What’s the difference between DISC and other Personality Tests?

April 14, 2023

As experts in psychometric testing, we often hear clients and even consultants lump DISC and other personality tests together every day when discussing pre-employment assessments.

And really, it’s no wonder – there are literally thousands of personality tests out there, all claiming to gain insight into an individual by measuring attitudes, interests, motivation, intelligence, skills, behaviour and personality. It’s easy to put them all in the same category.

What’s more, the advent of the internet has provided an abundance of free online personality tests that anyone can take. This has further muddied the water to determine what is effective and what isn’t.

It’s common for a free personality test to build a personality profile that pins down the individual’s personality type. This supposedly offers valuable insight on everything from whether you’re an extravert or an introvert, to whether you have a positive attitude, to your communication styles. They can be useful for self-knowledge and personal growth, but we would never recommend using them in a professional setting.

On top of that, every single test claims to represent the individual in the best and most productive way.

However, the truth of it is that the psychology behind each method and the proven accuracy of their results will differ hugely depending on the test you take and the model to which they subscribe.

So actually, in some respects, comparing these tests to one another is like comparing apples to oranges, peaches to bananas and so on.

With so many assessment options available, what’s a manager to do? This post focuses on a few points every manager and HR professional should know before talking to assessment providers for a recruitment process.


Ipsative vs Normative Testing


The broad description of “personality tests” fall into two distinct types – ipsative and normative.

The main difference between these two types of tests is their purpose. Not every test is built with the same goal in mind.

An employer must understand the differences between these test types because both types can pass the validity and reliability test.




An ipsative test will present your candidate with options equal in desirability – in other words; there are no “wrong answers”. The assessment requires them to honestly select which terms are “most true” of them and which are “least true” of them.

Ipsative tests, therefore, indicate how one individual prefers to respond to problems, people, workplace and procedures. They are very effective when used for development, coaching, team building and interpersonal conflict resolution and have extremely high face validity – when a test-taker reads his report; they agree it is very accurate at describing their approach to people and tasks.



Normative assessments measure quantifiable personality characteristics on individual scales.

An individual’s “score” measures a specific characteristic against confirmed patterns of normality, usually represented as a bell curve. Normative testing allows people to be compared with particular groups and populations.


What is DISC personality testing?


DISC is an acronym that stands for four main personality profiles: (D)ominance, (I)nfluence, (S)teadiness and (C)conscientiousness.

After completing a DISC personality test, you’ll be scored on each of these four traits, building your DISC profile.

Like the hundreds of other assessments based on the four style behavioural model, DISC reports the relative strengths of the person being tested.

For instance, D represents “direct” or “dominance”, and S represents “steady.” If a DISC test reports an individual is “high D” and “low S,” according to the model, this means this person is more energised by asserting themselves in dealing with problems than maintaining a steady pace.

However, this is not always accurate or specific. Just because an individual describes himself as direct does not mean he will be effective at asserting himself or making decisions. It is also not an accurate predictor of how much more or less assertive he might be compared to other “high D” co-workers.

A DISC assessment is considered an ipsative test. Ipsative literally means “of the self”, which can create a lot of room for ambiguity and inaccuracy.

It offers little correlation at comparative strength of relationship skills or task completion between one person and another, making DISC assessments largely ineffective when recruiting.


Which recruitment testing is better to use in recruitment?


Generally speaking, it’s widely acknowledged that ipsative tests should not be used in recruitment and selection as the exclusive assessment and should never be used to predict performance or job fit.

A DISC assessment will only rate your candidate on the DISC factors and leave little room for accurate life comparison.

In business, normative testing allows individuals to be compared to other employees who have met with success or failure in a job. The expectation of managers using normative tests is that they can predict which candidates will have the best chances of success if hired or promoted and to avoid placing the wrong employee in the wrong position.

Therefore, normative tests are best suited as a recruitment and selection instrument but can also be useful in development, coaching, and training.

Normative testing generally has higher validity than ipsative. Depending on the instrument used, the predictive or criterion validity can be 70 per cent or higher depending on the assessment and the job.

Reproduced with permission from http://www.super-solutions.com