The Myers-Briggs Test's Most Important Questions Aren't What You Think They Are

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you've ever taken the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test, you've likely wondered which questions are most important in determining your MBTI type. However, the Myers-Briggs assessment's most important questions aren't what you think they are. I've taken the MBTI assessment twice — once, five years ago when I started a new job, and again a few weeks ago. Both times, my results revealed that I have INFP preferences.

But this time when I took the assessment, I noticed that many of questions are asked multiple times. They're rephrased slightly, and each consists of a forced-choice option for answering, which means that I sometimes chose different answers for the same question. I wondered how this would impact my results because, while taking the test, I felt a little at odds with myself.

It turns out that this is on purpose. Marta Koonz, senior consultant for CPP – The Myers-Briggs Company, tells Bustle, "By asking multiple times, [the test] really is trying to get at that natural preference that you have. Because, [we] have to take into account that you’re going to use the other part of that preference sometimes. The repeated questions are really to help us drill down to, OK, yeah, I know you do both, but which one is the one that you’re more likely to go to, which is that natural preference," she explains. She adds that if each question were only asked once, you might reflect back to the last time you did something and answer based on the choice you made at that time, which doesn't provide a complete picture of your natural preferences.

"There isn’t one question that says this is the determining factor because there’s four preference pairs, so there’s no way you could synthesize that into one question," Koonz adds.

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In its most basic form, the MBTI is kind of like a map, and just like a map, it will show you different routes you can take. In each case, you have a choice. Just because you have INFP-type preferences doesn't mean you can't choose to use sensing too, even thought it doesn't feel as natural. While you might prefer to take one route suggested by a map, that doesn't mean you can't choose to try a different route that's out of your comfort zone.

"Each of us comes to this with our own life experiences. Because of that, I’m not going to be exactly the same as someone else who has the same four-letter type preferences that I do," Koonz explains. "When you take the assessment, you always go through what we call the best-fit process. The most important piece in some way is what you believe your preferences to be as long as you’re being honest with yourself, so that’s why that self-validation piece is really a requirement there." If you're taking the MBTI assessment online, once you finish with the question portion, you're directed through a series of exercises that dive deeper into your preferences, which is why being aware of what you prefer is pretty important.

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You can also take the assessment in person with an MBTI consultant who will personally walk you through the best-fit process. "Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide your type," the Myers & Briggs Foundation noted on its website. "The practitioner needs to use open-ended questions and listen, listen, and listen some more. The greatest learning about type sometimes comes as you puzzle through your core preferences." So, if you take the test before you've developed a high level of self awareness about what your preferences really are, there's a good chance that you'll get a different four-letter type if you retake the assessment years later after you have solid grasp of your preferences.

While some people might feel boxed in by their type, the MBTI is really designed to do the exact opposite. "We want to look at the type table as a 16-room house, and the idea is that we all have a favorite room," Koonz says. "While we all have a favorite room, we should actually visit all of the rooms every day. But, we just want to know — which is the room that’s going to reenergize us? I have a preference for intuition. I can use sensing, and sometimes I use sensing because it’s valuable to me. But I’m not as good at using sensing as I am at using intuition, but I [still] use both every day."

Additionally, similar to astrology, not everyone with the same type preference is going to act the same. Just like all Libras act differently while still exhibiting similar traits, people with the same MBTI-preference type have similar strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots. However, these things won't manifest the same for each individual because everyone has both a different level of self awareness, life experiences, and free will. "We’re not going to be exactly the same — we can’t say this is your four-letter type, and this is your downfall," Koonz explains. "The four-letter type was developed to help us get to a deeper understanding of our type preferences."

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Because you are shaped by your own experiences, you might interpret your type in a different way than someone else with the same type. For example, as an INFP, one of the traits of my MBTI-preference type is being adaptable until a value is threatened. For me, personally, this means that once someone deceives me, I will immediately distance myself from that person. Another INFP might not react this way because they could have both different core values and different life experiences. The over all goal of the MBTI is to help you better understand yourself and others, Koonz says.

What's more, while you might find someone with an opposite MBTI type challenging, opposites can actually make pretty good teams because they have different strengths and blindspots, which means they each bring different things of value to the table. "Someone with the exact opposite preferences, they might be challenging for me because they don’t do things the way I do things, but in some ways they might balance me," Koonz says. "When we can appreciate differences, we can find success for both ourselves and for other people."