Tips & Advice To Write Better Personality Quizzes

Personality quizzes can be a lot of fun, but far too many of them are poorly-made and written. So here's some advice on writing better quizzes and generally avoiding some of the more common pitfalls and annoyances.

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Avoid questions that potentially force people to lie about themselves to finish the quiz.

Far too often, questions are written in such a way that people have to give absolute answers on something they may not have an absolute opinion on, or don't actually have an answer that applies to the person taking the quiz. Consider this question:

What is your favorite music?
1. Rock
2. Heavy Metal
3. Dubstep
4. Classical

Questions like this are not atypical to Internet quizzes, and they're annoying as heck for a couple of reasons. First, if someone's favorite music lies outside of these genres, they'll essentially have to pick a false answer. Since personality quizzes are supposed to tell you something about yourself, how can you expect to get results that apply to you if the questions don't? Also, when people are forced to give an answer they know isn't true, it causes cognitive dissonance, which creates mental discomfort - not something you want to cause if you want people to have fun taking your quiz.

Adding more options is usually good, if you can manage it. If you can't (such as if there aren't more options to add, or if there are simply too many potential options to add everything), you can rephrase the question so that people don't have to pick an absolute favorite, but a relative one - EG, "Which out of these would you most like to listen to?"

Another option is to phrase the answers in a more subjective and relative manner. For example, instead of listing actual types of musics, you could list how the music makes the listener feel. For example:

What kind of music do you usually listen to?
1. Music that gets my blood pumping!
2. Music that soothes me.
3. Music that makes me feel emotional.
4. Music that helps me focus.
5. Bit of everything.
6. Silence, mostly.

And here's another type of question that appears very frequently:

What is your body like?
1. Tall and thin
2. Short and average
3. Short and wide
4. Just average

That question doesn't leave options for people who are short and thin or tall and wide. So, you have two good options here: you could add more potential options, or you could split the question into two questions (one for height, and one for weight).

Account for the fact that circumstances and context can affect what a person might choose.

Many questions ask the quiz taker what something or other they prefer out of a given set of things, failing to take into account that a real person might pick any one of them depending upon the circumstances.

For example, consider this question:

What kind of shoes do you like to wear?
1. Flats
2. Small heels
3. High heels
4. Sandals
5. Sneakers
6. Athletic shoes

...Like to wear for what? The average person is going to prefer different footwear for different occasions - most people aren't going to wear a pair of heels while grocery shopping, nor are many people going to wear sandals during cold weather, nor are many people likely to wear hiking boots out clubbing. For a question like this, it would be better to pose the question as a specific scenario and tailor the answers to fit that scenario. For example:

You're getting ready for a casual dance party, and it's time to get your shoes on. You look in your closet and see several pairs that all match the colors of your outfit. Which one do you pick? 1. The flats
2. The small heels
3. The high heels
4. The sandals
5. The sneakers
6. The athletic shoes

Remember: people needn't commit to having a single favorite pair of shoes, which can make answering questions like "which kind of shoe is your favorite?" difficult, but they do have to commit to a choice when it comes to picking something to wear.

Now here's another example of a question in which context is everything:

While your team is engaged in a fight, one of your members is injured. What do you do?
1. Keep fighting
2. Get the teammate to safety
3. Get someone else to help the teammate

This question is so overly-simplistic, it's just painful. Real combat scenarios are complex and variable - countless factors would have to be taken into account before making a decision. How badly is the teammate injured? Is the teammate in any clear and present danger otherwise? If the teammate needs immediate help, which one of you is in the best position to help your teammate, and which one of you would be better off staying put? Is it possible to help the teammate without endangering other members and possibly the whole mission?

Let's instead provide a scenario where there are real stakes and consequences:

While your team is engaged in a fight, one of your members is critically injured and is a sitting duck for an approaching enemy. You could run over and move your teammate to safety, but most of your team is relying you to provide cover while they carry out the vital part of the mission. You could contact another member for help, but there's a chance that it will be too late for your injured member by the time xe gets there. What do you do?
1. Keep giving cover
2. Contact the other member
3. Help the injured teammate myself

By providing a context you give people something to base their decision on, which makes it easier to make a choice and makes that choice meaningful.

Avoid referencing culture outside of the subject matter of the quiz.

Many of your potential quiz takers won't be familiar with all of the books, movies, TV shows, bands, songs, etc. that you're familiar with, which means that they won't be able to properly answer questions that reference them. If you're considering referencing a specific piece of pop culture, ask yourself why you're picking that thing, and make the answers fit that instead. For example, are you asking people if they like Lord of the Rings because Lord of the Rings has elves, wizards, and dragons, ask if they like fantasy with elves, wizards, and dwarves instead.

For example, a question like this:

Which book series did you like best?
1. Percy Jackson
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Twilight
4. The Hunger Games

Could be make into something more like this:

You want something to read and you don't have anything at home, and your friend offers to loan you something. You can choose from one of four books. Which one do you pick first?
1. An adventure fantasy about schoolchildren with magical powers.
2. An epic fantasy with elves, dwarves, wizards, etc.
3. An urban fantasy with vampires and werewolves.
4. A story set in a dystopian future about young people fighting a tyrannical government.

By describing it in genres or concepts, people who aren't familiar with the work you're thinking of will be able to answer your questions more easily.

And a few other things...

Keep the questions relevant to the subject matter of the quiz. For example, if you're writing a quiz to ostensibly tell people which Hunger Games character their personality is most like, questions about physical appearance are irrelevant.

Don't put comments into the answers. Especially comments where you let people know how you'd judge them for their choices, eg, Answer 1: I don't like it. (Me: You suck. -_-)

Have more questions than you have results. Because otherwise, someone could click one answer pertaining to each result, which means that the quiz can't properly calculate the result.

You can usually link multiple results to one answer. So it's not necessary to have multiples of the same answer if the answer applies to more than one result.

If it's a quiz based on a movie, book, show, etc., make sure you understand the story and/or characters. Check out Telling Story Canon From Personal Bias, Erroneous Memories, & Fanwank for some tips on making sure you've got your facts on the story straight.

And you might also enjoy reading:

Writing Character Profiles & Bios - Tips & Advice
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
General Roleplaying Tips & Advice

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