A man Holding a Book

SHL OPQ Test – Our Guide to Occupational Personality Questionnaire Assessment

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

The Occupational personality questionnaire (OPQ assessment) is a common, but complex and detailed trait-based personality test provided by the SHL. Employers use the results of the test to select the person who most shows the key qualities for success in the job being applied for.

The SHL’s personality tests help employers to identify whether you have the necessary behaviour and characteristics required for the job role. The results also help them to predict your future work performance (all things being equal) and identify whether you have leadership potential.

Take Practice Test

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) is a renowned psychometric test which helps organisations evaluate how the behaviour of a potential employee will affect their job performance.

This is determined by the results of your own self-perception, as the test is a self-report test. The bottom line is to determine whether you, your personality and your character are a great fit for the company and the job.

It’s really all about ensuring success for everyone! Read on.

What does the OPQ test measure?

A Girl's different expressions

This personality test measures your behavioural styles, and not your ability. There is no wrong personality, but employers will be looking to see how closely your behaviours match their expectations. If they do, then you are more likely to be suitable for the role you’re applying for.

The OPQ measures three key areas of your personality over 32 dimensions. We have broken them down for you:

1. Relationships with People

  • Sociability – Socially confident, affiliative, outgoing
  • Influence – Independent, persuasive, outspoken, controlling
  • Empathy – Democratic, caring, modest

2. Thinking Style

  • Structure – Conscientious, rule-following, detail-conscious, forward-thinking
  • Creating and change – Variety seeking, conventional, innovative, adaptable, conceptual
  • Analysis – Evaluative, behavioural, data rational

3. Feelings and Emotions

  • Dynamism – Achieving, vigorous, decisive, competitive
  • Emotions – Optimistic, emotionally controlled, relaxed, trusting, worrying, tough-minded

The answers from your test (with this framework) are compared with the SHL Universal Competency Framework, which describes eight general dimensions of competency.

Within these eight dimensions, there are 20 key competencies that are tested. These are:

  • Leading & deciding – Taking action, offering direction; and demonstrating leadership.
  • Supporting & cooperating – Supporting and working with colleagues; demonstrating an understanding of standards and values.
  • Interacting & presenting – Networking and communication; using powers of persuasion and influence, and presenting information.
  • Analyzing & interpreting – Extrapolation of complex problems; applying expertise and understanding technology; analytical thinking.
  • Creating & conceptualizing – Research skills; innovation and creativity; systematically conceptualizing and strategizing.
  • Organizing & executing – Planning and organization skills; meeting customer expectations and providing quality service; adhering to procedures.
  • Adapting and coping – Successfully responding to change; and the ability to cope with stressful situations.
  • Enterprising and performing – Achievement of personal work objectives; being aware and forward-thinking.

Take Practice Test

What is the format of the OPQ test?

The OPQ32 test is an online test, which is normally administered by the employer or respective agency. There are several versions, but most have 104 statements presented in blocks of three or four.

In each question, you must choose one statement that both best and least describe you (ipsative questions).

These questions measure 32 personality traits from three different domains. It is available in over 30 languages, so is widely available.

The OPQ SHL personality test has three formats:

  1. OPQ32r
  2. OPQ32i
  3. OPQ32n

You are most likely to take the OPQ32r, which is the “shorter ipsative” version of the test.

How does the Occupational Personality Questionnaire work

There are three different versions of the OPQ that are currently used, namely OPQ32n (Normative), OPQ32i (Ipsative) and OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format).

The OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format) is more popular among employers during the hiring process than the other two.

1. OPQ32n (Normative)

In this test, you are required to respond to behavioural statements on a scale of 1-5, which reflects the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. This scale rating is known as the Likert Scale.

You have 45-60 minutes to complete 416 questions. Your responses are compared to those of a relevant group of individuals (a norm group) who previously took the assessment. This is to determine how you rank against people similar to you

2. OPQ32i (Ipsative)

In this test, there are 104 quads. Each quad has four statements. This amounts to 416 questions. You are required to choose two statements; either one that is “most like” or “least like” you.

The aspect of ipsative tests is a forced-choice format. You can only choose two statements which are applicable to you. This makes it much more difficult to distort the test results.

3. OPQ32r (shorter ipsative format)

This test is the latest version and most widely used of the OPQ assessments. It also uses a forced-choice format, but you are required to choose from three, rather than four statements, and select which are “least like” and “most like” you.

There are 312 statements to choose from in this test.

Take Practice Test

Taking the SHL OPQ personality test


While there are no right or wrong answers in personality questionnaires; if you randomly click through answers or try to distort the test in any way the results will show this.

Dependent on the version of the OPQ assessment you will take, it either has a Social Desirability Scale or Consistency Scale built-in, to assess whether you have been genuine in your answer selections.

Social Desirability scale

This scale only appears on the OPQ32n psychometric test. It examines whether you have responded to the questions in a socially desirable way. Meaning, are you a people-pleaser and did you try to answer the questions in such a way that you would be more appealing to your potential employer?

If so, the results might show that you either have very high self-esteem, you are less self-aware than normal, or you really need to please others. The opposite is also true; the results may show that you have low self-esteem, and low self-awareness and you’re more critical than others.


Consistency scale

This scale only appears on the OPQ21i and OPQ32r tests (which are most used by employers). This scale examines how consistently you have answered questions on the test.

If the results are low, it might show that there is a lack of consistency in the way you have answered the questionnaire and it cannot confidently establish your preferences. This might mean that you either did not understand the questions or that you were trying to distort the results.

Just like with the social desirability scale, there is a range of reasons why you have a low consistency result. These could be indecisiveness, low motivation and lack of self-awareness.

Having a high consistency result might show that you have a high degree of self-awareness and that you are quite decisive.

A lady designing on canva

Test results

The SHL Occupational personality questionnaire (OPQ32) will give the company you applied with, a breakdown of your strengths and weaknesses, and how you are most likely to perform in the job.

It gives detailed information on the 32 specific personality characteristics (OPQ dimensions) that are proven to influence your job performance. These are grouped into three main areas:

  • Relationships with People – how you connect with others and lead.
  • Thinking Style – how you evaluate and make sense of facts and information.
  • Feelings and Emotions – how you think and feel about events. It includes dynamism- as in how much you strive for change, growth and achievements.

There are different types of reports that the OPQ can generate. These are dependent on the company’s goals. Some of the different types of OPQ32 reports are:

  • Standard Manager
  • Premium Plus
  • Sales
  • Candidate
  • Leadership
  • Universal Competency
  • Team Impact Selection
  • Emotional Intelligence

a Person Writing

Feedback from the OPQ test

Employers use the results from your OPQ test to determine whether you are best suited for the role you applied for are a potential future leader and whether you can be used to build and develop future teams.

The results of the test represent your style and preferences at work. They can tell an employer whether you are a good fit for the team and the role you’re applying for. It helps them to confidently make the correct decisions on which candidate to hire for the job.

In a feedback session, if you are given one (which you are entitled to ask for), you are presented with the results of your test in the OPQ Candidate Report and are allowed to discuss with the feedback provider how well you feel the result is reflective of you.

Take Practice Test


Tips to help you prepare

  1. When you answer each of the OPQ test questions you need to choose the “Most Like Me” statements. These must be both genuine and suited to the job.
  2. The statements that you did not choose as either “most like me” or “least like me” are neutral statements. You get a moderate rating for these, not zero so it is important to consider which statements you don’t choose, or choose as a second option.
  3. Choosing “least like me” for all statements that are negative or less important for the job is dangerous because it might flag as a fake response. Nobody is perfect. You are expected to have negative or less important responses. Your alternative is to select neutral statements every so often, as long as you’re honest.

How do you pass the SHL OPQ Personality Test?

The first thing you need to know is that the SHL personality test has no right or wrong answers. It is not like other aptitude tests that measure your ability. Rather, it is designed to determine what your personality traits are and whether your personality suits the job you’re applying for.

While there are no study guides for personality tests, there are a whole load of practice tests, which you can find on our website. These will help you prepare in knowing what to expect.

How do you answer questions on the OPQ Personality test?

You would think that just answering honestly and being yourself is all that it takes to ace the test. While this is true and obviously important, it also shows savvy when you make a point of actually knowing what kind of person is needed to do certain kinds of jobs.

Find out what the essential qualities are for the position you want.

Companies use personality tests in their recruitment process specifically tailored for the positions they need to be filled. These positions require that a person has certain desirable qualities in order to excel in their job. The list below are qualities desired for most positions:

  • Shows resilience to workload and colleague pressure
  • Is able to stay focused
  • Has emotional intelligence
  • Is generally optimistic and resilient

Know yourself

If you want to get the best out of your OPQ test, it is essential that you know and understand your personality traits, and also answer honestly. You never want to be marked as someone who tries to distort their test result. This might even disqualify you from the application process.

Take Practice Test

Find the best job for your personality

The great thing about a practice test is that you’re not putting the cart before the horse. What we mean is that, once you’ve taken a practice test to find out what type of personality you have, you can then find out what kind of positions are best suited to you, and whether you have the list of essential qualities needed for it.

Our full OPQ practice test will help you discover what the list of qualities is for positions in the following work categories:

  • Sales
  • Management
  • General Team Member
  • Research and Data Management
  • Government and Regulatory
  • Management Change

Being honest gives a true picture of who you are, which helps you to find a job that best suits you and helps you progress in your career. People who work in jobs that accommodate their natural strengths stay in the job, perform better, progress faster and have a higher level of satisfaction in their work.

Business man


How does a potential employer use the OPQ test?

The OPQ is distributed by CEB SHL Talent Management and helps organizations to determine whether potential employees:

  • Are best suited for a given role
  • Are future leaders
  • Can be used better in other departments of the business
  • Can be part of a winning project team building

What are the SHL OPQ test dimensions?

The SHL OPQ test has 32 personality characteristics (as discussed earlier) that are assessed by behavioural questions. These questions are grouped into categories, namely; Relationships with People, Thinking Style and Feelings and Emotions.

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire is one of several types of psychometric tests that companies and any potential employer use to help them determine whether your personality and behaviour traits align with both the job you’re applying for and the company.

Companies are using this type of testing more often during their hiring process. It is crucial that test takers are honest during these tests because the goal is always to find the right fit to ensure that everybody is happy and successful with where and how they work.

a doctor


Here at Assessment Centre HQ, we are all about your success! Taking tests, even personality assessments can be quite daunting. So, to help you prepare for the big data we have a whole bunch of practice tests for you to take. Check them out here:

SHL OPQ assessment practice tests

It is important to remember that the SHL OPQ assessment is a test that builds your personality profile and is not an ability test. Aside from acing the test when you answer honestly, it’s also wise to check out the job description and the job requirements of the position you’re applying for before you take the test.

Take Practice Test

This is necessary so that you don’t end up applying for something that is ultimately not suited to your personality type. With our free practice tests, you can see what kind of work you’ll most enjoy and thrive in.

And because the OPQ personality test results are only valid for between 12 to 18 months, we recommend that you retake it during the later stages of your job-seeking journey so that the SHL OPQ test will accurately reflect the changes in your personality as you have adapted and grown in life and career.

Recommended Reading

Notice of Non-Affiliation and Disclaimer

We are not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with SHL Group Limited, or any of its subsidiaries.

The name SHL Group as well as related names, marks, emblems, and images are registered trademarks of their respective owners.