Frequently Asked Questions About DISC

How many DISC Style Combinations are there?

There are 41 DISC Style combinations when focusing on one’s primary, secondary, and tertiary styles above the midline.


What do the letters of DISC stand for?

The name DISC is an acronym standing for the 4 personality styles that compose the DISC Personality System. Everyone’s personality is composed out of some combination of these 4 styles:

D = Dominance

I = Influence

S = Steadiness

C = Compliance

How long does a DISC test usually take to complete?

On average, it takes about 10-15 minutes to complete an online DISC assessment. If completing a paper test, it takes additional time to score it, making it around 15-20 minutes.

Is DISC validated and reliable?

The DISC Test is extremely valid. Validity indicates whether the test measures exactly what it is supposed to measure. Reliability indicates whether it measures it consistently. Reliability in the DISC personality assessment is much more difficult to measure, as personality changes over time and differs from one environment to another. However, the results are consistent when taken within the same time period and when focusing on the same environment. View the PeopleKeys Validation Study.

Is DISC culturally consistent?

The DISC Personality Assessment itself is culturally consistent, as the basic elements of personality are present in all cultures. However, the way these elements are viewed may be different from culture to culture. For example, Dominance may be revered in one culture and in another it is looked down upon. However, the presence of Dominance in a personality is still present and measured by the DISC assessment. Overall, the DISC assessment and report are culturally consistent and compatible.

Can DISC personality styles change or are they static?

One’s DISC style will likely change in three ways:

  1. Environment – When you think about your personality style in different situations, it probably differs in some ways from when you’re at work to when you’re at home or out with friends. This is true of most people. It’s important when taking a DISC test to think about a specific environment when answering the questions, instead of answering them in a more generalized way. This is the best way to see the differences in your style between environments.
  2. Stress – When assessed during times of stress or when you are uncomfortable in a particular environment, your DISC style results will reflect that stress and uncertainty. This can cause unique patterns in the graphs, such as overshifts or undershifts. When assessed again at a less stressful time in that environment, your graphs are likely to change.
  3. Time – It’s not uncommon for one’s personality style to change over time, as we learn, grow, change and increase our behavioral intelligence and self-awareness. If you take a DISC personality assessment periodically, you may notice differences in your style over time and in different environments.

What is the difference between DISC and Myers-Briggs (MBTI)?

The DISC instrument and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are both highly recognized tools to predict human behavior, personality and temperament and to enhance communication. Both instruments are widely used today in organizations around the world.

Probably the most important point to keep in mind is that these two instruments are not mutually exclusive. They can be used in tandem for an in-depth and multi-faceted glimpse at human behavior. Both psychometric instruments are highly validated. For many years, MBTI was the standard in psychometric testing. However, over the years DISC has grown in popularity, especially for business application, for a few reasons:

  • The MBTI takes about 30 minutes to complete and contains approximately 90 questions. The DISC test can be completed in half the time, approximately 10 to 15 minutes, and contains 24 questions.
  • DISC is less complicated than MBTI, which makes it easier to remember, understand and apply. People often remember at least their primary DISC style of D, I, S, or C, even years later, while it’s less likely to remember your MBTI combination after much time has passed.
  • One can become trained and certified in DISC theory and application in less time.
  • You could take a DISC assessment online and read the comprehensive report on your style with no training and still gain an in-depth understanding of your personality style, communication style, and predictable behaviors. The MBTI would be more difficult to understand without some training or guidance.
  • DISC is easy to apply in day-to-day scenarios at work or home and with colleagues, friends and families. Others’ styles are easier to predict with DISC than MBTI, allowing you to adjust your style to create better communication with those around you.
  • DISC is easier for young people (8+) to understand and apply with family and friends.
  • DISC focuses less on theory than MBTI and focuses more on practical application.
  • MBTI focuses on behavioral dichotomies that illuminate the ways we think internally. DISC focuses on predictable behaviors (why we do what we do, act the way we act, and react the way we react).

In the end, preference is up to the user. What traits are they trying to gauge? Do they have time for training or have someone who can explain the test or do they need something simpler? How much time do they have to take the assessment and go through results? What is the application? These questions will often guide you either towards the MBTI or the DISC assessment as your psychometric tool.

I heard I might get in trouble using personality testing for hiring. I want to hire the best people possible, but I don’t want to do it in a way that is going to cause problems. Legally speaking, am I safe with PeopleKeys?

Absolutely! Our company has been providing assessments for over 30 years. We’ve handled over 2,000,000 domestic assessments and 10,000 international clients, and have never been sued or faced any sort of litigation regarding the use of our products or systems. Neither have any of our clients. Professionally, productively, and legally speaking, PeopleKeys has 100% certainty that we can place your company in a better hiring position than you would be in without the use of our assessments.

Any theoretical risk of legal problems would typically stem from inconsistencies in corporate hiring practices. For example, only asking a select few applicants to take a personality assessment while leaving others out could potentially be considered discriminatory. Asking questions that don’t align with requirements for the position could also be legally problematic. However, PeopleKeys benchmarking and hiring tools are designed to target job-specific strengths, and can be easily administered to all applicants in a cost-effective manner, giving you a consistent, equitable, and accurate method for identifying the best candidates for an open position. In addition, PeopleKeys uses three different ways of analyzing candidates, ensuring the position you’re hiring for is viewed through a multi-dimensional filter.

PeopleKeys hiring tools were created with legal safeguards in mind. Using PeopleKeys personality assessments in the hiring process is not only good practice, but is absolutely legal and within your rights. As long as the assessments are applied consistently and fairly, using questions that are appropriately tailored to the position, your hiring practices are safe.

Do I need to re-check DISC results over time to see if the outcome has changed? If so, how often would you recommend reassessing?

Good question. Although it’s unusual for a person’s core personality type to change over time, behavior is a bit more fluid. People do often alter their outward DISC or communication style over time through learning, experience, and adapting to different situations. The greatest change typically takes place in the first DISC graph, because this measures the external expression of our style.

The degree to which a person’s style may change over time is related to how they deal with daily pressures, and their willingness to grow and adapt. By way of example, PeopleKeys works with several job boards. One such board asks each candidate to re-take their DISC assessment after 1 – 2 years so that the job match will be more accurate.

Another client who comes to mind likes to re-assess their new hires after a 2-year period. They are in the Social Service industry, where typically a lot of applicants have S and I styles. (The Social Service industry is a very relational field, and the S and I are drawn to these types of jobs.) The interesting thing is that jobs in this industry require a lot of attention to details, paperwork, and follow-up (all C-style traits). This client has found that the most successful employees are ones that actually increase the expression of their C-style traits over time, while still retaining their original S and/or I styles above the midline. This is a strong sign of “adapting” successfully to the position, which can only be measured using multiple assessing instruments over a period of time.

Not everyone changes over time, and changes aren’t a sign of better or worse communication. However, an accurate understanding of personality style is incredibly valuable, both personally and professionally. To make sure you are keeping abreast of any important changes in style, we recommend retaking the assessment every few years just for comparison.

Can you tell me more about people with high values in opposing quarters (I & C or D & S)?

It is very possible that your DISC graph will consist of opposing values (i.e. D-S or I-C). Most combinations of styles are referred to as “style blends,” because each style has a tendency to shape or modify the other expressed styles.

For example, when a C is blended with an S, you often find a person who is more measured and deliberate. They are perfectionists that hold others to a high standard. When a C is blended with a D, you often find a person who can act decisively when presented with information. They are still perfectionists, but also place a high value on acting quickly and efficiently.

Sometimes, opposing styles don’t blend. Rather, the individual will find that they move from style to style depending on the situation. The I-C will have the ability to research, analyze, and study on one hand, then easily turn around and present their findings to others with great verbal skill. The D-S will find themselves wanting to move quickly and decisively, while another part of them is wanting to slow down and spend some time thinking.

Opposing styles are usually a learned or adaptive response to the environment or an experience. For example a high I has learned to be more analytical in business after losing a big account due to a spelling error. A high S learns to be more assertive as the oldest sibling after his/her parents pass away.

A Brief History:

1921 – Carl Jung identified four dominant impulses that guide behavior in his book Psychological Types. These four impulses are Intuition, Feeling, Thinking, and Sensation.

1928 – William Moulton Marston, Ph.D. identified four dominant personality traits that guide our behavior in his book The Emotions of Normal People at Harvard. These four traits are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.

1940 – The first DISC survey was produced by Walter Clark, based off of theory by William Moulton Marston, Ph.D. The assessment focuses on the same 4 personality traits as Marston, which could result in different letter combinations and intensities, which can change based on one’s environment (work, home, socially).

  • D-Style = Dominant, Decisive, Direct, Goal-Oriented
  • I-Style = Influential, Outgoing, Optimistic, Enthusiastic
  • S-Style = Steady, Sympathetic, Patient, Good-Listeners
  • C-Style = Compliant, Conscientious, Organized, Creative

One’s DISC Style will be 1 to 3 letters in combination, although pure styles are more rare. For example: DIS or CI would be more common. This style combination is based off of the DISC traits that plot highest on the graphs.

1962 – The first MBTI survey was produced by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, hence the name Myers-Briggs. They focused on four dichotomies of personality:

  • Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) vs. Perception (P)

One’s MBTI results will always be 4 letters. You’re either extraverted or introverted in the first category, resulting in either an E or I. This pattern carries throughout all 4 categories. In the end, styles will look like ENTP or ISFJ.

See the PeopleKeys blog for further information: DISC profile compared to the Myers Briggs test