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!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

10 months ago
Who wants to only 'pass'? I study because I feel that it is better to push myself to achieve something greater. School is about learning and improving, not scraping through on a mere C.
10 months ago
I can I agree that "passing" is not what I would want, I need an A! But, studying is just flat out useless, especially if actually know how to use your brain correctly...
10 months ago
As an INTP, I do get high marks for some subjects when I do so---like Maths. However, for some like Biology I struggle in that. The reason behind I'd that biology requires me to use those exact terms and stuff, memorize the entire paragraph, but I tend to understand using my own ideas and thinking, making me unable to get the marks during a test. My teacher told me that she knew I have very clear concepts from my answers, unfortunately cannot give me the marks as I fail to write down the keywords. It is really frustrating.
10 months ago
Well i tend to simply not study. I simply go to the allocated lectures and listen and in my spare time I partake in all manners of self learning on YouTube or by reading about stuff on the internet guided by whatever interests me at the moment. so you could say that I'm studying, but I'm not studying to pass a test and then just forget afterwards. I study because things interest me and because they do I remember them. And in the end if I passed the test or not is just a reflection if I found the contents of the test worth learning. I don't know if I managed to phrase that in the best and most clear of ways but I hope the general gist of it seems moderately clear.
10 months ago
Uh...What's this 'studying' you speak of?
10 months ago
Recently I started helping my sister with her studies and I started noticing one thing when helping her. My sister is an INFP, she never naturally seeks conflict. Never questions anything, all in the hope of maintaining harmony. Meanwhile, I'm constantly seeking conflict in the form of discussions,problem solving,... I'm constantly questioning everything, turning everything I come across into conflict (breaking things down to once again build them up). This constant need for conflict results in increased efficiency, over time. Which results into me being a "lazy" student, that generally passes exams pretty easily. Intelligence has nothing to do with any of this, the sole requirement is "conflict". Conflict with yourself, conflict with the world, conflict with your very existence, until all the answers you ever sought have all been found. Effectively making sure that at the end of the day, you'll never ever have to study one day in your life ever again. So really this notion of passing without studying according to personality comes down to one thing, and one thing only : Who questions himself the most and who easily enters conflict with himself and others the easiest ? This explains the high amount of agreeing analysts and also slightly higher agreeing portion of assertive personalities. The disparity between confident individualism and people mastery could be attributed to the fact that this "conflict" isn't always accepted in the external world, but can always easily be brought up in the internal world (because it is your own mind). At least that is how I see this whole ordeal toward studying, which could be wrong, but could also be right for all I know. How are you going to find out ? You're going to challenge it, you're going to go into conflict with everything I just said, breaking down everything word for word and then rebuilding these statements as if they were your own (or in short, you're going to "analyze it").
10 months ago
I’m an INFP, and as such I am going to have to (politely!) disagree with your conclusion. As an N type INFPs will often turn around ideas and concepts in their minds, often in order to have a deeper comprehension about it or see how it matches up to their values and worldview. Conflict may be uncomfortable if it’s interpersonal, but INFPs also have a tendency to overthink things (especially us Turbulent types). We often keep mulling something over long after an S type would have moved on. I can’t speak for your sister, as even within types there are variations, but my middle name is conflict (well, technically it’s Therese, but...). Many have called me “contrarian” because I feel deeply uncomfortable when groups of people all agree on something without question. I don’t enjoy people getting upset with me, but it gnaws at my conscience if I don’t say anything. Sometimes I even start acting like a Debater if I think the opposite side isn’t getting a fair deal! Returning to the topic, I didn’t study for liberal arts subjects in school because I easily grasped them. But I often had to study for science and mathematics courses because the concepts took longer to sink in (as much as I hated doing so). Meanwhile another close INFP friend almost always had to study because she had learning disorders when she was young. Everyone is a little different, even within types.
10 months ago
It's funny, because a lot of what you just said can also be found in my sisters case as well. It's because of that, that I want to point a few things out about your case : That conflict you describe, really isn't what I was talking about. (Words are ambivalent because different personalities put different meaning in the same words, there's an intersection, sure, but there's still plenty of variability between individuals.) You see what I was referring to is the conflict of statements, as I often end up spending quite some time "chasing my own tail" when understanding different topics. My conflict does not stem from me "trying to distance myself from the group" but rather from me "not getting stuff". You see most of the time whenever I am/was in school/college/university I almost never perfectly understood the material whenever people tried explaining it to me, It never went deep enough, it simply never felt "good enough", I still felt like there was more to it. So I kept questioning stuff, I kept searching for known and unknown terrain in the field that then preoccupied me at the time and as a result formed answers that no one had ever indirectly nor directly given me. They literally are my own formulated answers, not just some existing answer reformulated with my own interpretation. I broke down each and every existing notion about the subject, which allowed me to grasp the concept on such a level that I already know what is going to follow from it (see this as the heart of innovation). I've been countless times in this situation where the lecturer explains something that I really have to try not to roll my eyes to, because it just sounds so obvious to me yet has not been covered before, yet people are still struck in awe when he tells them that "[Insert perjorative term referencing the existing lecture material]" (What I mean is that I literally (re)discovered the answer myself, this also binds me to "reinvent the wheel" a couple of times in the process, but then again it's all about the method/journey to the answer and not the answers themselves in my opinion). For this exact same reason though, I sometimes tend to really wonder why we even have schooling institutions anyway. I mean why not let everyone get their own answers, right ? But then again, I'm met with the fact that I'm still a minority in this "ecosystem of personalities" meaning that the masses aren't going to calibrate their systems to a minority's way of thinking. This could also very well be the reason why so many analysts tend to feel so apathetic toward this whole education ordeal (as evident from the comments). Also to go further down the rabbit hole of why the conflict you described isn't what I meant : The conflict you meant is the same "conflict" every INFP deals with I believe, you see you are Intuitive meaning that you tend to focus more on the context of situations. You don't focus on the actual situations themselves, you focus on the "hidden meaning" of the situations. If you ever sense a "disturbance in the ambience of a group (network)" you will act out in order to prevent or rectify any disturbances in this harmony. (As an example : when all people agree unanimously to something , you all know that it's probably going to be peer pressure doing the talking not the actual people themselves, allowing this to continue for too long will escalate things into aggression, a lack of harmony if you will, which you seek to prevent.) You guys also tend to reason using associations mostly, it is for this reason that you came to the conclusion that the potential "conflict" you cause when going against the group to correct this potential disturbance that you associate this with my way of thinking. But the two are distinct from one another as I do not proceed conflict in the search for harmony, no, I search conflict for it's own sake, as conflict itself demands that you get better at something, that you keep questioning yourself and everything you come into contact with. It enables you to come into contact with an obstacle that you may or may not overcome. It simulates chaos internally by presenting you each and every possibility in existence and allows you to prepare accordingly to each possibility you can think of, this leads to someone that is prepared for anything you throw at him. "A master of his own fate", if you will. A free man, and that is what I mean when I'm talk about freedom. (I once talked about freedom to an explorer and he says he knows what I meant because he switches jobs often [he still is not the master of his own fate as he still depends on other factors], but to reiterate my cause these words although the same do not carry the same meaning). Now I don't expect this all to make perfect sense because words in this sense fall a bit short (since words have to be interpreted with the same neurological structures that make up your personality, which is going to end up with different parties getting different conclusions from the same statements). Which is why challenging statements is so damn important, this in order for it to give yourself a clear picture that YOU are able to grasp. Also funny that you mentioned science and mathematics because those are the subject that I ended up helping her with. You see you hated those because those two embrace my description of conflict (in my opinion physics even more so than math). When studying math I try to not glance past a formula. Instead I break down the whole formula (via the aforementioned method) then I dissect every and each component in the formula (I follow the same thought process) and then and only then will I be able to grasp the subject itself. Also thanks for disagreeing, it's always nice to have someone questioning stuff, feel free to attack my response as well (hell, I would say that I expect no less at this point). Normally as a conversation progresses both parties should be able to understand one another better as they start to synchronize with one another's mindset. (Also some things I said could not attribute to you since every person still is unique and this whole personality model is only an approximation in that facet, do however feel inclined to point out any discrepancies though as the theories formulated here are in direct effect formed from this personality theory itself. Or in short, their meant to speak to a larger audience if your case doesn't fit this model that means that my theories probably are going to fall short or you posses a unique combination that is typical for you, however since everyone possesses these typical combinations in his or her own form, the average distribution should even out, meaning that the more people this case gets extrapolated to the more accurate the testing should be to this theory. (In case if anybody is wondering, the last segment is just me thinking out loud to further illustrate my point of the earlier paragraphs). Also RIP texting box, I probably dragged this out for far too long though. But then again that is the nature of conflict, traveling way too long roads to get to, where everyone has been the whole time, only difference being they got their by "accepting" someone else's help and you didn't. Therefore, I win and they don't ! What is my price ? More conflict ? Sign me up for more !
10 months ago
Hmm, I see your point, if we’re on the same page that is. Lol. Maybe it’s more the Turbulent in me that rolls around concepts in my mind, not satisfied with merely a surface level explaination. I believe I do dissect subjects at times in order to gain my own understanding, but I have to have an (emotional?) attachment to the subject. I do have some interest in certain sciences, such as biology or the more bizarre theories of astrophysics and quantum mechanics. But I’ve always struggled with mathematics. I gave up my childhood dream of becoming a biologist when I learned how much chemistry is often involved, and I failed my high school chem class (the only F I ever got). I think my irritation with studying more stereotypically left brained subjects is that because I don’t grasp it right away, I want to give up. Again, that’s probably the Turbulent in me. Once I do grasp it, I come to enjoy the subject more. Again, Turbulent. I have seen some NF types in the harder sciences. I’d like to hear their take on why they chose to study a subject that is usually filled with NT types. Sometimes I do contradict individuals, and to some extent enjoy doing so, much to their chagrin. I enjoy a good debate, even within my own head, as long as no one takes it too seriously. I did test as about 65% Feeling. My significant other tested almost in the middle of Feeling and Thinking, but came out leaning INTP. He dislikes getting into intellectual arguments more than I do! He does well at them, though. Notice how I must put everything into personal or human terms; the purely abstract can be a bit unwieldy at times from my POV. I hope I addressed at least some of the topics at hand, as we FP types tend to ramble. I enjoy having civilized disagreements too, something all too often rare on the Internet, unfortunately. Much respect.
10 months ago
This is my theory on the difference between T/F maybe it could provide some insight : Feeling types tend to rely more on emotions when making decisions. Emotions are a means of communicating hierarchies between people, they allow for cooperation between individuals by communicating their individual standing to one another. (E.g. An angry person always feels he's in the right, while he feels the entity at which is his anger is projected is in the wrong thus the angry person stands on "a higher" footing than the other entity.) These hierarchies allow for a sense of "harmony" to protrude the collectivistic entity (a group of people), as an equilibrium is reached with all the individuals in said collectivistic entity. "Feeling types" therefore are the "binding force" that hold communities together. It is also for that reason that "feeling" types tend to not be as self-centered as much as "thinking" types. This does not mean that they are intrinsically more altruistic, as these hierarchies could very well pose problems of their own. But rather that they are themselves more concerned with the group overall than the individuals of which the group is compromised. Feeling types are not really concerned about the individuals themselves, but rather their individual standing toward one another. This line of reasoning stems from the tendencies of "feeling types" to use "associations" when handling information (associative reasoning tends to be more memory intensive). Information is linked to other pieces of information to form a neural network of information reflecting the collectivistic entity that the "feeling type" is internally characterizing (including all the different people and their standing to one another). This line of reasoning works great for understanding people in general or subjects based on people such as history or social sciences. Thinking types tend to rely more on rationality when making decisions. Rationality is a means for questioning the established hierarchies. It is in itself a means for conflict. Challenging the existing hierarchies, essentially representing the individuality of mankind against it's own collectivist nature. In order to achieve this, conflict is essential, that's why "thinking types" tend to have a conflictive line of reasoning as they have to evaluate each and every statement made to further represent this individuality against the collective (conflictive reasoning tends to be more processor intensive). For this, each argument needs to be evaluated from multiple perspectives, calculating the outcome from each perspective respectively and seeing how they hold up to one another. That is also why "thinking types" tend to be more self-centered in their reasoning, there's only logic, anything else (hierarchies) is just considered an illogical nuisance that simply does not compute in this neurological architecture. Also I feel sorry for you having lost your childhood dream, now I'm going to be rather abrasive here, for which I would like to apologize in advance. But do you know exactly what made you fail your chemistry class in high school ? Because, and I've seen way too many people fallen prey to this, it sounds as if you failed the subject and then simply accepted that you weren't "fit" for chemistry. You associated the result of your chemistry class in high school with chemistry in general. But what if you just did something wrong unbeknownst to yourself, and changing that could have helped you achieve that dream at long last ? (Questioning yourself is conflict, the polar opposite of association. That's also exactly why I'm assuming that you haven't done it yet.) I even saw the exact same thing with my sister when she had trouble with math, I basically had to pull her out of it otherwise she would have quit, thinking she isn't smart or something to that effect. (Also I don't believe the reason to be turbulence as to why you dislike having to search for answers (left-brain subjects). I do however believe this to be a consequence of your feeling nature, as you dislike the conflict of having to search for an answer. In essence challenging everything and looking at everything rather as an obstacle than a potential ally, that is what it means to "search for an answer". Something which is inherently hard for any feeling type out there.)
9 months ago
I just stumbled here in the comment section and am intrigued about what you guys are talking about. Would that be ok if I join in?
9 months ago
If you're interested, we were talking about how each personality type processes information individually/differently. I even came up with a theory about that, it can be found at "members area"=>discussions=>theory. It's a thread with the name "Information processing according to personality traits". (I kind of had to take it to the discussion section of this website as these comments were getting way too long/also it takes ages before these comments are reviewed and approved.) Also feel free to join the discussion, be it here or in the discussion thread itself.
6 months ago
I decided to comment on here instead of the discussion thread since what I’m going to write about is related to here. Although I like my conscious-unconscious theory, I need to research on it more. Even as an INFP, I like to challenge myself constantly to learn more and understand how the information connects to each other. It instantly make sense to me. Then, I would figure out the process on how I formed the conclusion. I also like to study on the sciences and mathametics (but I’m still young and I don’t know what career suits me yet) However, I am not a Thinking type because I like to use the information to help the world, as oppose to finding the general truth for the sake of it. As an INFP, I dislike conflict (the emotional kind) since my parents tend to pinpoint each other’s flaws instead of solving the actual problem that cause the argument in the first place. Therefore, I avoid confrontation due to that I’m not confident to keep my head cool in order to solve the problem; I like to offer suggestions if only I know that the other person would accept it. I like to expand on your theory here. Feeling types are loyal to their nationality, religion, family, friends.etc (They are not loyal just to a particular person, but the general whole of the community). Even though feeling types share the general structure, they have differing opinions on how the structure works since each person has their own set of morals. In result, the structure that was meant to include other people works in the opposite way than intended; if someone doesn't fit in your definition of "good" then that person is "bad". When Feeling types decide someone is "bad" they refuse to change their opinion about them, even if evidence has proven otherwise. Furthermore, Feeling types like to refer their moral as a part of themselves. So, when a thinking type pokes at it, Feeling types may think that the Thinking Types don't like them, but in fact the Thinking Types just wanted to point out that the Feeling's thought process is illogical. Thinking types, even though they have a systematic approach of thinking, there is one flaw thinking types overlook: Emotions. It represents who they don't want to be: someone who acts first before thinking. So, Thinking types tend to ignore it.However, emotions are a factor on our decision making, if they like it or not. If a person ignore emotions, they influence the decision making process without them realizing it. Even though I am a Feeling type, I have fallen prey to this. For example, I secretly hated the popular people in my school because, to me, they seem superficial and simple minded. I have used my reasoning to interpret why I hated them but it was just an excuse to cover up the truth; I was jealous of them since they have many friends. Also, Thinking types may fall into a trap that their way of thinking is the right way of thinking. If the information contradicts their thinking or if they don’t understand the reasoning behind it, they tend to ignore it. Although this is unlikely since thinking types tend to be open minded and try to understand the information given first before judging it. This is prevalent on my ISTJ friend (an unlikely friend combo). She is studious and knows a lot. However, she refused to incorporate my feedback when I pointed out that there is a better way to present the information to the audience.
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