The Thomas International PPA Test
Updated 7 April 2021
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:
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.
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?
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 organizationsalso 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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:
- 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.
Eight Top Tips for the PPA Assessment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7. Do Not Spend Too Long Answering Each Question
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.
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.
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.