The MMPI Test Explained

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test explores the psychopathology of your personality. Employers may use this test to ensure that you are of sound mind. This can be crucial in certain industries where mental health issues could have the potential to impair your decision-making, or affect the way that you carry out your job. 

The MMPI test isn't your average psychometric test or personality assessment because it can only be administered, and the results interpreted, by a qualified psychologist. 

Contents

  1. Types of MMPI Test
  2. Which Industries Use the Test? 
  3. Psychological Basis
  4. What Does the MMPI Test Measure?
  5. 10 Clinical Scales of the MMPI-2 Test
  6. Validity Scales
  7. How to Prepare
  8. Top Tips For Success
  9. Final Thoughts
  10. Further Reading

Types of MMPI Test

There are three main types of MMPI test: two for adults, and a third that is completed by teenagers.

  • MMPI-2 – The MMPI-2 test contains a total of 567 questions, all of which require a true or false response. Although this is the oldest of the MMPI tests, it's still the one used the most and is likely to be the one you are asked to complete. Candidates are expected to complete the test in 60 to 90 minutes.

  • MMPI-2-RF – An updated version of the above test, the MMPI-2-RF was introduced in 2008. The number of questions is reduced to 338, but it still requires you to provide a true or false answer. The test is relatively easy if you answer the questions honestly. Candidates will have between 35 and 50 minutes to complete the test.

  • MMPI-A – This has been designed specifically for use by teenagers to help to identify behavioural, social or personal problems. As it is aimed at those between 14 and 18 years of age, it’s probably not one that you will encounter during the recruitment process. 

Which Industries Use the Test? 

If you apply for a job in finance or marketing, it’s unlikely that you will be asked to take one of the MMPI tests. The MMPI-2 test is most often used in psychiatric assessments for inpatients and outpatients, though it is also used in a variety of non-clinical settings.

When it is used in a non-clinical setting, such as during the recruitment process, it can be an effective tool to screen candidates for high-risk positions – particularly in industries such as aviation and public safety. The MMPI-2 test is also used for career counselling assessments.

Many of the questions contained within the test allow psychologists to understand how employees are adapting to their work environment from an emotional perspective, particularly in sectors where good judgment and consistent emotional stability are important. Typically, this would apply to jobs within the police force, fire services, nuclear power plants or aviation.

Psychological Basis

Businesses need the right type of employees to drive their organisational strategy and meet key business objectives, and the selection process is vital to this. As we have previously touched upon, the MMPI tests are a tool for employers to use in the recruitment process, not just to determine suitability but to continually improve their business.

Some roles require candidates to possess a unique set of skills and attributes and the MMPI-2 test is one of the best ways to evaluate the disposition, temperament and characteristics of employees. Sometimes these tests aim to assess candidates to see if they fall within the ‘normal’ range, while others are used to identify the prevalence of psychopathology.

The psychological basis for using the MMPI tests may vary depending on the company and the specific job. A counselling provider may, for example, use the test to assess how empathetic a candidate is, while an investigative or forensic type role may use the test to identify traits that would indicate mental instability.

What Does the MMPI Test Measure?

The MMPI test is designed to assess multiple elements of a candidate’s personality. This assessment is much more clinical in nature than the average personality test and is built around 10 different clinical scales.

Each of these scales will assess a candidate’s predisposition to abnormal behaviours. There are also four validity scales which evaluate how honest and accurate the candidate’s answers were. When approaching personality tests, some candidates will select the answer that they think the employer is looking for, but this test can identify whether the candidate is being honest.

10 Clinical Scales of the MMPI-2 Test

Scale 1 – Hypochondriasis (Hs)

Within this section, there are 32 questions that focus on how a candidate might perceive various complaints that relate to their health.

Scale 2 – Depression (D)

There are 57 questions in this section, which aim to evaluate whether the candidate is showing signs of clinical depression. This is indicated by signs that include hopelessness, low morale or a general level of dissatisfaction with life.

Scale 3 – Hysteria (Hy)

Through a series of 60 questions, this section is designed to identify people who are overly emotional or display hysteria in stressful situations.

Scale 4 – Psychopathic Deviate (Pd)

Over a total of 50 questions that make up this section, candidates are questioned about issues that relate to social maladjustment, rebelliousness and antisocial behaviour. Candidates will be asked about issues they may have with family or authority figures.

Scale 5 – Masculinity/Femininity (Mf)

Through 56 questions, the Masculinity/Femininity scale explores how a candidate might conform to a masculine or feminine stereotype. It looks at activity-passivity, hobbies and career choices, and personal sensitivity.

Scale 6 – Paranoia (Pa)

This scale measures a candidate's ability or inability to trust others. Through 40 questions, candidates will be questioned on issues such as levels of suspiciousness, self-righteousness and sensitivity. The method of questioning in this section will reveal any tendencies for paranoia or psychotic behaviour.

Scale 7 – Psychasthenia (Pt)

The term ‘Psychasthenia’ has now been replaced by ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ (OCD). The test contains 48 questions which aim to evaluate the presence of certain obsessive tendencies as well as anxiety, fear, doubts and guilt.

Scale 8 – Schizophrenia (Sc)

The longest section in the test, candidates will need to progress through a total of 78 questions. During this section, candidates will be assessed for unusual cognitive, emotional and social tendencies that might suggest schizophrenia.

Scale 9 – Hypomania (Ma)

This scale has 46 questions and measures a candidate for elevated energy levels and unstable moods. Candidates will be asked about things that would indicate excitability, such as rapid thoughts, accelerated speech or restless body movements. It also covers elements such as irritability, narcissism or egocentricity.

Scale 10 – Social Introversion (Si)

The tenth and final category in the MMPI-2 test features 69 questions. The Social Introversion scale measures whether a candidate is comfortable around other people and in social situations. For example, introverts might be uncomfortable in large groups or over-stimulating social situations.

Validity Scales

In addition to the ten clinical scales, there are several validity scales.

Sometimes, even without realising, candidates may answer questions based on what they think are supposed to be the right answers, rather than based on an honest analysis of themselves.

The MMPI tests cannot accurately measure the psychopathology of a candidate if they are not answering the questions honestly. Therefore, the validity scales in the test aim to identify whether the candidate is being truthful in their answers or not.

The key validity scales found in the MMPI-2 test are:

Lie (L)

This category aims to highlight anyone who is trying to sway the results of the test by answering the questions in a specific way. There are 15 questions in this section that aim to identify whether the candidate is altering their answers to make themselves look better.

F

The ‘F’ scale is used to identify if the questions are being answered in an unusual or obscure way. This will, for example, determine if the candidate is answering questions randomly. There are 60 questions in the ‘F’ category which are scattered throughout the test.

Back F (Fb)

Containing a total of 40 questions, this will identify the same things as those in the F category but focuses on the second half of the test.

K

Questions in this category will identify defensiveness but in a subtler way than the ‘Lie’ category. Outside of those who are well educated and in control of their lives, a high score can indicate that the candidate is being defensive. There are 30 questions in this section.

Scales in the MMPI test are used to measure both clinical spectrums and the validity of a candidate's answers.

Other Validity Scales

?

The question mark symbol is used to evaluate completeness and consistency. The ‘?’ will calculate the total number of questions that are left blank during the test. Cause for concern should be raised when more than 30 of the questions are unanswered.

True Response Inconsistency (TRIN)

Some candidates can be quite strategic in their approach to the test, following a pattern such as fixed responding. If the candidate uses this method, they will simply mark ten questions ‘true’ and then the following ten ‘false’. This approach can mean that the candidate either doesn’t understand the test or is being defiant about being asked to complete it.

Variable Response Inconsistency (VRIN)

Consistency is one of the most important factors when completing the MMPI test. This scale will measure how consistent you are with your responses, identifying those that are inconsistent or even random. 

How to Prepare

Preparation for the MMPI test is a little more complex than a conventional personality or aptitude test. As this assessment is designed to assess quite specific elements of your mental health, it is not a test that you can prepare for as such. However, there are some things that you can do to ensure that you are in the best psychological shape.

To perform well in this test, you will need to develop your emotional intelligence. This requires a long-term commitment and probably isn’t something that you can transform during the recruitment process.

The best way to improve your emotional intelligence is to train your mind to be strong, pay attention to your psychological health and deal with problems head-on as they arise rather than letting them escalate. If you do this as part of your everyday routine, you will be in the strongest possible position to perform well during this test, if you are ever asked to take it. 

Top Tips for Success

As outlined above, you can’t really take specific steps in the days and weeks leading up to taking the MMPI test, usually because the behaviours and conditions that the test will evaluate are part of you as a person.

Furthermore, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test is not a typical test that results in a pass or a fail. It is designed to be used primarily as a diagnostic tool that reveals certain types of personality, as well as specific mental illnesses and the degree of severity.

If you really want to prepare for the MMPI test, or simply familiarise yourself with the types and style of questioning, you can find resources online that will guide you through the format of the test, for example this from JobTestPrep.

You may find that it is difficult to find a practice test like you can with many of the other personality or psychometric tests. This is because the MMPI is designed to be issued by a qualified psychologist.

However, here are some tips to help you achieve the best possible result from the test:

  • First and foremost, don’t lie. The test is designed to identify those that are lying to try and portray themselves as different to how they really are. Always be honest.

  • Don’t overthink. There are a lot of questions in the MMPI test and you only have a limited amount of time to answer them. Learn how to read the potential answers carefully and then provide the first response that enters your head. The moment that you start to think too much or try to interpret the meaning behind what is being asked, you will not only lose valuable time, but your answers may flag up as being deceptive.

  • Learn how to identify control questions. If you can find a practice MMPI test online, you will gradually learn how to identify these. A control question is one that is placed into the test to cast doubt on the honesty of your answers.

  • Be consistent. This is particularly important when taking the MMPI test, as your responses will be evaluated to check for consistency. Over the course of the test, you will be given several questions which require the same answer but have been worded in a slightly different way. One of the best ways that you can achieve consistency is to carefully read each of the questions to make sure that you fully understand what is being asked. 

Final Thoughts

The recruitment process is gradually becoming more and more demanding, with employers looking for different ways to identify the very best candidates. A personality test such as the MMPI is designed to identify any behaviours or traits which may make the candidate a problematic hire.

Taking practice tests is one of the best ways that you can familiarise yourself with the types of questions that you will be asked during the test. Although it is very difficult to prepare for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, you can use the tips above to give yourself the best chance.

If you are asked to complete the test, the most important thing to remember is that you should be completely honest with your answers.

Further Reading  

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