Many people are already familiar with formative assessment, standardized assessment, and many other similar assessments. However, not a lot of people are familiar with the concept of ipsative assessment and its uses. 

How do you feel when asked to choose between two items that are both desirable to you? Do you pick the one you consider best or do you decide to not respond?

In this article, we are going to discuss ipsative assessment and how it compares an individual’s character traits. We will also discuss some of its advantages and disadvantages and how it can be applied.

Learn About: Assessment Tools: Types, Examples & Importance

What is Ipsative Assessment?

Ipsative assessment is defined as a specific type of survey or assessment in which the participant is forced to select one option among other socially desirable options. Ipsative is drawn from the Latin word “ipse” which means “of the self” and is also known as a forced-choice scale.

Unlike other types of assessments, ipsative assessment questions a person or compares a person with himself. 

The ipsative assessment also does not have a scale with which the answered questions are measured, unlike other normal assessments where the respondents respond to questions with scaled responses.

Hence, while normative tests will compare a person to the norm obtainable in society, ipsative tests seek to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a person.

For example, if you consider yourself to be a hard worker or a goal-getter, an ipsative test will force you to choose one of the two options as the one that best describes you.

Read: 9 Types of Educational Assessment

What is the Purpose of Ipsative Assessment

Ipsative assessment is used to measure how most true and more desirable a statement is. To further explain this, we are going to compare Likert scale and ipsative assessment. 

If a person is an extrovert who enjoys music and dancing, if assessed on a Likert-type scale, each of the traits would be evaluated as a single entity. For example, the respondent would see an item that says “I enjoy music” to which the participant can agree or disagree.

If this same trait was evaluated on an ipsative test, the participant would be forced to choose between love for music or dancing.

For example, the item would be listed as “Which of these do you strongly agree with? a) I like music. b) I enjoy dancing.” 

Therefore, Ipsative assessment is useful when the desirable traits of an individual are to be evaluated. It also helps identify deception and can bring out high levels of neuroticism in a participant. 

Learn: Authentic Assessment: Definition + [Examples & Types ]

What are the Advantages of Ipsative Assessment

  1. Ipsative assessment measures the progress of a person. The participant is able to see whether there is an improvement and whether the previous feedback is being leveraged.
  2. It is also useful in determining the competency of an employee in an organization.
  3. Ipsative assessment can also help to choose the best candidate for a position. 
  4. It also helps underperformers improve as it challenges them to do better. This takes away the problem of demotivation for weaker performers.
  5. Another advantage of ipsative assessment is that it can be used for both objective and subjective measures. 

What are the Disadvantages of Ipsative Assessment

  1. Ipsative assessment decreases the validity of a test by discouraging response and/or encouraging non-response.
  2. Ipsative assessment does not encourage the truth. This is because the participant is asked to choose what item is “most true” even when both items could be wrong.
  3. The items to be listed are not easily curated because they are not facts inclusive.
  4. Ipsative assessments are not easy to conduct because it constantly requires previous results of the participant for comparison.
  5. It can lead to bias in a study since it doesn’t measure facts but the most desirable option.

Read: Summative Assessment: Definition + [Examples & Types]

What is the Difference between Ipsative and Normative?

Normative assessments primarily measure personality traits that are proven, identifiable and quantifiable. Ipsative assessment measures the orientations of a person and compares them.

Normative assessments are most helpful in recruitment and application selection. Ipsative assessments are most helpful in coaching or team bonding where the comparison is done between the traits of an individual. 

This is because, in ipsative assessment, the competition is “self.” 

Also, all significant traits of an individual are measured singularly in normative assessments and it also allows for comparison between the entire data. Ipsative assessment is ambiguous and does not allow comparison between two entities.

While normative assessments can reveal how likely two people will perform in a job or position, ipsative assessment can only measure the performance of a single person.

What is Quasi Ipsative?

Quasi ipsative assessment is a hybrid of normative and ipsative assessment. It combines both formats of assessments together. This is because both normative and ipsative assessments have their strengths and weaknesses.

To enhance these strengths and reduce the weaknesses, the quasi ipsative assessment was created. According to research, quasi ipsative assessment is a better predictor of performance. 

Read: Alternative Assessment: Definition, Types, Examples & Strategies

Ipsative Assessments Examples

Here are a few examples of ipsative assessment.

Example 1

A researcher curated a test and asked the respondents to choose between “a) A ghost chases me in my dreams” and “b) I have sweet dreams” so as to see whether the response is tilted towards “faking bad” or toward “faking good.” 

The respondent may be frequently terrified by nightmares that rarely involve ghosts, and if the respondent’s values are against lying, the respondent may refuse to answer the question. 

This is because both items are inaccurate. In a different case, the respondent may choose the item that seems most true.

Example 2

In another environment, the researcher may set up the statements in this form:

  • Regardless of the situation, I never give up
  • I am fun to be with and I am mostly the center of attention in most events
  • I am always loyal to my friends

The numbers are usually summed up after all the questions have been scored. Note that the total number of points is always a constant.

In the above test items, three character traits were listed, every other question will fall under these three character traits and the trait with the most points suggest the relative strength and weaknesses of the respondent. 


Recent research has shown that ipsative assessment is very useful in the academic field as students’ performances do not have to be compared to others but with themselves. This helps many low performer students to improve.

However, it is important to note that ipsative assessment should only be used in areas where it is useful so as to get accurate data.

  • busayo.longe
  • on 5 min read


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