Take a look at the histories, methodologies, strengths and limitations of these two widely-used personality tests to help you decide which is right for you.
April 17, 2024

A Holistic Review of 16PF (16 Personality Factors) and Big Five (OCEAN or Five Factor Model)

Take a look at the histories, methodologies, strengths and limitations of these two widely-used personality tests to help you decide which is right for you.

We review these two widely-used personality tests to help you decide which is right for you: Big Five or 16PF?


16PF and Big Five are two distinct personality assessments, each offering unique insights. The 16PF measures 16 primary personality traits to understand an individual's behaviors, motivations, and preferences. The Big Five assesses five broad traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability) for personal growth and interpersonal understanding. Choosing between these tests depends on the desired outcomes and specific needs of individuals or organizations.

Looking for a test to understand your team chemistry as a whole? Try TeamDynamics instead.

In this article:

As the quest to understand human personality continues, numerous assessments have been developed to help people gain insights into their character traits and behavioral patterns. Among these, the 16 Personality Factors (16PF) and the Big Five (sometimes called OCEAN or Five Factor Model) personality tests stand out as popular and widely used tools. In this blog post, we will explore the histories, methodologies, strengths, and limitations of these two assessments and provide guidance on which test might be a better fit for your needs.

History of 16PF and Big Five

The 16PF was developed by psychologist Raymond Cattell in the mid-20th century. Cattell's goal was to create a comprehensive measure of personality traits based on empirical research. He began by identifying 16 factors that, in his view, captured the essence of human personality. The test has since undergone several revisions, but its core remains grounded in Cattell's original research.

The Big Five personality test, also known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM), emerged as a consensus among personality researchers in the 1980s. The model was developed by analyzing numerous personality questionnaires and identifying five broad dimensions that accounted for most of the variance in human personality. The FFM has become one of the most widely accepted and researched models of personality in the field of psychology.

Methodologies of Big Five (OCEAN) and 16 Personality Factors

The 16PF measures 16 primary traits, each with its own bipolar continuum (e.g., warmth vs. coolness). Participants respond to a series of statements, and their responses are used to determine their standing on each of the 16 factors.

The Big Five assessment measures five broad dimensions of personality: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). Like the 16PF, participants respond to a series of statements, and their answers are used to determine their scores on each of the five dimensions.


Strengths of 16PF and Big Five

The 16PF's strength lies in its comprehensive approach to personality assessment. By measuring 16 distinct factors, the test provides a nuanced and detailed portrait of an individual's personality, which can be valuable for self-discovery and personal growth.

The Big Five's strength comes from its strong empirical foundation and its simplicity. With only five dimensions to consider, it's easier to understand and apply the results in various personal and professional settings. The FFM is also widely researched and has demonstrated strong validity and reliability across diverse populations.

Limitations of OCEAN (Big Five) and 16 Personality Factors

The 16PF's main limitation is its complexity. With 16 factors to consider, interpreting the results can be challenging for individuals and practitioners alike. Additionally, some critics argue that the 16 factors may not fully capture the complexities of human personality.

The Big Five's primary limitation is its broad and general nature. While the simplicity of the five dimensions is a strength, it can also lead to a loss of nuance in understanding an individual's personality. Some critics argue that the Big Five may not capture all the intricacies of personality traits.

Additionally, despite how frequently both tests are administered in the workplace, neither of them is well-suited for understanding the nuances of group dynamics that sit at the heart of most modern, team-based work.

That’s why we built TeamDynamics. TeamDynamics helps you objectively assess, describe, and act on the unique ways in which your team interacts to accomplish its shared work. Put differently, TeamDynamics describes your team chemistry.

Put simply: If you're looking to understand your team's personality, there's a better choice: TeamDynamics.

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Which Should You Choose: 16PF vs. Big Five

The choice between the 16 Personality Factors (16PF) and the Big Five personality tests depends on your objectives and the specific context in which you intend to apply the results. Both tests have their strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision. Here is a brief comparison of the two tests:

16PFBig Five (OCEAN)
Focus16PF assesses an individual's personality based on 16 primary traits, which are further divided into five global factors. These factors encompass warmth, intellect, emotional stability, dominance, impulsivity, and others.The Big Five personality test, also known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM), evaluates an individual's personality based on five broad dimensions: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN).
Application16PF is often used in various settings, including personal growth, career development, clinical diagnosis, and research. The test's primary goal is to provide a comprehensive assessment of an individual's personality traits.The Big Five is widely used in psychological research, as well as in organizational and educational settings. The test aims to provide a concise and robust framework for understanding human personality.

Consider the following questions when deciding which test to use:

  • Are you looking for a more comprehensive and detailed assessment of personality traits? If so, the 16PF might be a better fit.
  • Are you more interested in a concise and widely accepted framework for understanding personality? In that case, the Big Five may be more appropriate.

It's important to recognize that both the 16PF and the Big Five have their strengths and limitations. Neither assessment should be considered the definitive measure of one's personality. Instead, they should be used as starting points for further exploration and reflection.


In conclusion, both the 16PF and the Big Five personality tests offer valuable insights into human personality. While the 16PF provides a more comprehensive and detailed assessment of personality traits, the Big Five offers a concise and widely accepted framework for understanding personality. Your choice between the two depends on your specific goals and context.

However, if you're looking for an alternative approach to understanding personality and team dynamics, you might consider trying TeamDynamics. This assessment focuses on identifying individual strengths and preferences within a team context and aims to optimize team performance by leveraging each member's unique contributions. TeamDynamics can be a valuable tool for organizations and teams, as it fosters better communication, collaboration, and understanding among team members.

Ultimately, no single personality assessment can capture the full complexity of human personality. It's essential to approach these tests with a critical eye and to use them as a starting point for further self-discovery and growth. By exploring various assessments, including the 16PF, Big Five, and TeamDynamics, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of your personality and how it influences your relationships and performance in different contexts.

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