The 3 Best Questionnaires for Measuring Values

values questionnaireOur values fuel our actions, emotions, and behavior.

It is a crucial aspect of significant branches of studies, including sociology, philosophy, education, and psychology.

Values are tied in with ethics and morals; they guide our judgment and prepare us to choose actions according to their consequences.

The human value system serves self-exploration, self-enhancement, and self-recognition. Values are “freely chosen, verbally constructed consequences of ongoing, dynamic, evolving patterns of activity, which establish predominant reinforcers for actions that are intrinsic in engagement in the valued behavioral pattern itself” (Wilson & DuFrene, 2009, p. 66).

Psychologists believe in the transformative power of values. Studies have shown that ethics and values can change our inner world and alter the way we perceive and react to stimuli. For example, a person who has regard for honesty will genuinely reflect the same in his actions. He is less likely to engage in behaviors such as lying, stealing, cheating, or using any unfair means to accomplish his goals.

Whether personal, professional, social, or life-oriented, values make room for knowledge, wisdom, and heightened self-realization. They are unique and individualized. We all choose different combinations of values in life, and these choices shape our actions and life decisions. Clarifying values is a great way to prioritize our life goals and understand what we truly desire to become.

In this article, we will discuss some of the most popular and standardized measures for evaluating our personal and core values. We will know what value assessments are, why we need them, and where we can find them. The value-based inventories and questionnaires mentioned in this piece will let you tune in to your inner standards and determine what means the most to you.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free. These creative, science-based exercises will help you learn more about your values, motivations and goals and will give you the tools to inspire a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students or employees.

The Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ)

Values develop from personal experiences, observational learning, and environmental influences. Regardless of how we cultivate them, moral values are crucially important to our inner peace and balance. Going against them, no matter why, brings in a lot of tension and can be overwhelming for us.

The principle theory of value revolves around the concept of a ‘value system’ – a set of deep-rooted standards that form the foundation of our actions and life choices. Our values are built on ten domains of living, and this is what the Valued Living Questionnaire attempts to evaluate.

The ten areas include:

  1. Family
  2. Marriage and intimate relationships
  3. Parenting
  4. Friendship and interpersonal relationships
  5. Professional life
  6. Academic life
  7. Leisure and recreation
  8. Spirituality
  9. Citizenship
  10. Self-care

Some scientists working on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy initially created the Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ). They found that valued living was a vital component that works behind the successful implementation of radical self-acceptance and commitment to positive change (Hayes, 2004; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999).

The VLQ is a simple self-report measure that emphasizes on the values that are unique to us. It also explores how valued living across the ten domains of life have influenced our actions over the past few days. The responses are scored on a 10-point Likert Scale that indicates how significant the particular value is to us.

With high test-retest reliability and consistent validity, the VLQ is a great way to get started on estimating the specific standards that define our living (Wilson, Sandoz, Kitchens, & Roberts, 2010).


What Does the VLQ Measure Exactly?

Measuring PQValued living is a significant part of the ACT (Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006).

It is associated with other core processes such as mindful living, acceptance, mental balance, reduced distress, and overall adjustment (Wilson & Murrell, 2004).

The Valued Living Questionnaire systematically assesses the extent to which an individual regards his values and incorporate them into daily actions. That values influence our everyday activities was initially mentioned in the Acceptance and Commitment Theory but became the foundation of the valued living test.

The VLQ assesses three main things:

  • Identifying the domains of valued living that we think are most important to us.
  • Suggesting how the domains influenced our actions over the past week.
  • Evaluating the degree to which our actions are consistent with our values (VLQ; Wilson et al., 2010).


A Look at the VLQ Validity

Some studies on the effectiveness of the VLQ across varied settings showed that there is a significant positive correlation between what values mean to us and how much we act according to them (Floyd & Widaman, 1995).

Consistent validity was relatively high for the VLQ assessment, indicating that the results are more or less constant across populations of different backgrounds (Wilson et al., 2010).

Construct validity of the Valued Living Questionnaire, and some other standard assessments (such as the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire and the BPTI) were evaluated in research on a large sample of undergraduate university students.

The results indicated significant validity of the scores and found greater consistency among the VLQ results of the participants.


Where Can You Find the Valued Living Questionnaire?

Although the VLQ originally evolved as part of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, it is now a widely accepted measure of estimating the domains of life values that govern our actions. The scale has two sets of questions – one that evaluates our meaning of the values and one that estimates how the values have impacted our activities over the past week.

It is a self-scorable form and is quick to administer. Respondents record their scores on a 10-point Likert Scale where ‘1’ means ‘not at all important,’ and ’10’ implies ‘extremely important.’

In the second part of the form, the responses range from ‘1’ – ‘totally inconsistent with my values’ to ’10’ – ‘totally consistent with my values’ in the second part of the test.

You can find the test online. Below is a brief illustration of the assessment form:


Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ)

Below are statements on some areas of life that most people value. Rate them on a scale of 1-10, where ‘1’ implies ‘not at all important’ and ‘10’ means ‘extremely important.’ Respond to each item according to your sense of value; there are no right or wrong answers here.
Statements 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Family (excluding marriage and parenting)
Marriage and other intimate personal relationships
Friends/social life
Professional life
Academic life
Recreation or leisure
Community life
Physical self-care


Below are statements on some areas of life that most people value. Respond to each item according to how ‘you feel’ you have followed the values over the past seven days. Rate the statements on a scale of 1-10, where ‘1’ implies
‘not at all consistent with my values,’  and ’10’ means ‘completely consistent with my values.’
Statements 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Family (excluding marriage and parenting)
Marriage and other intimate personal relationships
Friends/social life
Professional life
Academic life
Recreation or leisure
Community life
Physical self-care


The (Schwartz) Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ)

The Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ) is based on Schwartz’s theory of values. Schwartz and his colleagues in 2001 explained that ten fundamental individual values influence human actions at any point.

These are:

  1. Self-directional values – that define our goals and ambitions in life.
  2. Stimulative values – that provide the energy and vigor to move ahead for accomplishing the aspirations.
  3. Hedonistic values – that operate on the pleasure principle and instant need gratification.
  4. Achievement values – that define personal success and competence.
  5. Power values – that come with societal norms, control, and personal resources.
  6. Security values – including personal safety, harmony, interpersonal relationships, and self-control.
  7. Conformity values – that operate through agreeableness to societal norms and standards.
  8. Traditional values – involving respect, community support, commitment, and acceptance of customs and culture.
  9. Benevolent values – that is tied in with preservation and enhancement of the welfare of self and others close to us.
  10. Universal values – that encompass appreciation, tolerance, and general acceptance of the nature of things around us.

The ten values in this scale are organized into four domains:

  1. A self-directional domain that operates on openness and flexibility to change.
  2. A universal value domain that is influenced by transcendence.
  3. Traditional values domain that is motivated by the laws of conservation.
  4. Power value domain that is governed by self-enhancement.

The assessment comes with several relatable statements about how we feel about ourselves and others. Respondents rate each statement according to what they think is most appropriate for them. The results explain which of the four domains play a predominant role in the individual’s life and also suggests how to make the most of it.

The Four Domains of Schwartz Theory of Values


What Versions Are There?

The Portrait Values Questionnaire comes in four different versions:

  • A long-form version (PVQ-40), containing a list of 40 portrait values from which respondents choose the ones most important to them.
  • A short-form version or PVQ-21 containing 21 portrait values from which individuals choose the ones that influence them the most.
  • A male version that contains some portrait values and standards unique to the adult male population.
  • A female version containing universal and personal values, unique to the adult female population (Schwartz, 1992; 1994).

The values in each variation are obtained by assessing their relatability, and how often individuals use them on a day-to-day basis. The respondents compare themselves to each portrait value and identify how much it resonates with them. The response pattern follows a 6-point Likert Scale ranging from 1 (not at all like me) to 6 (totally like me).


What Does the PVQ Measure Exactly?

The long-form and short-form versions of the PVQ evaluate values across the ten dimensions of Schwartz’s theory (Steinmetz, Schmidt, Tina-Booh, Wieczorek, & Schwartz, 2009).

It also justifies the four-factor model that Schwartz had mentioned and helps respondents to compare themselves under different life situations.

PVQ provides a strong base for self-evaluation, which is why it is suitable for use with children, young adults, and older individuals across different demographic settings (Davidov, Schmidt, & Schwartz, 2008).

Many scientists have recognized the PVQ scale to be a valid alternative to the SVS scale due to its independent nature and universal acceptability.

Studies show that the reduction in the number of items for the PVQ short forms does not interfere with the validity or reliability of the test. It is a universal measure of personal value systems and carefully evaluates the underlying causes of our actions and perceptions (Schwartz et al., 2001).


A Look at the PVQ Validity

A two-nation study investigated the validity and reliability of the Portrait Value Questionnaire and found that modifying some items in the PVQ-21 form did not interfere with the authenticity or construct validity of the scale.

Although there were some debates regarding the multi-factor approach of the test, no significant studies could disprove its efficiency and practical applications (Krosnick & Presser, 2010). The PVQ underwent several cross-cultural examinations to evaluate its validity across different populations.

A study on adult consumers of more than 20 European countries found that the multi-group structure of the test was valid for respondents of different age, sex, and stages of life.

Significant studies and analyses of the PVQ have proved that the ten values and the four domains of Schwartz’s theory are consistent and remain invariant. By far, PVQ is one of the universally accepted valid value assessment scales.


Where Can You Find the Portrait Values Questionnaire?

The Portrait Value Questionnaire is a relatable and straightforward assessment that we can take by ourselves, and you can access a PDF copy of the test for free.

Below is a brief description of the short-form PVQ test.


The Portrait Value Questionnaire (PVQ-21) Female Version

Below are some statements that describe a person. Read them carefully and respond to how each statement resonates with you as a person. Rate your responses on a scale of 1-6, where ‘1’ means ‘very much like me,’ and ‘6’ implies ‘not at all like me.’
Statements 1 2 3 4 5 6
1. Thinking up new ideas and being creative is important to me.
2. It is important for me to be rich and have a lot of money.
3. I believe that every person in the world should be treated equally.
4. It is important for me to show my abilities. I want other people to admire what I do.
5. It is important for me to live in a safe and secure surrounding.
6. I love surprises and always want to try something new.
7. I believe that I should obey rules even when no one is around.
8. It is important for me to stay humble and modest.
9. I believe in listening to people who are different from me and try to understand them.
10. Having a good time is important to me. I like to ‘spoil’ myself at times.
11. I prefer to make my own decisions and do what feels right to me.
12. I like helping people around me.
13. Being successful is important to me.
14. It is important for me to ensure that the government is taking care of my safety concerns.
15. I want to take up new adventures and want to live an exciting life.
16. It is important for me to behave properly at all times and not do anything that people consider wrong.
17. It is important for me to earn respect from others.
18. Being loyal to my friends is a priority in my life.
19. I try to follow my traditional values and customs that my family and society have endowed on me.
20. I strongly believe that we should care about nature.
21. It is important for me to do things that give me pleasure.


The Personal Values Assessment (PVA)

Values are broadly classified into three sub-types:

  1. Personal Values – that define who we are, what we want, and why we think the way we do.
  2. Social Values – that govern our social connections and interpersonal bond with others.
  3. Universal Values – that influence spiritual thought, cultural standards, and overall acceptance of life experiences.

The Personal Values Assessment (PVA) is a crisp and straightforward measure of determining our core values and personal belief system.

The theoretical orientation of the test suggests that self-image, self-acceptance, and our life goals are all aligned to our core personal values.

The PVA is a quick survey that takes only a few minutes to complete but provides a detailed estimate of the causal factors behind our internal drives and decision-making abilities.

The test allows us to understand what we think is important to us and commensurate those ideals with our day-to-day activities. Also, the order in which we choose our responses determines the importance of personal values in our lives.


What Does the PVA Measure Exactly?

What we say, what we hold inside, and how we evaluate experiences are all parts of what values we follow. The PVA aims to assess the underlying causes of our actions.

The test lets us realize what our core values are and why we act or react in accordance to them. The form is simple and objective and provides a linear evaluation of how aligned we are to our internal values and judgment at present.

Furthermore, the test also suggests ways to restore mental balance and reduce internal conflicts by reflecting our values on our actions.

Although the PVA is a self-assessment, respondents do not evaluate the results themselves. A detailed result with explanation follows successful completion of the form, which helps understand how connected we are to our internal standards.


A Look at the Validity of the PVA

Studies on the relationship between values, professional interests, personal choices, and personality disposition have indicated that the PVA is a significant predictor of the overall value system of an individual.

Validity and efficacy of the test also reflected in the hierarchical studies of the different factors used in the PVQ model.

Overall, the Personal Values Questionnaire provides a substantial base work for ruling one’s standards of right and wrong, and evaluate how he incorporates values at the personal, professional, and social fronts of life (Leuty & Hansen, 2011).


Where Can You Find the PVA Questionnaire? (+ PDF)

The PVA is a quick and objective assessment that you can use as a self-help tool at any point. You can take the full online test which would take about five-ten minutes to complete, and below is a short version of the form for better understanding.


Personal Details

Please select any ten values from the list below that you think are most important for you:
Accountability, Achievement, Adaptability, Ambition, Balance, Being liked, Being the best, Caring, Caution, Clarity, Coaching, Commitment, Community Life, Compassion, Competence, Conflict management, Continuous learning, Control, Courage, Creativity, Dialogue, Ease with uncertainty, Efficiency, Positivity, Entrepreneurial nature, Environmental awareness, Ethics, Excellence, Fairness, Family, Finances, Forgiveness, Friendship, Future generations, Generosity, Health, Humility, Humor, Independence, Initiative, Integrity, Independence, Job security, Leadership, Listening skills, Openness, Patience, Perseverance, Personal contentment, Personal growth, Personal Growth, Professional Growth, Power, Resilience, Self-discipline, Trust, Wisdom.


A Take-Home Message

Living by values are comfortable and come naturally to us. Through value assessments like the ones mentioned in this article, we can help ourselves grow and be one step closer to enhanced self-understanding.

The purpose of these evaluations is not to spotlight where we are falling short or make us self-critical. Instead, these evaluations remind us of our purpose of living and drive us closer to what truly matters to us.

Values let us know what is right for us. When we share and internalize values, they allow us to know ourselves better and guide us to choose what is best for us.

To quote the words of Sri Satya Sai, a popular spiritual leader, and mentor:

Values should predominate thoughts; as human life has no meaning without them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

  • Davidov, E., Schmidt, P., & Schwartz, S. H. (2008). Bringing values back in: The adequacy of the European Social Survey to measure values in 20 countries. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(3), 420-445.
  • Floyd, F. J., & Widaman, K. F. (1995). Factor analysis in the development and refinement of clinical assessment instruments. Psychological Assessment, 7(3), 286-299.
  • Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition (pp. 1–29). New York, NY: Guilford.
  • Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(1), 1-25.
  • Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York, NY: Guilford.
  • Krosnick, J. A., & Presser, S. (2010). Question and questionnaire design. In P. Marsden & J. D. Wright (Eds.), Handbook of survey research (Vol. 2, pp. 263–314). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Leuty, M. E., & Hansen, J. I. C. (2011). Evidence of construct validity for work values. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(2), 379-390.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25, pp. 1–65). New York: Academic Press.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Beyond individualism/collectivism: New cultural dimensions of values. In U. Kim, H. C. Triandis, C. Kagitcibasi, S. Choi, & G. Yoon (Eds.), Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications (pp. 85–119). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Schwartz, S. H., Melech, G., Lehmann, A., Burgess, S., Harris, M., & Owens, V. (2001). Extending the cross-cultural validity of the theory of basic human values with a different method of measurement. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 32(5), 519-542.
  • Steinmetz, H., Schmidt, P., Tina-Booh, A., Wieczorek, S., & Schwartz, S. H. (2009). Testing measurement invariance using multigroup CFA: Differences between educational groups in human values measurement. Quality & Quantity, 43(4), 599-616.
  • Wilson, K. G., & Dufrene, T. (2009). Mindfulness for two: An acceptance and commitment therapy approach to mindfulness in psychotherapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  • Wilson, K. G., & Murrell, A. R. (2004). Values work in acceptance and commitment therapy. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition (pp. 120-151). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Wilson, K. G., Sandoz, E. K., Kitchens, J., & Roberts, M. (2010). The Valued Living Questionnaire: Defining and measuring valued action within a behavioral framework. The Psychological Record, 60(2), 249-272.


What our readers think

  1. Andria Beck

    I really liked these questions and they made me think alot about self awareness.

  2. kayla fjelddalen

    Thank you for this information I’m sure it will help.

  3. F.E. Doern

    Very good overview; thank you

  4. mary Washington

    Information was very useful.

  5. kylie

    Thanks for the information, it was helpfull.

  6. Florita

    Thanks for the info it was helpful and informative.

  7. Patrick Roelli

    Thank you for this quick overview and comparison.

    I’m working on a podcast that will try to have value-based discussions about politics.
    My interviewees will be politicians and I want to keep a common questionnaire to map their values out.

    I’m leaning towards the PVQ to achieve that.
    I do need to translate the questionnaire to french.

    Do you think the PVQ is a good path to go with or would you recommend another system for my purpose?

    Best wishes

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Patrick,

      Sounds like an interesting podcast you’re preparing! Yes, I think the PVQ is probably the most appropriate tool you’re going to find for this purpose. The only other alternative I can think of would be the IRVS scale (see Table 1 of Borg et al. 2019). But the PVQ appears to be the more psychometrically valid option (also discussed in Borg et al. 2019).

      Hope this helps, and best of luck.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  8. Premisa

    Great Information! I ordered

  9. Judith

    thank you so much for this very informative and helpful article. God bless you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and expertise.

  10. Manvi Arora

    Hi, This was very informative. Can these scales be used to understand the values of lawyers?

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Manvi,

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use these scales to assess the values of lawyers. For instance, if you compared the values of lawyers in different branches of law, you might find different patterns of values (e.g., perhaps more benevolent values among humanitarian lawyers). But you could obviously make so many other types of comparisons, too.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  11. Angela

    Hello! Thank you for this. We are interested in using the Schwartz model as a component in a broader research study (commercial/for profit). Is there a licensing requirement or do we reference the use of the model?

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Angela,

      I believe Schwartz’s PVQ is freely available to use (you just need to reference the creators in your paper/thesis). You can access the 40-item version here.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  12. Trisha

    Hi! is PVA applicable in measuring Value Orientations when it comes to Alternative Tourism?

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Trisha,

      I suspect the scale may be useful for measuring people’s underlying motivations when seeking out alternative tourism opportunities. For instance, activities/experiences that align with several of the values assessed by this test, like environmental awareness, continuous learning, and humor/fun, might be what tourists seek out when deciding which tourism activities to pursue.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  13. Jill Sasso Curtis

    I would like to use the Schwartz Value Survey or PVQ for a global leadership development course I am teaching. The link above is not working. Do you know how to access the instrument? Many thanks, Jill

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Jill,

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. You can find a downloadable copy of the PVQ instrument here (and we’ve amended the article to remove this broken link).

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      • Hannes Kettner

        Hi Nicole,

        Thank you for making this instrument available publicly. I was wondering if you have any information on copyright restrictions regarding the PVQ, i.e., whether you needed to get permission to publish it here, or is it in the public domain?

        Thank you,

        • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

          Hi Hannes,

          You’re very welcome. No, the PVQ is publicly and freely available to use provided you cite the authors in your work/any publications.

          Hope this helps!

          – Nicole | Community Manager

  14. Julie Jain

    hello, your work is really very helpfull. can it be used for measuring the business ethics and religious values.

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Julie,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. These questionnaires tend toward a broad focus on a range of possible individual values, whereas business ethics and religious values are narrower subsets of values. You may find some ideas for a business ethics scale based on Cohen et al’s (1993) scale, and for religious values based on Heaven and Ciarrochi (2007), who used a scale by Braithwaite & Law (1985).

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  15. Bernadette

    Thank you for the resources. How can these questionnaires be adopted to evaluate national values

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Bernadette,

      Glad you found the resources helpful. I’d actually say that these scales are probably inappropriate for assessing national cultural values. Instead, I’d recommend looking into Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions. This is the most widely used framework for national cultural values, and if you do some searching, you should be able to find scales.

      Another framework you may want to look into is GLOBE, which I think has around 10 or 12 dimensions.

      I hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  16. Helen Gray

    How do we interpret the PVQ results? Is there a means of having these imposed on the circular framework?

  17. Mitch Diokno

    Hello, the questionnaires are very informative.. I’m currently working on a research about moral valuations of millennials and I just want to ask if I can use your questionnaires for my research?
    Thank you.

  18. Jess Lawson

    I just finished the Cambridge test you linked and after completing it says there are no results to give as it is for research purposes only. Oh well, it did ask some great questions!

  19. jackie carpio

    Thank you so much for a great resource.

  20. Jo

    What age range is the questionnaires for?

  21. alit suardana

    Thanks Mis, excellent


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