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The Thomas International PPA Test

The Thomas International PPA Test

Updated July 14, 2022

What Is the Thomas International PPA Test and What Is Its Purpose?

The Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) test is a psychometric assessment used to assess a candidate’s behavioral profile.

It uses the four main profile factors identified in the DISC model:

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Compliance
  • Steadiness

The DISC model demonstrated that a single stimulus can provoke different reactions from people due to their varying emotions and personality traits.

The Thomas PPA test takes this concept and adapts it to fit the workplace.

The Thomas International PPA test is available in more than 60 countries and 56 languages and has been established as a respected recruitment tool for over 35 years. The test is becoming increasingly popular across a diverse range of industries due to its ease and effectiveness as an evaluation tool.

The test returns detailed and accurate results to give employers an insight into how a candidate might fit with their company and whether they are the person most suited to the job.

As a candidate, you are not being tested on your skills or knowledge as such, but rather assessed to get an idea of your communication style and how you behave in the workplace.

Many questions assess whether you are predominantly active or passive in your style of work.

Unlike many psychometric tests that assess personality, the Thomas International PPA test assesses behavioral style, which can change and adapt according to a person’s surroundings and situation.

Jobs that involve changing situations and fast thinking can rely heavily on certain behavioral traits.

The Thomas PPA test is verified by the British Psychological Society and the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations.

Who Uses the PPA Test and Why?

Employers and recruiters around the world use the Thomas International PPA test to improve their recruitment processes, carry out performance reviews and find the right talent to join their companies.

People can portray themselves in a certain way through the traditional recruitment process but cannot mislead a psychometric test.

By using the Thomas PPA test, employers know they are getting an accurate representation of that person.

Some positions need very particular skills; teaching or coaching roles need a very different skill set to sales or IT roles.

The results of the test enable employers to take advantage of a candidate’s strengths to place them in the most suitable job. Where any weaknesses are identified, the candidate can work to improve them.

Outside the recruitment field, sports coaching organizations also use PPA tests to help athletes manage their emotions and approach to sports and high-pressure events.

Some companies and organizations that use the Thomas PPA tests are:

  • USA Rugby Business Network – Ahead of the Rio Olympic Games, USA Rugby used the Thomas International PPA test as a tool to identify how its team could work better for greater success. It now has the test embedded into its training program.
  • Harvey Nash – Global recruitment company, Harvey Nash, used the Thomas International PPA test to evaluate its existing recruitment processes to see whether it was offering fair opportunities based on candidates’ behavioral traits.
  • Magneti Marelli – This international company, serving the automotive industry, wanted to standardize its recruitment process across its network. Faced with hiring over 2,800 employees in 18 months, it brought in the Thomas International PPA test to help.
  • Siemens – Automation and electronics company Siemens introduced Thomas PPA tests as part of its manager development program.
  • Kraton Chemical – Following a merger, Kraton used Thomas PPA tests to increase self-awareness among the workforce and build trust between managers and employees.
  • Durban University of Technology – The higher education institute uses the Thomas PPA test as part of its recruitment process.
  • UK Thames Valley Police Force – In a drive to spot talent and improve its leadership team, Thames Valley Police introduced the Thomas PPA tests to its programs.

What Is Assessed?

The PPA test takes into account four main DISC profile factors:

Dominance

This is the ability to show power and influence over others. It is expressed through being assertive, leading by example and taking the active lead in group situations.

Dominance can be a valuable skill in leadership roles, but an overly dominant personality can be viewed as aggressive or bullish.

In some roles, especially those where a gentle and supportive approach is required, like social work or nursing, high levels of dominance can be undesirable.

Influence

This is the ability to affect someone or a situation. Usually, influential people are sociable and outgoing and find it relatively easy to persuade people to their way of thinking.

The ability to influence people is important for many areas of work, including leadership and management roles, politics, teaching or community mentoring.

However, under-skilled influencers can leave people feeling manipulated.

Steadiness

This is being deliberate, reliable and showing self-restraint. Steady people are calm and reliable; people know them as gentle but fair. They thrive best in calm, respectful and orderly working environments.

Some jobs require a very high level of steadiness.

Law enforcement roles, in particular, need a steady and calm approach. Police officers, prison wardens and armed security guards are frequently faced with confrontational, highly charged situations that could go dangerously wrong if not handled correctly.

In contrast, roles that require a dynamic and authoritative approach, like CEO or business development, are less reliant on steadiness.

Compliance

This is meeting rules or standards and following instructions. It manifests in people as following guidelines and procedures closely and maybe being a stickler for the rules.

Knowing exactly what is expected of them is good for people with high levels of compliance.

Some junior roles or jobs that involve following strict industry regulations and guidelines need a high level of compliance to ensure they learn and perform the correct way of working.

An example of this is a scientific laboratory assistant, where people who deviate from the standard operating procedures generally cause problems.

Alternatively, roles that require innovation and change might value non-compliance so that a candidate is not afraid to push boundaries and bring fresh ideas to the table.

Within these four factors, candidates are assessed on their:

  • Strengths
  • Limitations
  • Motivations
  • Behavior under pressure
  • Basic fears
  • Value to the hiring firm
  • Communication style and how they portray themselves

Once you know and understand these four areas of focus, when you are taking the test, you can recognize which answers relate to which area.

The Format of the Thomas PPA Test

The Thomas PPA test lasts eight minutes and consists of 24 multiple choice questions. Each question poses a scenario that can happen in the workplace.

The candidate is presented with four adjectives to describe their possible reaction and must choose which describes them the most and which describes them the least.

The test is described as a forced-choice test because every answer relates to a definitive statement. There are no neutral or ‘do not know’ answer options, so candidates are forced to give a definitive answer.

The Thomas International PPA test is an ipsative assessment, meaning that you are only compared to your own current or past performance, not other candidates.

By the end of the test, the candidate has selected 48 words that can be used to create a picture of their workplace persona.

The test itself can be completed online or on paper. Some employers administer the test as part of an assessment center day.

How Is the Test Scored?

At the end of your test, you will have selected 48 words that are used to build your behavioral profile.

The recruiting employer sets an expectation for the desired behaviors suited to the role, and results are compared against these criteria. This helps the recruiters recognize which candidates are a good match and which are not for that position.

There are no right or wrong answers, but some answers will be more desirable depending on the job role.

The test results are summarized as a star rating which is relative to the employer’s desired traits, so employers can make an informed decision to identify the most suitable candidates.

These scores can be kept on file and used for future hiring, targeted recruitment and workforce development. The employer can also sift through results to highlight candidates with certain attributes or find candidates who score highly on a desired combination of behaviors.

As well as reports for the employer, your results might also be presented to you in a four-page pdf report. Your report will outline your characteristics and how you naturally behave in the workplace.

It breaks the findings down into:

  • Self-image
  • Self-motivation
  • Job emphasis
  • Work mask
  • Behavior under pressure
  • General comments

You might also receive your report in visual form, with your answers plotted on three graphs.

The first graph shows the qualities that you like to portray to others, the second graph shows how you behave under pressure (more like your natural behavior) and the third graph combines data from the first two, giving a balanced view of your overall self-image.

Often, candidates recognize that their results of the Thomas PPA test very accurately reflect their traits and behaviors.

If the test is carried out as part of an employee development process, you will also receive advice on various topics.

These include how well you are suited to your current job, how you react and behave under pressure and your strengths and limitations.

The report can give an idea of how valuable you are to your employer and what behaviors you could work on.

You can use the findings of the report to influence your future job decisions and as evidence of your suitability for specific job roles. The ability to demonstrate self-awareness and discuss your behavioral traits helps you stand out among your competitors in the job market.

How to Pass the PPA Assessment

If you have been asked to take the Thomas International PPA test, be reassured that, although you cannot revise for it, there are things you can do to prepare and practice beforehand.

The test itself is easy to take and valuable for you as a candidate as it helps you develop self-awareness and identify behavioral traits you might wish to change. It can help you better understand how you behave and react in workplace situations. You might be surprised at how you come across to others.

Here are some top tips for how to present your best self through the Thomas International PPA test:

Step 1. Read Through the Test Instructions Carefully and Deliberately

You can only answer truthfully and accurately if you have taken the time to read through and understand the question.

Behavioral questions can sometimes be tricky to answer as they require you to use self-awareness to predict your behavior and reactions in a hypothetical scenario you might not have experienced.

It can help to imagine yourself reacting in each of the four ways described to see which feels the most ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to you.

Step 2. Keep the Four Main Traits (Dominance, Influence, Compliance and Steadiness) in Mind

Some of the words you can choose from will reflect these traits and it can help to recognize how your answers will fit in with each one.

Step 3. Be Consistent With Your Answers

Inconsistent answers could suggest that you are being disingenuous or are trying to game the test. This reflects badly on you.

To account for this, some of the questions will be worded differently but ask similar things to make sure results are reliable.

Remember that it is also in your interest to find out the accurate results of the test to better understand yourself and your behaviors.

Step 4. Keep the Job You Are Applying for in Mind

The job description will outline the type of person best suited to the role. Considering your real personality, try to emulate the most desirable characteristics in your answers to demonstrate how you are a good match.

For example, if you are applying for a position in law enforcement, you will need to be able to demonstrate high scores in Steadiness and Compliance. Bear in mind you will be expected to behave in line with your results when at your job.

Step 5. Be Honest and Truthful

You might game the test but end up in a job that makes you unhappy. No one wins if you do not answer truthfully and honestly.

Taking the test gives you a valuable opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth that you can use to develop your skills and behaviors.

Step 6. Consider All the Options

Before you select an answer on impulse, look at all the options and briefly consider each one.

The answers you do not select reflect on you as much as the answers you do.

Step 7. Do Not Spend Too Long Answering Each Question

The Thomas International PPA test has an eight-minute time allowance, giving you only 20 seconds to answer each question.

Step 8. Take Online Practice Tests Beforehand

This can help you to become familiar with the questions and forced-choice style of answers you will encounter in the actual test. You can also get a feel for how to pace yourself within the eight-minute timer.

Your results in practice tests can help you identify areas to work on to be better suited for the job role to which you are applying.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) is used in pre-employment screening for a range of roles as well as for staff development for employees looking for promotion. It is available in more than 60 countries and has been translated into 56 languages, with more than 32,000 companies using it as part of their recruitment process.

Based on the DISC model used by psychologists to describe personality traits and work behavior, the Thomas PPA is a reliable test that can show recruiters the personality traits, communication style and behavior at work of potential employees, which is a valid predictor of success.

Using the four main profile factors of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance, the questions in the PPA are work scenarios, with four reactions. Candidates need to select the reaction that is most like them in that situation, and the one that is least like them. 24 questions need to be answered in eight minutes.

The results of the Thomas PPA are compared to an ideal candidate profile which is used to select the candidate that matches the company’s needs.

Preparing for the Thomas PPA test is not like preparing for other psychometric tests – you cannot research the content of the questions or revise in the same way that you might in a numerical reasoning or mechanical comprehension assessment.

What you can do, however, is be ready to look at yourself deeply when you are answering the questions, as this is a self-reporting assessment. Being honest with yourself about the way you would react in the given situations is the best way to answer, and you can get prepared beforehand by looking at different personality-based assessments.

When you apply for a job that needs a Thomas PPA as part of the recruitment process, you will be able to see what aptitudes and competencies the business is looking for. You should also look for the values and aims of this business, and you should bear this in mind when you are approaching the assessment as this might help you make the right choices in the test.

You can practice tests that are like the Thomas PPA on JobTestPrep so that you can become more familiar with the structure and layout, and get used to answering the questions quickly – there are a lot of answers to be found in a relatively short space of time.

The Thomas PPA test is not about specific skills, but it is about your work-related personality traits, behavior and communication styles.

The traits that are under assessment in the PPA test are based on the DISC factors.

  • Dominance – Assertiveness and leadership
  • Influence – Sociability and persuasiveness
  • Steadiness – Reliability and calmness
  • Compliance – Following instructions and driven by process

In more specific terms, according to the Thomas International website, the PPA assesses for:

  • Limitations
  • Strength
  • Behavior under pressure
  • Basic fears
  • Motivations
  • Value to hiring firm
  • How the candidate portrays themselves

The Thomas PPA test, alongside other tests published by Thomas International, has been in use for 35 years, across more than 60 countries and has been translated into 56 languages.

Across the world, the Thomas PPA has been used as part of the recruitment process for roles in more than 32,000 companies, including:

  • Specsavers
  • Siemens
  • Version One
  • Merlin Entertainments
  • Knight Frank
  • Southampton FC
  • Biffa
  • Harvey Nash
  • Thames Valley Police
  • Chestertons
  • Yellow Pages
  • Brompton

The Thomas International PPA test has been through rigorous scientific testing, and it is still used in ongoing psychometric research.

It has been audited against the technical requirements established by the European Standing Committee on Tests and Testing and is registered with the British Psychological Society and the European Federation of Psychologists Associations.

Being recognized in this way demonstrates how reliable and accurate the results of the PPA test are.

For candidates, receiving the results of their PPA test and seeing the comments about their personality traits and work behavior is sometimes surprising because the results are an accurate reflection of the way they see themselves.

The purpose of the Thomas PPA test for recruitment is to explore behavioral fit to hire the right person for the job, and for internal candidates to identify areas for development and manage performance.

The profile that is created for the candidate that takes the Thomas PPA test provides an accurate insight into the strengths and limitations of a person, looking at communication style, work behavior and value to the business.

It is a verifiable and valid test that is backed by psychologists and has been successfully used to hire people in 32,000 companies over the last 35 years.

The questions in the PPA test are common work scenarios that are followed by four reactions.

You will need to choose the response that is most like you and the one that is least like you.

This type of multiple-choice answer system is known as ‘forced choice’ as you must select something and there is no neutral ‘don’t know’ or equivalent answer.

The Thomas PPA test has 24 questions that need to be answered in just eight minutes, so speed is of the essence and the best way to be successful is to answer with your initial instinct. The question bank is ipsative, which means the next questions you are asked are based on the answers you have given previously.

As the Thomas PPA test does not test for skills but personality traits and work behavior, you do not need any specific skills to complete the test.

The only thing that you need to be aware of is being able to look at yourself and your reactions to different situations openly and honestly – you will not have a lot of time to select the perfect answer, so you need to be truthful and go with your gut.

You will want to bear in mind the company values and the job role requirements when you are answering, of course – if you are applying for a role where processes are important, you want to answer the questions that are about compliance in a way that demonstrates you are good at following instructions.

In the Thomas PPA test, there are no real right or wrong answers because the reactions given are subjective.

However, the company that you have applied for will have an ideal candidate profile, and the applicants’ answers are compared to that.

The results of the PPA are presented to the recruitment team as a series of words that describe the way the candidate will behave at work and a star rating that shows how closely the candidate matches the ideal profile.

Candidates sometimes receive a PDF of their results, which has comments about their:

  • Self-image
  • Self-motivation
  • Job emphasis
  • Work mask
  • Behavior under pressure

If your results are not a close enough match to the requirements for the role, then you can ‘fail’ the assessment as you won’t be taken further in the recruitment process.

Like other Thomas International tests, the Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) is a short test for candidates to take.

There are 24 questions based on work-related scenarios, with multiple-choice answers. You will have just eight minutes to answer all the questions.

It is a fast test that puts applicants under pressure to see how they rate their own personality traits and work behaviors, so to be successful you need to answer quickly and honestly.

Conclusion

The Thomas International PPA test is a psychometric test designed to assess behavioral traits that are important in the workplace.

It is a well-established test in use for over 35 years and is verified as reliable by external organizations. Many global companies and sports teams have used the Thomas PPA tests with great success.

It is often used to recruit suitable candidates for roles that rely on a particular set of behaviors. For example, jobs in law enforcement or correctional services may require a dominant but compliant character with the ability to influence people. Increasingly, sports teams are also using the Thomas PPA test to assess how their members approach training, react under pressure and pull together with their teammates.

The PPA test itself is not difficult but achieving the best score possible does require thought and focus. As with other psychometric tests, you cannot exactly revise, but you can take practice tests beforehand to familiarize yourself with the format, time allowance and test structure.

Taking the Thomas International PPA test is a good opportunity to raise your self-awareness and come to understand more about how you react in workplace situations.

Your results can help you recognize your current communication style and what you can do to improve relationships with your colleagues. You can use the report to demonstrate your strengths and attributes, both in your current role and for future job applications.

If you follow the advice laid out here, you are better equipped to make the best possible impression on recruiters and position yourself as a desirable candidate for the job to which you are applying.