Character strengths are an indispensable aspect of positive psychology.
They are a unique collection of personal abilities that act as buffers against mental health disorders and positively impact our overall health and well-being.
The concept of character strengths was popularized by Martin Seligman and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s research in the early 2000s.
Later, in 2004, Christopher Peterson’s works on the topic amplified its acceptance globally. Since then, several character strengths tests and assessments, both qualitative and quantitative, have emerged that mental health professionals can use for evaluating individual strengths and weaknesses.
This article is about some of the most appropriate and relevant character strengths tools that we can use to know our core capabilities. We will take a dig into the different ways of evaluating strengths and the various resources that make the task easier.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Strengths Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients realize your unique potential and create a life that feels energized and authentic.
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CSV Categories of Character Strengths
Peterson and Seligman’s book Character Strength and Virtues (CSV) is considered the DSM for character strengths. CSV provides a detailed theoretical framework of the different types of character strengths and their implications in real life.
The book follows an empirical approach and identifies six categories of human virtues that shape their persona. Each of the six divisions is ear-marked with multiple signature strengths that are unique, and there are 28 strengths in total that lays the foundation of our overall disposition.
- Wisdom and Knowledge – creativity, open-mindedness, curiosity, inquisitiveness to learn, broad perspective, innovation.
- Courage – bravery, consistency, personal integrity, energy, zeal.
- Justice and Fairness – leadership skills, good citizenship.
- Temperamental Abilities – mercy, forgiving attitude, modesty, self-control, rational thinking.
- Humanity – love, kindness, sympathy, care.
- Transcendence and Peace – gratitude, appreciation, hopeful, spirituality, self-enhancement.
The combination of these strengths vary from person-to-person and determine how they would think, feel, and act in different life situations.
How Can We Best Measure Character Strengths?
Evaluating strengths can happen in two ways:
- Qualitative analysis – where we estimate the signature strengths that dominate our personality and explore the reason behind it. We can follow this process by reading the different literary works on character strengths, talking to therapists or life coaches, or participating in group discussions on personal strengths and abilities.
- Quantitative analysis – Quantitative analysis that gives an accurate number or measure of what strengths define us and where we lag. Such measures may include questionnaires, self-help assessments, and psychometric tests.
Character strengths-based interventions and tools aim to help individuals and professionals identify strengths and successfully apply them in their lives.
Depending on what assessments we choose, CSV assessments help in:
- Recognizing our signature strengths over different aspects of life.
- Prioritizing strengths based on needs.
- Improving existing strengths.
- Understanding how to apply them in real lives.
Research and studies on the core human strengths lay a strong foundation for the strength assessments. A great way to analyze what advantages one has is to listen to their stories.
Dr. Ryan M. Niemiec, the author of the book ‘Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners,’ mentioned that if we carefully listen to the everyday stories people share, or perhaps listen to our own, we can learn a lot about our capabilities.
Each story a person shares reflects on his strengths. For example, people who are empathetic and kind would always share stories about others’ sufferings. Their life experiences will most likely center around helping others or supporting them in any way possible.
The book ‘The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality’ shares more than 50 such stories from where we can spot character strengths. When considering the qualitative analysis of human virtues, this is one of the best resources we can choose to follow. You can find The Power of Character Strengths on Amazon.
Pen-and-paper or online assessments are exciting and more popular as strength assessments. They require less time to administer, provide a reasonably accurate measure of strengths, and are easy to understand and explain. For example, the VIA survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete the whole form, and the results come in a graphic and personalized format that is easy to understand.
A Look at the Reliability and Validity
Most strength-based assessments have high test-retest reliability with coefficients greater than 0.70. For example, the Applicability of Character Strengths Rating Scales (ACS-RS) showed high internal consistency and construct validity when tested on a large sample size of over 1000 adult individuals.
Studies show that the consistency of scores of strength-based interventions majorly depends on:
- The difference in the applicability of specific behaviors under formal and informal situations.
- The differences in personality traits across different ages and circumstances.
- The differences in personal choices.
The German version of the VIA Character Survey for adolescents and young adults consistently scored high in reliability and validity tests over a significant period. Test results were uniformly valid for the male and female population of a large sample size. Similar conclusions were drawn from the Strengths Use Scale, which had a high internal consistency quotient of 0.94 and a reliability coefficient of 0.84.
More or less, all standardized tests of character strengths and virtues used in clinical settings or personal purposes have a high positive correlation with health and happiness, with the scores being valid for individuals across ages and other demographic boundaries.
4 Character Strength Tests to Use Today
1. The VIA Character Strength Survey
By far, one of the most popular strengths-based assessments, the VIA survey by Seligman and Peterson, helps in not only identifying our core strengths but also guides on how to improve them. The survey measures all the 24 signature strengths mentioned in the CSV manual and works exceptionally well as a positive psychology intervention (Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
The test is widely available online and is free to self-administer. It provides a detailed description of the supreme virtues of a person and gets a closer understanding of how they can use their strengths to live a better life. Learn more about the VIA Strengths and Virtues from the Positive Psychology Toolkit here.
2. Signature Strength Questionnaire (SSQ-72)
The Signature Strengths Questionnaire is similar to the VIA survey and follows the CSV character strengths model.
There are 80 questions in the test, with three questions for each of the CSV categories, and the final score estimates the dominant and passive strengths in the respondents.
Below is a quick snippet of the test. You can also take the full online version.
|Statements||Totally True||True||Almost True||Neutral||Somewhat False||False||Totally False|
|I stop to appreciate the beauty of nature at least once a week.|
|I usually try to keep my commitments.|
|I have recently created a work of art.|
|I like exploring new ideas and discovering things I did not know before.|
|I have recently taken responsibility for something I did wrong.|
3. Personal Strengths Inventory
The Personal Strength Inventory follows Seligman’s approach to evaluating which strengths dominate us and why. The form contains a series of statements that describe the respondent’s thoughts and actions under different circumstances.
Participants rate their responses on a 3-point Likert Scale, and the final scores give an estimate of their unique personal strengths. The test is a reasonably elaborative one and requires about 30 minutes to self-administer.
A brief overview of the test is given below, and you can learn more about it here.
|I can do what it takes to build a relationship.|
|I am always willing to admit my mistakes.|
|I try to look at the brighter side of life.|
|My friends trust me with their secrets.|
|I do not discriminate at any time.|
4. The DISC Profile
Dr. William Marston, a physiological psychologist, introduced the DISC Profile in his book ‘Emotions of Normal People’ in 1928.
The DISC questionnaire helps in:
- Understanding ourselves better – for example, knowing what motivates us, what gets on our nerves, and where we wish to see ourselves in the future.
- Learning the dynamics of working in a team and working with people who are entirely different from us.
- Promoting teamwork and encouraging participants to work for group achievements.
- Building social skills at work – for example, active listening, empathy, and managing expectations, feedback, etc.
The DISC model works great for teachers, leaders, managers, and other professionals who have to deal with a lot of people regularly. The test is briefly illustrated below, and you can learn more about it or take the test online.
|Statements||Disagree||Slightly Disagree||Neutral||Slightly Agree||Agree|
|I like to pressurize others.|
|I like to make loud noises.|
|I love to be in a large group of people.|
|I am usually critical when I see something for the first time.|
|I value cooperation more than competition.|
New addition: Wingfinder
Developed by Red Bull and a team of psychology professors from University College London and Columbia University New York, Wingfinder is a free personality assessment that focuses on strengths, taking around 35 minutes to complete and instantly gives you a 19-page feedback report.
Although scientifically-robust, Wingfinder offers a playful and light-hearted approach to explore four influential factors for determining employability and career success: connections, drive, thinking style, and creativity.
The interactive feedback provided at the end of the assessment provides comparisons to high-profile athletes. It could be particularly engaging for students or those in the early stages of their careers as the assessment focus on what makes you successful at work.
3 More Useful Strength Assessments and Questionnaires
Life Skills Questionnaire for Adolescents
Life skills stand for a set of qualities and skills, including knowledge, wisdom, behavior, and attitudes that determine one’s inner faculties.
The Life Skills Questionnaire measures the critical competencies of the participant that contributes to his overall functioning. It is specially designed for adolescents and is frequently used in therapy and personality development training where youngsters learn to understand and accept their strengths and capabilities.
You can learn more about this questionnaire here, and below is a brief outline of how it looks.
Instructions – Please read the following statements carefully and answer what you think is most appropriate for you. There are no right or wrong answers in this test; you just have to be true to yourself.
- How do you usually describe yourself to others?
- How do you think others describe you?
- How do you prefer to spend your leisure time?
- How difficult is it for you to comply with rules, and why?
- Have you ever felt worthless? If yes, why?
- How do you regulate your emotions when you feel nervous?
- Have you ever regretted a quick reaction that happened at the spur of the moment?
- How easy or difficult is it for you to say no?
- How important is it for you to know what others think of you?
Skills, Strengths, and Interests Worksheet
This worksheet is self-explanatory. It invites participants to estimate what they think their strong suits are. The worksheet motivates respondents to think about their achievements and failures.
The blank spaces in the sheet give participants the chance to brainstorm and come up with affirmative self-statements that would help in self-improvement.
Below is a description of the worksheet, and you can find it online.
|List of strengths||Questions|
|Name the strengths that you think you have recently developed here.
|Describe how you think you developed the strengths.
|Are these strengths relevant to your goals in life?
|Do you enjoy using these strengths?
Strengths Exploration Worksheet
Strengths exploration worksheet goes beyond identifying our abilities. Besides helping respondents rule out what their higher and lower strengths are, this test also provides some direction as to how they can use their strength-based skills in their relationships, professional bonds, and contact with the self.
The test is simple and can be self-administered. The basic idea of this worksheet is to let clients apply the knowledge of strengths and virtues for overcoming real-life problems and live with more clarity of thoughts. Find the test online, or you can follow the description below.
- What character strengths do you think will help your personal and professional relationships?
- Can you give an example of how your strengths saved your relationship in the past?
- Which personal strengths do you think you should acquire to sustain your relationships for a long while?
A Take-Home Message
The strengths-based tests mentioned in this article can be beneficial for identifying personal strengths, clients’ strengths, and strengths of people we live or work with. For those who take an interest in this topic, read the following articles written by some of our talented authors and experts in the field:
- The 5 Character Strengths of Wisdom in Positive Psychology.
- 6 Best TED Talks on VIA Character Strengths and Virtues.
- The Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues.
- 12 Character Strength Examples, Interventions, and Worksheets.
- Personal Strengths & Weaknesses Defined (+ A List of 92 Strengths)
Identifying our strengths is the first step to enhancing them. When we focus on knowing what our strong suits are, we automatically sign up for a perfectly shaped life that is filled with positive emotions, meaning, and gratitude.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Strengths Exercises for free.
If you’d like to help more people realize their strengths, our Maximizing Strengths Masterclass© is a comprehensive training template that contains everything you need to become a strength-based practitioner and help others identify and develop their unique qualities in a way that promotes optimal functioning.
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- Steger, M. F., Hicks, B., Kashdan, T. B., Krueger, R. F., & Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (2007). Genetic and environmental influences on the positive traits of the Values in Action classification, and biometric covariance with normal personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 524-539.