Ipsative Items


What Are They?

An ipsative item approach, often referred to as a forced-choice scale, is a measure mainly used in personality questionnaires. It is a way to assess a candidate’s personality traits or behaviour, and is relatively safe-guarded against the problems of normative items, such as social desirability bias (discussed in the Normative Items section). Whereas a traditional personality questionnaire will ask the individual to rate their agreement to a statement on a scale of 1-5, ipsative forms give the applicant a choice of 2-4 equally positive statements, and they must give their preference or agreement to one of them. An example being to choose from: “I enjoy social events” or “I like to keep organised”. This forces the person think more about their answer, and hopefully answer more truthfully, as there is not one obviously desirable quality to pick from.


The Pros

This approach would be highly beneficial to employers as it helps to ensure that only the most suited people go through the recruitment process. This is a good approach for the candidate, as it means the possible employer will have to go through their answers individually and they do not simply become another person on a list of traits.

The Cons

This approach however, does not result in a comparative sample of ‘normal’ to extreme personality traits; therefore, if there are a vast amount of possible candidates to work through, it may take a while to get through each of their answers.

The Solution

Ipsative and normative items can be mixed on an assessment to give an employer a closer look at the candidates’ responses. By mixing the two approaches, consistency in the applicant’s answers can be seen, and so the validity of their answers are increased, meaning they have answered more genuinely and are likely to go further in the recruitment process.

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