SHL OPQ32 Test – A Full Overview + Leadership Guide

With a counterintuitive forced-choice format and a nuanced leadership model, the SHL OPQ32 test is a genuine challenge to comprehend.

The SHL OPQ32 is a personality profiling test used primarily for management and leadership positions, but not just for them. It will usually be taken in conjunction with cognitive tests by SHL.

The following guide goes deep into this intricate test, with special emphasis on its complex Leadership/Management model.

Have a question on the SHL OPQ Test? Contact Us!

Basic Details

Personality
104 questions
Untimed
Forced Choice
SHL Personality (OPQ) Test Invitation

Test geek and founder of Personality-Test-Prep.com


What Is the SHL OPQ32 Test?

The SHL Occupational Profile Questionnaire (OPQ32) is a personality profiling test aiming to assess a candidate’s job fit and future success based on 32 personality traits (hence the name).

The test usually contains 104 questions, but the exact number may vary depending on the employer. Each question contains 3 statements to rank, following a “forced choice” scale. The test is untimed but takes 20-25 minutes to complete.

What Is a Forced Choice Scale? TL;DR

In short, in tests using a forced choice scale, one is forced to choose between several positive or negative responses, in order to highlight his or her strengths and weaknesses.

In the Scoring section we describe the OPQ’s 32 traits, as well as the forced choice scale in more detail.


Test Structure and Question Format

Each question on the Occupational Personality Questionnaire follows this format:

SHL OPQ Personality Sample Question

  • 3 statements.
  • First, you choose the statement which best describes you. We will call this the “Most” statement from now on.
  • Then you choose the statement which best describes you from the two remaining We will call this the “Less” statement from now on.
  • The statement you did not choose at all will be called the “Least” statement from now on.

In the Free Practice section, we provide 4 sample questions with tailored recommendations for management candidates.

Pro Tip

In the past, SHL offered a normative test version containing statements to be ranked on a 1-5 scale.  SHL no longer administers this version of the OPQ.


What Does the SHL OPQ Test Measure?

The SHL OPQ32 test measures 32 personality traits, divided into 8 categories, known as The Great Eight. These aim to map a candidate’s personality in terms of relationships, thinking style, and emotions.

A detailed overview of the 32 personality traits and The Great Eight can be found in the Scoring section.

Pro Tip

If you are applying for a management position, check out the dedicated Leadership/Management section for tailored OPQ test information for you.


Tailored OPQ Tests for Employers

Oftentimes, SHL will create tailored versions of the SHL OPQ test for employers and will give them some flashy name.

These tailored tests may differ from the original OPQ test in the number of questions, but the test’s structure, measured traits, and scoring method remain the same.

Examples include:

  • HSBC Values Assessment
  • Rio Tinto Describing Your Work Style
  • Barclays Mindset Assessment
  • ExxonMobil Phase I Assessment

Suspect that you have been invited to take SHL’s OPQ32 test but not sure? Contact us and we’ll do our best to help.

Test Interface

The SHL OPQ will appear in your test invitation from SHL, usually named “Personality Questionnaire” in your testing invitation.

SHL Personality (OPQ) Test Invitation

After following the link to TalentCentral, SHL’s testing platform, you will be able to begin the assessment. You will be presented with some basic instructions and test-taking tips from SHL.

In the Tips section, we detail these tips and provide our own recommendations.

Pro Tip

After the tips and instructions, you will start the assessment. The only thing you should note about the test interface is that you may go back and change your last response, but no further than that.

Free SHL OPQ32 Test Practice

This brief free practice is aimed at getting you familiar with the SHL OPQ test format, scales (traits), and the SHL Leadership/Management Model.

For each question, rank how well the 3 statements describe you. To learn how that relates to the actual test interface, read the Test Interface section.

The provided answers are recommendations only. This practice test is not endorsed by SHL.

Since the OPQ test is mostly taken by candidates for management positions, this test will provide recommendations for management profiles.

We highly recommend reading the Leadership/Management section to make the most of the testing experience.


Question 1

SHL Personality OPQ Sample Question 1

Recommended Answer

2 – Most (1st choice), 3 – Less (2nd choice), 1 – Least (do not choose).

Let’s assign each statement to its relevant OPQ scale and competency.

  • I prefer solving problems using methods I am familiar with – Conventional, Creating and Conceptualizing.
  • I enjoy theoretical discussions – Conceptual, Creating and Conceptualizing.
  • I always double-check my work for errors – Evaluative, Analyzing and Interpreting.

These 3 scales relate to the Developing the Vision function in the leadership model. The relevant competency for managers is Analyzing and Interpreting, while the relevant competency for leaders is Creating and Conceptualizing.

  • The Conceptual scale is important for both competencies, so it is recommended to choose the relevant statement as “Most”.
  • The Conventional scale is expected to be low for leaders, so not choosing the related statement is recommended for a higher score.
  • The Evaluative scale is important for the Analyzing and Interpreting competency. As such, it is of lesser value to a manager/leader profile than Conceptual, and the relevant statement should be chosen second.


Question 2

SHL Personality OPQ Sample Question 2

Recommended Answer

Let’s assign each statement to its relevant OPQ scale and competency.

  • There is no point in trying to change someone else’s mind – Persuasive, Interacting and Presenting.
  • I am comfortable meeting people for the first time – Socially Confident, Interacting and Presenting.
  • I make most of my decisions on my own – Independent Minded, Adapting and Coping.

Management Focus:

1,2 – 1st and 2nd choices (interchangeable), 3 – Least (do not choose).

Leadership Focus:

2 – Most (1st choice), 3 – Less (2nd choice), 1 – Least (do not choose).

These 3 scales relate to the Sharing the Goals function in the leadership model. The relevant competency for managers is Adapting and Coping, while the relevant competency for leaders is Interacting and Presenting.

  • The Persuasive scale is highly important for leadership focus, but not for management focus. In this case the related statement indicates low persuasiveness. Therefore, not selecting it will yield a higher score in that scale.
  • The Socially Confident scale is also crucial for leadership focus, less for management focus. Leaders will probably select the relevant statement as their top one.
  • The Independent Minded scale is expected to be low for those with management focus and is of less importance for a leadership focus style.

Pro Tip

Remember that leadership and management focuses are not mutually exclusive, and successful candidates demonstrate BOTH.


Question 3

SHL Personality OPQ Sample Question 3

Recommended Answer

Let’s assign each statement to its relevant OPQ scale and competency:

  • It is important for me to hear my colleagues’ views – Democratic, Supporting and Cooperating.
  • I want to understand why people behave the way they do – Behavioral, Supporting and Cooperating.
  • I enjoy being in charge of projects – Controlling, Leading and Deciding.

These 3 scales relate to the Gaining Support function in the leadership model. The relevant competency for managers is Supporting and Cooperating, while the relevant competency for leaders is Leading and Deciding.

Management Focus

1,2 – 1st and 2nd choices (interchangeable), 3 – Least (do not choose).

Leadership Focus

3 – Most (1st choice), 2,3 – 2nd and do not choose (interchangeable).

  • The Democratic and Behavioral scales are important for management focus, and not for leadership focus.
  • The Controlling scale is important for leadership focus and not for management focus.

Pro Tip

While recommended answers for specific questions are provided here, the only valid conclusions that can be made through a forced-choice assessment like the OPQ32 are based on the entire test!


Question 4

SHL Personality OPQ Sample Question 4

Recommended Answer

Let’s assign each statement to its relevant OPQ scale and competency:

  • I follow my company’s protocols – Rule Following, Organizing and Executing.
  • I love winning – Competitive, Enterprising and Performing.
  • I know exactly where I want to be in 5 years – Achieving, Enterprising and Performing

These 3 scales relate to the Delivering Success function in the leadership model. The relevant competency for managers is Organizing and Executing, while the relevant competency for leaders is Enterprising and Performing.

Management Focus

1 – Most (1st choice), 2,3 – 2nd choice and do not choose (interchangeable).

Leadership Focus

2,3 – 1st and 2nd choices (interchangeable), 1 – Least (do not choose).

  • Both the Competitive and Achieving scales are highly important in a leadership focus style but are not a part of the management focus style.
  • Rule Follower is vice versa – important in a management focus style but not in leadership.

Pro Tip

For instructional purposes, all scales in any question refer to one leadership function only. On the actual OPQ test, scales of different functions will be mixed within questions!

Scoring

This section will cover the various aspects of the OPQ32 scoring:

  • The Forced Choice Scale
  • The 32 Traits
  • The 8 Competencies

What Is a Forced Choice Scale?

The SHL OPQ test uses a scoring method known as a “forced choice scale”, or “ipsative assessment”.

While this kind of assessments has all sorts of implications on the test format, its scoring, etc., what this means for you as a test-taker is that questions will often “force” you to show your personal weaknesses.

This method is used mostly to prevent any attempts to game the system, as well as the candidates’ attempts of presenting their traits as overly positive.

To better explain, let’s take a look at this sample question:

SHL Personality OPQ Sample Question 3

As you can see, this question contains three statements, all describing desirable characteristics. Choosing only two statements out of three, as well as the order in which you choose them, force you to describe yourself as weaker in certain areas measured by the test.

Pro Tip

Unlike normative tests, which compare candidates’ personality traits to average norms in society, ipsative tests use the candidate as reference, comparing various traits within the individual.

As years go by, ipsative personality tests gradually replace the normative ones.

Familiarity with this test format and taking similar practice tests can help in allowing the desirable traits shine.


What Traits Are Measured by the OPQ Test?

As we’ve previously mentioned, the SHL OPQ32 test measures 32 personality traits, divided into 8 categories and 3 “realms”.

Each and every statement in the test will relate to one of these traits.

Relationships with People

Influence

  • Persuasive – enjoys the act of persuading others and changing their minds.
  • Controlling – likes to lead, be in charge, and give instructions to others.
  • Independent Minded – likes to follow personal decisions and approach and take majority opinion or existing norms into lesser consideration.
  • Outspoken – expresses opinions clearly, even when they are critical or inconvenient. Comfortable with disagreement.

Sociability

  • Outgoing – enjoys attention, talkative.
  • Affiliative – likes the company of others and being in the presence of other people.
  • Socially Confident – comfortable with new people and social situations.

Empathy

  • Modest – keeps personal achievements to self.
  • Democratic – likes to consult and involve others in decision making.
  • Caring – helpful, supportive, and considerate towards others.

Thinking Style

Analysis

  • Data Rational – prefers to base decisions on facts and figures. Gets along well with numbers.
  • Evaluative – puts emphasis on possible errors and critical evaluation of information.
  • Behavioral – likes analyzing people and behaviors.

Creativity and Change

  • Conventional – works based on well-established approaches and rules.
  • Conceptual – likes exploring theoretical and abstract ideas.
  • Innovative – likes finding original, creative solutions.
  • Variety Seeking – prefers change over routine, tends to try new things.
  • Adaptable – tends to change behavior to suit the current situation.

Structure

  • Forward Thinking – looks at things in the long term, strategic.
  • Detail Conscious – methodic and organized, pays close attention to detail.
  • Conscientious – persistent in work and gets things done.
  • Rule Following – likes working with guidelines and follows rules and regulations.

Feelings and Emotions

Emotion

  • Relaxed – usually at ease, finds relaxing easy.
  • Worrying – tends to be nervous and worrisome about things going wrong.
  • Tough Minded – resilient to criticism and insult, does not get offended easily.
  • Optimistic – tends to believe things will turn out well.
  • Trusting – trusts others.
  • Emotionally Controlled – can easily conceal emotions.

Dynamism

  • Vigorous – likes being busy and having plenty to do.
  • Competitive – enjoys competing and winning.
  • Achieving – likes to set ambitious goals and work toward them.
  • Decisive – comfortable in making decisions, even when not all data is available.


What Is the Universal Competency Framework?

SHL’s Universal Competency Framework (UCF) is a foundation of understanding people’s behaviors and job-related competencies.

The UCF is divided into 96 competency components (basis level), categorized into 20 dimensions. These dimensions, in turn, are categorized into 8 factors (highest level).

In the context of the OPQ32, the UCF is just another way of presenting your personality traits to employers, which is more aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Pro Tip

SHL’s UCF is especially used to analyze the profiles of managers and leaders. If you are applying for management, make sure you check out the Leadership/Management section.

Leadership/Management

While assessing candidates for management positions, SHL will provide employers with a specific report for that purpose. This report is very detailed and complex, and may easily exceed 20 pages (see sample here).

In the following section we will overview SHL’s leadership model and the related functions, competencies, and leadership styles.


Leadership vs. Management Focus

The model according to which SHL interprets your OPQ test is results is divided into two perspectives:

  • Management focus (transactional) – focused on maintaining the effective work of systems and delivering results.
  • Leadership focus (transformational) – focused on leading change and inspiring others toward great achievements.

The model comprises 4 fundamental leadership functions, each of which is assessed from a management and leadership perspective.

Pro Tip

The management vs. leadership focus will eventually determine what kind of leadership style you have, and hence, what type of management job is right for you. Examples may be manager, corporate leader, visionary, team player, etc.

See more on leadership styles further down the page.


Leadership Functions

Leadership functions are the core elements of SHL’s leadership model and are defined as “functions critical to leadership effectiveness in any organization.” (SHL Leadership Report, p.2).

The 4 functions are:

  • Developing the Vision – analysis of a current situation and coming up with ideas on a progress strategy.
  • Sharing the Goals – adapting to changes derived from the vison and communicating it to others.
  • Gaining Support – motivating others towards the vision and the required actions.
  • Delivering Success – implementing the new strategy effectively in operations and business.

Don’t worry! We’re going to connect all the dots back to your OPQ32 test in the section about the 28 OPQ Management-Related Scales further below.


Leadership Competencies

Each of the 4 leadership functions relates to 2 leadership competencies from SHL’s Universal Competency Framework (UCF) (read about the UCF in the Scoring section).

One competency of the two is relevant for a management focus, and the other to a leadership focus. Your competency scores are determined by your scores in 28 of 32 OPQ scales. See more details below.

The following table summarizes these competencies under the relevant focus:

SHL OPQ Test Management Competencies

Management Focus Competencies

  • Analyzing and Interpretinganalyze complex information while using expertise.
  • Adapting and Coachingeffectively coping with change.
  • Supporting and Cooperatingworking with others well and supporting them.
  • Organizing and Executingworking in an organized, well-planned manner. Focus on delivery.

Leadership Focus Competencies

  • Creating and Conceptualizing – innovative, strategic thinking patterns.
  • Interacting and Presenting – effectively persuading and influencing others.
  • Leading and Deciding – the ability to take initiative and responsibility.
  • Enterprising and Performing – putting emphasis on goals and results.

Pro Tip

Leaning too strongly towards either a management or leadership focus is usually undesirable, and a healthy mix of both focuses characterizes good candidates. However, the exact blend depends on the exact position one is after.


The 28 OPQ Management-Related Scales

This is where we finally wrap up all the background above and go back to the actual questions on your OPQ test.

Each of the 8 competencies has a distinct combination of OPQ traits, which sums up to 28 traits total. Your scores in THESE traits are what will, eventually, determine which competencies you possess, what your leadership style is, and what job is right for you.

The Free Practice section is dedicated to providing sample questions and recommended answers in lieu of SHL’s management and leadership competencies.

So, here are the SHL OPQ traits for each of the 4 leadership functions and 8 competencies.


Function 1 – Developing the Vision

The Developing the Vision function contains 7 OPQ scales clustered into 2 competencies. Your scores in these traits and competencies will determine where you are on the Conservator-Analyst-Creator-Visionary leadership style scale.

Competency 1.1. – Analyzing and Interpreting (Management Focus)

  • Data Rational
  • Evaluative
  • Conceptual

Competency 1.2 . – Creating and Conceptualizing (Leadership Focus)

  • Innovative
  • Conceptual
  • Forward Thinking
  • Conventional (Low)

Note: the term (Low) indicates that a low score on this scale determines a high score in the overall competency.

Leadership Style Map – Developing the Vision

SHL Leadership Style Map – Developing the Vision

  • Conservator – conservators prefer well-established methods and familiar environments. They are most comfortable at maintaining status quo.
  • Analyst – analysts combine critical thinking with well-tested work methods to solve problems but tend to lack creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking.
  • Creator – creators are open to new ideas and tend to solve problems using imagination and innovation. However, they may too often go for untested ideas and major changes.
  • Visionary – visionaries have both the ability to create a vision and make the concrete steps to implement it. They use both analysis and creativity in their decision making.

Function 2 – Sharing the Goals

The Sharing the Goals function contains 8 OPQ scales clustered into 2 competencies. Your scores in these traits and competencies will determine where you are on the Stability Seeker-Adjuster-Communicator-Change Ambassador leadership style scale.

Competency 2.1. – Adapting and Coping (Management Focus)

  • Optimistic
  • Tough Minded
  • Independent Minded (Low)
  • Relaxed

Competency 2.2. – Interacting and Presenting (Leadership Focus)

  • Socially Confident
  • Persuasive
  • Adaptable
  • Outgoing

Leadership Style Map – Sharing the Goals

SHL Leadership Style Map – Sharing the Goals

  • Stability Seeker – stability seekers prefer stable, familiar situations. They are often socially reserved and avoid change or disagreement.
  • Adjuster – adjusters are capable of effectively coping with change but lack the persuasive and social capabilities to share their views with others.
  • Communicator – communicators thrive in social situations. They are persuasive and confident. However, they may struggle with adapting to a changing environment.
  • Change Ambassador – change ambassadors can effectively cope with change themselves, and their persuasive abilities and confidence help them communicating it to others.

Function 3 – Gaining Support

The Gaining Support function contains 7 OPQ scales clustered into 2 competencies. Your scores in these traits and competencies will determine where you are on the Individualist-Decision Maker-Team Player-People Leader leadership style scale.

Competency 3.1. – Supporting and Cooperating (Management Focus)

  • Caring
  • Democratic
  • Outspoken (Low)
  • Behavioral

Competency 3.2, – Leading and Deciding (Leadership Focus)

  • Controlling
  • Decisive
  • Worrying (Low)

Leadership Style Map – Gaining Support

SHL Leadership Style Map – Gaining Support

  • Individualist – individualists are much more task-oriented than people-oriented. While they may be professional in their work, they prefer to refrain from interpersonal aspects related to it.
  • Team Player – team players work very effectively in a team and get along with people very well. While able to support and motivate others, they prefer someone else to take the lead.
  • Decision Maker – decision-makers enjoy being in control and directing others. However, they are less concerned with interpersonal interaction and may, as a result, have a hard time gaining support from others.
  • People Leader – people leaders possess the ability and will to take the lead, while at the same time gain others’ trust with their people-oriented approach.

Function 4 – Delivering Success

The Delivering Success function contains 6 OPQ scales clustered into 2 competencies. Your scores in these traits and competencies will determine where you are on the Idealist-Implementer-Entrepreneur-Business Leader leadership style scale.

Competency 4.1. – Organizing and Executing (Management Focus)

  • Conscient
  • Detail Conscious
  • Rule Follower
  • Vigorous

Competency 4.2. – Enterprising and Performing (Leadership Focus)

  • Achieving
  • Competitive

Leadership Style Map – Delivering Success

SHL Leadership Style Map – Delivering Success

  • Idealist – idealists prefer an unstructured working process and take care of their tasks flexibly. In addition, they are less driven by competition or need for recognition.
  • Implementer – implementers are “getting things done” people – excellent at following structured plans and executing tasks. They may find it difficult to deviate from a plan. They are less motivated by strong personal aspirations.
  • Entrepreneur – entrepreneurs have a strong competitive drive and intransigent pursuit of personal goals. However, they find it difficult to follow structured plans and procedures.
  • Business Driver – business drivers combine a competitive drive and a focus on results and achievements with the ability to working systematically and diligently towards them.

Overall: Leadership/Management Focus

The overall leadership profile will consider all aforementioned 28 scales and 8 competencies. This final score will determine where you are on the Contributor-Manager-Leader-Corporate Leader leadership style scale.

Leadership Style Map – Leadership/Management Focus

SHL Leadership Style Map – Overall

  • Contributor – contributors focus on their work and areas of expertise and are uncomfortable with directing others.
  • Manager – managers have strong organizational qualities that allow them to effectively run an operating business. However, they may lack the innovation and openness to foster long-term change and capitalize on new opportunities.
  • Leader – leaders are powerful change agents, focused on drive, innovation, and persuasion. However, they are less strong on the management side and may be less effective and leading a well-structured process.
  • Corporate Leader – corporate leaders combine management and leadership focus to transform organizations. They are both natural communicators and innovators, but at the same time can effectively analyze and execute tasks in an organized manner.

Check out the Free Practice section and see if you have implemented the ideas of scales, competencies, and management/leadership focus.

Tips

Considering all the unique features of the SHL OPQ32 Test, here are 3 tips for acing it:

Tip #1 – Don’t Turn This Into Math

Turning your personality on its head to get a specific job is really kind of counterproductive. Neither you nor your employer are going to benefit from it.

However, if you did pick THIS job, it is likely that you possess at least some of the characteristics and behavioral traits suitable for it.

So, when preparing for the OPQ test, and especially on the actual test, DON’T regard this as a math drill, attempting to get all your scales exactly where they fit the job profile.

The test allows you to go back and change one response only precisely for that reason – so that you don’t get into “doing math”.

What can you do?

Become familiar with the scales and the theoretical background. Understand your job profile. Learn to identify to which scale each statement relates. And then, make those little but essential modifications to allow your profile to shine.


Tip #2 – Know Your Job Profile

Before starting to work with any prep material for the OPQ test, consider your job profile very carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What traits are required for the job? Use your common sense and the job ad.
  • Does the employer have any important values to consider on their Values/Corporate Culture page?
  • Is this a management job? If so, read Tip #3!

Tip #3 – Going for Management? Dig Deeper.

When it comes to candidates for leadership positions, employers really take their hiring process seriously.

As such, while being familiar with your job profile is essential for any job, the SHL management/leadership model is far more complex and fine-tuned than that of other roles.

Make sure to read the dedicated Leadership/Management section, take the Free Practice, and get REALLY familiar with the details.


Tip #4 – Consider SHL’s Tips for the OPQ Test (and What WE Think About Them)

Before taking the actual assessment, SHL will provide you with 3 basic tips. Here they are, and how we recommend treating them.

  • Do your best to answer as quickly as possible – it is indeed recommended to not overthink questions, as it may indicate that you are “doing math” (see Tip #1). However, do try to consider the meaning of the question and the measured traits and not to answer impulsively.
  • Take the test in one sitting – this is a tip we definitely recommend following. Although you technically can take a break during the OPQ test, it may result in your test answers being inconsistent.
  • Think about yourself at work – another tip you should follow. Remember that the OPQ test aims to assess your “job personality” for hiring purposes, not your personal behavior with family and friends.

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