A for Effort?: Personality Type and Passing Tests without Studying

If the ability to pass tests in school is shorthand for intelligence, then being able to do so without studying may be evidence of genius. That might sound logical, but the truth is, of course, more complicated – and intelligence and genius are both problematic terms. But if passing tests without studying is not necessarily an indication of intellectual superiority, it may at least be a sign of variations in our core personality traits.

To examine this idea, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “At school, you usually passed tests without studying for them.” Following are the results by personality type.

The data shows significant gaps between three personality trait pairings: Intuitive and Observant types (70% vs. 56% agreeing, respectively), Thinking and Feeling types (72% vs. 60%), and Prospecting and Judging types (70% vs. 58%).

What does this say about our ability to pass tests without studying for them – or perhaps more to the point, our inclinations toward studying in the first place? Let’s explore these questions in more detail below.


Analysts (77% agreeing)

With their core Thinking personality trait and their logical, objective approach to life, Analysts generally pride themselves on their intellect. Many view exams as little more than a technicality or formality that may not be worth studying for, especially if they feel they’ve already proven their intellectual worth – to themselves as well as to others.

Analyst personalities prefer to go their own way academically, pursuing independent studies or exploring ideas that go far beyond the material on tests. But in school, Analysts will inevitably have to deal with subjects that fall outside of their interests, an irritating obstacle that may lead them to reject studying altogether (while still managing to pass tests). But even if victory is sweet in the moment, Analysts may find that their idiosyncratic approaches to their studies could be detrimental to their long-term success.

Logicians (INTP) (83%) were the personality type most likely to agree that they usually passed tests without studying for them. It’s important to point out that Logicians, perhaps more than any other personality type, truly love learning – it’s what they’re all about. But as fiercely independent, original thinkers, they also desire academic freedom and are more likely to reject traditional classroom models of education. With Logicians, we really see the strength of their Intuitive, Thinking, and Prospecting traits working together to make them extremely imaginative and innovative, highly logical, and eager to explore any possibility – and, in turn, averse to studying for tests.

Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most brilliant Logicians, was well-known for his critiques of formal education and once proclaimed: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Diplomats (66%)

Imagination and intellectual flexibility are also important to Diplomats, who, like Analysts, share the Intuitive personality trait. Cramming for a test may be just as unappealing to their curious, open nature. But as Feeling types, they are less driven by intellectual rigor and less interested in proving their smarts to others.

Diplomat personalities may instead approach their studies more holistically, with an emphasis on deep comprehension, not memorization, and on personal, emotional connections to their own experiences. This can be a challenging approach in a classroom that values broad knowledge of many topics or takes a strict view on correct and incorrect answers, and it can also distract Diplomats from actually studying, despite good intentions.

Explorers (62%)

Explorers, as Prospecting personalities, dislike being tied down to routine and repetitive tasks, like studying for exams. Many may prefer to rely on their quick thinking and aptitude for improvisation when taking tests. But that inclination is balanced out by their Observant trait, which helps them see the practical benefits of studying. After all, putting in the effort to at least glance over some notes before a test could save them from even more drudgery later, if they were to fail.

Even if Explorers lack the meticulous study habits of other personalities (such as Sentinels), they may be able to use their powers of persuasion to convince a classmate to help them out with some extra notes or tutoring.

Sentinels (53%)

With their combination of Observant and Judging traits, Sentinels are organized personality types with well-developed habits who are comfortable with the status quo. When it comes to school, that means attending classes regularly, taking careful notes, completing homework diligently, and studying for exams, as the teacher expects.

Sentinels with the Thinking personality trait may feel more confident about sometimes forgoing studying, and Sentinels will also recognize when studying for a test when they’ve already mastered the material would be an inefficient use of time – which probably accounts for their fairly neutral response as a Role. But in general, Sentinels prefer to be prepared.

This is especially true of Defenders (ISFJ), who were the least likely personality type to agree that they usually passed tests without studying (48%). Defenders are hardworking types who hold themselves to very high standards in all areas of their lives, including the classroom. For Defenders, it’s not enough to simply pass a test – they want to ace it. Even if they already know the material well, they’ll put in the extra hours of studying, seeking to exceed expectations. They’re humble about their achievements, though, so you won’t catch Defenders bragging about their good grades.


The Strategies showed little variation in their responses, with only a 6% difference among all four Strategies. The Confident Individualist Strategy was the most likely to agree (67%), followed by the People Mastery (65%), Constant Improvement (63%), and Social Engagement (61%) Strategies.

This is an interesting result, because one might expect the Identity aspect of our personalities to be a greater factor in how we approach studying and test-taking, with confident, relaxed Assertive types feeling more capable of passing tests without preparing for them and perfectionistic Turbulent types going overboard with their studying. And while Assertive types (66%) were slightly more likely than Turbulent types (63%) to agree, at a margin of just 3%, the difference was minimal. The difference between Introverts and Extraverts was even smaller (65% vs. 63%), making the Strategies all but irrelevant in this case.


The fact that the Strategies, and the Identity personality aspect in particular, had so little impact on this survey suggests that when we choose not to study for a test, our decision may be based less on how confident we feel in our ability to pass that test and more on how we value formal education, intelligence, and learning – which are three different things – in the first place.

You may prefer to conquer knowledge in unconventional ways like an Analyst, to strive for comprehension and nuance like a Diplomat, to squeeze in a heavy cram session like an Explorer, or to keep clean notes and plan for success like a Sentinel. Our choices are, to some extent, a reflection of what we do with what we’ve learned.

Intuitive, Thinking, and Prospecting personality types are more likely to eschew studying, and while that may work in the short term, we should keep in mind that, whether we like it or not, the habits that we develop in school may eventually extend far beyond the classroom, influencing our approaches and relationships in the workplace, in the community, and at home.

Did you usually pass tests in school without studying? Share your experiences and approaches in the comments below!