Gain Some Self-Insight With The Big Five Personality Test

Medically reviewed by Kayce Bragg, LPCS, LAC, LCPC, LPC, NCC
Updated September 19, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Discovering what makes different people respond differently to various situations can be fascinating. What sets us apart from one another? What makes us all unique?

Our unique personalities can determine the way that we respond to situations. Weinberg & Gold (1999) defined personality as "the characteristics or blend of characteristics that make a person unique." Many agree that personality is determined by a combination of biology and early life experiences. Many theories of personality have been proposed, and a great deal of research has been conducted on these theories.

The "Big 5 Theory" or Big Five Model, is one of today's most widely accepted and used personality theories and it is a reliable psychological model for understanding personalities. It has led to a widely used psychology personality test to help us understand ourselves and our desires.

History Of The Big Five Personality Test

Gain Further Insight With A Professional

The "Big 5 Personality" theory originated with two research teams in the 1970s that took different routes but reached the same conclusion and scientifically validated the theory. They theorized that there are five broad dimensions of personality or key personality traits. These two research teams were Costa & McCrae and Norman And Goldberg.

The teams arrived at this discovery after asking a series of questions to thousands of individuals across different cultures and analyzing the results. In time, an official big five test was created to help psychologists and individuals understand human personality through the framework of the original theory.

Traits Of The Big Five Personality Test

The Big Five Personality traits (sometimes called OCEAN) are:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Each of the five personality traits represents a range of two extremes, and most people are said to sit somewhere between the two polar ends of each dimension. Unlike some personality tests, a person's traits can change at any point in life rather than being fixed.


People who score highly in the openness category are said to enjoy trying new experiences and learning new things. These people may be imaginative and insightful and have many interests. They may be able to think in abstract, complex ways and can be prone to associative thinking.

High openness scorers may be more likely to be politically liberal and spend their free time participating in many cultural and artistic activities. They may have a high IQ and feel drawn toward scientific and creative careers.

People who are high in openness may be: 

  • Creative
  • Adventurous
  • Imaginative
  • Artistically inclined
  • Intellectual
  • Unconventional
  • Open to trying new things

People who are low in openness may be much more traditional and struggle with abstract thinking. Low openness scorers may:

  • Dislike change
  • Resist new ideas
  • Not enjoy new things
  • Dislike abstract concepts
  • Struggle with imagination or creativity
  • Thrive in traditional environments


Getty/Halfpoint Images

Those who score highly on conscientiousness may be very thoughtful and display goal-orientated behaviors. They can be reliable, methodical, organized, and thorough. They might forego immediate gratification for long-term achievement and show self-discipline and control to pursue their goals.

These types are said to be successful in their careers. However, some may struggle with obsessive thoughts or compulsions. High conscientiousness scorers may:

  • Spend time preparing
  • Show close attention to detail
  • Enjoy having a set schedule
  • Complete important tasks as soon as possible
  • Work hard
  • Be dependent

Those who are low in conscientiousness might:

  • Be more spontaneous
  • Dislike sticking to strict structures and schedules
  • Be messy and not take care of things
  • Procrastinate rather than completing essential tasks right away
  • Fail to meet deadlines or complete tasks


Extroverts are said to be friendly, talkative, assertive, and energetic. They thrive off interacting with others and seek stimulation from the outside world. They are often outgoing and gain energy from social situations and may readily accept people.

Extroverts may engage with other people to gain friendship, romance, admiration, status, power, and excitement. People who rate high in extraversion may:

  • Love to be the center of attention
  • Enjoy meeting new people
  • Like to start new conversations
  • Have many friends
  • Find it easy to make new friends
  • Speak before thinking things through
  • Feel energized when they are around other people


Those who score low on extroversion (introverts) are often more reserved and independent. They may not require the same admiration or recognition from others as extroverts do.

Introverts can be less interested in status and may desire a personally satisfying life instead of one that gains attention from others. Introverts are said to be reserved, deliberate, quiet, and independent. They may:

  • Prefer to be alone
  • Find excessive socializing exhausting
  • Find it difficult to start conversations
  • Dislike small talk
  • Think things through before they speak
  • Dislike being the center of attention


Those with high agreeableness levels may be more kind, friendly, affectionate, and sympathetic. They might put the needs of others before their own and cooperate with others rather than compete.

These people are said to be sensitive and compassionate and get pleasure from helping and caring for others. People high in this trait may be more likely to maintain friendships and less likely to fall out with people. They can be forgiving and see the best in people. People who score highly in agreeableness may:

  • Show interest in other people
  • Express care towards others
  • Agree with authority
  • Show empathy and concern for other people
  • Enjoy helping and contributing to the happiness of others

Those who are low in agreeableness may be more competitive and possibly manipulative toward others rather than cooperative. However, they may also be more assertive or feel comfortable leading others. They may:

  • Disregard opinions that they disagree with
  • Show less concern with what others believe
  • Question authority often
  • Create their own plans, agendas, and ideas
  • Speak up when hurt


Neuroticism refers to a person's emotional stability and degree of negative emotions felt. Those with high neuroticism may experience many negative emotions and emotional instability. They may be moody and tense and experience a great deal of anxiety, irritability, sadness, fear, guilt, or mood swings. High scorers can have emotional systems that are on high alert and react more strongly to situations that have the potential to provoke negative emotions.

Those with a high score in this category may be more likely to doubt themselves and their abilities and feel personally responsible for their bad luck. There are potential positives to neuroticism, as well. It may push people to be more realistic about the problems and limitations in the world. Evidence suggests that neuroticism causes people to achieve more by increasing motivation.

Individuals who are high in neuroticism may:

  • Experience high-stress levels
  • Tend to worry
  • Get upset easily
  • Experience anxiety
  • Experience dramatic shifts in mood

Individuals who score low in neuroticism may be more stable and emotionally resilient. They might:

  • Be emotionally stable
  • Cope well with stress
  • Find it easy to relax
  • Not worry too much
  • Rarely feel sad or depressed

How Does The Projective Personality Test Work?

The Big 5 Personality test is available as a free personality test on many websites for anyone interested in gaining some insight into themselves. You can find one here.

The Big Five Personality test asks you to honestly rate how well different statements describe you on a five-point scale. A portion of the test consists of question that ask you to rate how much certain words relate to your personality. At the end of the personality assessment, you receive your results as percentages for each of the five broad categories or traits, openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Are The Big Five Traits Universal?

The origins of the test came from research across several different cultures. Since the development of the test, McCrae and his colleagues have further investigated whether the five factors or traits are consistent across cultures.

One study looked at people from more than 50 different cultures and found that the five dimensions could accurately determine personality, showing that the test is remarkably universal.

What Factors Can Influence The Big Five Traits?

Research suggests that the degree to which a person possesses each of the big 5 personality traits is influenced by a combination of biological and environmental influences.

Twin studies have been used to investigate this. The heritability varies for each of the five traits. Studies suggest that it is about 50% for every attribute. However, as mentioned above, our characteristics can change throughout our lives, although they may remain relatively stable during adulthood.

Personality Traits And Mental Health

Gain Further Insight With A Professional

Despite the criticisms, projective tests psychology remains popular that people use to explore different aspects of human cognition and behavior. However, in some cases, a symptom of a mental health condition may look like a high score in one of the personality trait categories. Although the test is not a diagnostic tool, speaking to a counselor about your results may bring further insight about your personality types.

The Benefits Of Online Therapy

Those looking for further online support may also benefit from online counseling. Research shows that telehealth therapy is as effective as traditional in-person counseling, and it may benefit those who wish to see a specialist from the comfort of their home.

If you feel that you would benefit from counseling, professional help is readily available. Sites like BetterHelp aim to provide counseling for people experiencing a wide range of concerns and challenges.

Below are some counselor reviews from users of the service.

Counselor Reviews

"I have really enjoyed my sessions with Teresa. She is understanding, non-judgmental and considerate. She really listens to concerns and offers advice and practical guidance when appropriate. She is also very empathetic. I would recommend Teresa to anyone looking for self- improvement. A warm and friendly session every time. Thank you for your support."

"Kelli Schow with Better Help is a Rock Star! Kelli listens, follows up and suggests ways for me to improve whatever my stated issue is. She is interactive and listens. Thank you, Kelli. Your insight and strengths are just what I need."


The Big 5 Personality theory is one of psychologists' most frequently used personality theories. It may also offer insight into how your mind works if you want to learn more.

If you wish to learn more than what the test provides, counseling can be an option. Consider taking the first step to learning more about yourself with a licensed counselor.

Find evidence-based professional support

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started