

NEO Personality test overview

What is NEO Personality test?

NEO Personality Inventory test (NEO-PI) is a psychometric and personality assessment tool used in various fields. The other common name of the NEO Personality Inventory test is Big Five, OCEAN, or CANOE. The Big Five (or OCEAN) stands for the five aspects of personality traits - Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

The NEO Personality Inventory test will provide a questionnaire to help the test taker reflect and demonstrate these five traits of their characters. For this reason, this tool has become more popular in pre-employment assessment and on-job assessment.

NEO personality test format

There are two versions of the NEO personality test currently available: NEO PI-3 (long version) and NEO PI-FFI (short version). The NEO PI-3 is divided into two types: the self-report form where the participants answer the test by self-reflection, and the observer form in which an observer (psychologists, managers, etc.) evaluates the test taker behaviors and answers the test based on their examination.

The NEO personality test is an un-timed test. The participants will be asked to read a series of description items and evaluate how close the descriptions are to their personality on a 5-point Likert scale.

Types of NEO personality tests by format, number of items, and estimated completion time
Figure 1: Types of NEO personality test

Example of NEO personality test

To know how the items of the NEO personality test are written, you can take a look at a short example excerpt of the NEO personality test below.

Example excerpt of the NEO personality test requiring self assessment on a Likert scale
Figure 2: Example of NEO personality test

Scoring in NEO personality test

The scoring system of the NEO personality test is often used in percentile score - in which your result will be how many percents of those who took the same test you score higher than. In simpler form, the test shows the result as High, Mid, or Low.

You can take a look at the result report example to see how your result will be shown.

Example result report of NEO personality test
Figure 3: Result report example of NEO personality test

Is the NEO personality test valid?

The NEO Personality test is considered one of the most reliable psychometric tests with a strong scientific foundation. The foundational model for the NEO-PI test is the Big Five Personality Traits theory, which was named and developed by Lewis Goldberg. Since then, there are extensive bodies of research to review the validity of the test - and the general findings prove the NEO Personality test shows consistent reliability and validity.

Timothy Judge and his colleagues developed an updated version of the model in 2013 that breaks down the five personality traits into more detailed characteristics. As each analysis is based on six sub-facets, two facets, and one characteristic, Judge's updated model is also known as a 6-2-1 organizational framework.

Judge's model of the NEO Personality Inventory gives a more deep insight into each personality attribute, allowing you to correctly evaluate which professions would likely suit you best or whether you will be fit for the organization. It may be more useful if the Big Five Personality Traits model is overly broad or does not match your purposes.

Hierarchical Representation of Personality Traits Including Facets and Sub-Facets
Figure 4: Hierarchical representation of personality traits breakdown by facets and sub-facets

Big Five Personality Traits in the NEO Personality test

The core assessment and theory of the NEO Personality test is the Big Five Personality Traits or OCEAN Model. The model was later divided NEO Sub-trait Personality Inventory. Let’s have a detailed view of the Big Five Personality Traits to see which criteria the candidates will be assessed.


Openness (O) refers to "Intellect" or "Imagination". The Openness description items measure your level of creativity and your desire for knowledge and new experiences. The candidates who are in the high percentile score often possess great creativity, originality, curiosity, and complex thoughts; whereas, those in the lower percentile score tend to be conventional, have narrow interests, and lack creativity.

The sub-traits of Openness include Ideas, Actions, Aesthetics, Fantasy, Feeling, and Values


Conscientiousness (C) assesses your level of attention and order in the details of life and work. If you have a high conscientiousness score, you are likely to be well-organized and meticulous, as well as able to create and implement plans. If you have a low score, you are likely negligent and unorganized.

The sub-traits of Conscientiousness include Achievement Striving, Competence, Self-Discipline, Deliberation, Dutifulness, and Order.


Extraversion/Introversion dimension measures how high your sociability level is. The higher percentile score indicates your personality as an outgoing person and directs your energy from other people. On the other hand, if you have a low percentile score, you will likely draw energy from inner sources and enjoys quiet places.

The NEO sub-traits for Extraversion are Gregariousness, Positive Emotions, Warmth, Excitement-Seeking, Activity, and Assertiveness.


Agreeableness is the dimension that measures how well you get along with other individuals. The one with a lower score in agreeableness tends to prioritize their needs and focus on their own, while the one with a high score is considerate of others and willing to compromise.

The NEO sub-traits for Agreeableness include Tender-Mindedness, Altruism, Trust, Compliance, Modesty, and Straightforwardness.


Neuroticism refers to "Emotional Stability" which evaluates one’s emotional reactions to the surrounding. The high-score participants will be prone to be nervous, high-strung, reactive with details and worrying while low-scorers tend to be calm, relaxed, secure, and hardy.

The Sub-traits constituting Neuroticism are Angry Hostility, Impulsiveness, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Consciousness, and Vulnerability.


How to prepare for the NEO personality test

Understand the company and its culture

You should learn more about the organization to determine whether you have a possibility of passing the personality tests. This entails learning what the organization wants for in a candidate, as well as its value and working culture. Such information is always available on its website, under the About Us section. Read the content attentively to discover whether you have any of these qualities.

Familiarize yourself with the test format

Before any test, and the NEO personality test in particular, you should try out some free tests to get used to the wording of description items and select the score on the Likert scale. This helps save time for you while doing the real assessment.

Align yourself with the role and company

Employers that utilize the exam for pre-employment screening are looking for a certain set of traits and behaviors in potential hires. Therefore, each characteristic has its own description items. This is why researching the company and position is crucial. 

Show consistency in your answer

To have the best result possible for your NEO personality test, you need to show your personality traits clearly and assertively. Be as radical as possible about the description items to determine which ones are similar to your real personality.

Don’t try to fake the test result - the NEO Personality test can detect the inconsistency in your answer if you try to gain a high score in an aspect. In addition, faking the results can cause more harm to your work in the future, and you realize you are not really suitable for the team.


FAQs about NEO Personality test

Can you fail the NEO Personality test? 

In the NEO personality, there is no right or wrong answer. However, you can be rejected from an offer if your test results indicate personality traits that oppose the company's value.

The purpose of the test is for the assessor to understand more about your values and personality which suggests how suited you are to a role. Understanding the job role and responsibilities might help you demonstrate your qualities more closely to the role. But you should never answer solely based on what you think your assessor wants.

How does the employer use your NEO personality test result?

The recruiter will consider all of your applications, aptitude tests, and interviews as a whole to decide whether to give you an offer. You need to perform your best to show that you are capable as well as suitable for the position.