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Emotional Intelligence Tests


The importance of emotional intelligence tests

Some general problems with so called EI tests

Problems with the Goleman ECI 360 and the Bar-On EQi tests

The MSCEIT test

History of the MSCEIT, other tests and other info

My comments on the "Youth Version" of the MSCEIT (YV)

More reading

David Caruso's test comparison table, and his technical information page

Online Tests

Review of MSCEIT test

Are Emotionally Intelligent People Attracted to Careers in Scientific Research?

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At this time I do not support, endorse or recommend any of the so-called emotional intelligence (EI) tests. For a few years I thought the tests developed by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, such as the MSCEIT, were worthy of being called tests of EI, but I have changed my mind. In January 2005 I wrote this note. Recently I reviewed a full copy of the MSCEIT test and after studying it I feel even more convinced it's misleading to call it a test of emotional intelligence. Other tests which are widely promoted as tests of emotional intelligence, such as the Goleman ECI test and Bar-On EQi test, are even worse.

The MSCEIT test is the only test which has received much support from serious academic researchers, but I believe the academic reviewers have been too gentle with their criticism of the MSCEIT. Even before I saw a copy of the whole test I had complaints about it, but now I have much more detailed criticisms and much stronger feelings that it is not a good test of a person's innate level of emotional intelligence.

There are also other tests which claim to be tests of EI, but the general view by researchers is that all these other tests are really just new forms of personality tests and therefore are not measuring much of anything new. This is discussed in detail in Robert McCrae's chapter from the book, the Handbook of Emotional Intelligence. McCrae explains, for example, that something like optimism is better called a personality trait than a form of intelligence. He makes the good point that you can be optimistic without being intelligent.

I feel very frustrated by the number of people using tests which claim to be tests of EI. I believe many, many people have been misled. It also bothers me that a lot of money has been spent on these tests, and that many people have made money from selling the tests, giving them and trying to interpret them etc.

Despite everything that has been written against tests like ECI and the EQi people still continue to buy them. People are then told they have "high EQ" or "low EQ" based on their scores from these misleading tests. No one is regulating this. It is let the buyer beware. But people are not doing research before they buy the tests or give them to employees or others.

I apologize for not having gathered and presented the information about these misleading tests very well. I have lots of information about the tests in various places on my site, but I have not pulled it all together. Below though, is a summary of the problems with these tests. I may add more to this section later, but till then, I can only strongly advise you not to be fooled into thinking you are really testing a person's emotional intelligence when you give them a test which claims to be test of EI.

Here are some of my early general complaints about EI tests.

The importance of emotional intelligence tests

Very briefly I can see a few reasons why good tests of EI would be important. One is so we can identify the young people who are gifted with high emotional intelligence. We could then be sure that they receive special training to develop their abilities to the fullest. I believe the emotional geniuses of the world are the people who have the potential to solve many of humanities most serious problems. For example the problems with war, terrorism, domestic violence, the high divorce rate, and school shootings.

Another reason might be to identify very young children with high innate emotional intelligence so we can then re-test them to see if their families and schooling has damaged their emotional skills. I have absolutely no doubt that many young people with high emotional intelligence are being raised in ways which corrupts their natural talents and turns them into at best very depressed adults or at words very dangerous adults or suicidal teens. See “The dark side of emotional intelligence”.

Another reason which has been mentioned by other people is to identify those with low innate emotional intelligence and give them special remedial help.

To conclude, I believe there is value to testing for emotional intelligence. But I don't believe there are any good tests of EI to date. I do hope the academic people will keep working on creating better tests, and I assume they will. I also hope they will take my criticisms of the MSCEIT test seriously when they are designing new tests.

January 2005 Note

I do not support, endorse or recommend any of the so-called emotional intelligence (EI) tests. I recommend people stop using them completely, at least until the authors change the name and stop calling them tests of emotional intelligence.

The only test I thought might be worthy of being called a test of emotional intelligence was the MSCEIT. Now I cannot endorse that test either. See this file for some of my reasons - http://eqi.org/msceit4.htm

The MSCEIT test is being sold by a company called MHS. MHS also sells Reuven BarOn's test which is being promoted as test of EI. But I believe MHS is deliberately misleading people so they can make money selling such tests.

I plan to write more about later and further challenge the MSCEIT authors to come up with a better test, if they really want a test which can be fairly called a test of EI.

Please also read this little file on what the world needs now.

S. Hein
January 30, 2005

For an academic critique of the MSCEIT see my notes from the book Emotional Intelligence: Science or Myth

If you want to see my informal "test" of EI, or what I will call "applied EI", click here - http://eqi.org/sphtest1.htm

Some general problems with so-called emotional intelligence tests

Below are some problems with the MSCEIT test. Some of these problems apply to all the tests which are called emotional intelligence tests, but I want to make it very clear that I would not call of these products "tests of emotional intelligence." I say "products" because I believe the primary goal of a lot of the people involved in the design, and especially the marketing of, the so-called EI tests is primarily to make money for the people who wrote them and are selling them. A lot of people are also making money by administering the tests and giving consulting related to the test results.

At any rate, here are my complaints about the MSCEIT test.

1. The tests can not measure a person's innate emotional intelligence. The tests are measuring too many things which are influenced by the person's environment. For example, the problem solving section of the test will give different results based on a person's training, experience, etc. I would suspect that the part of the test which has people try to identify faces is the part which comes the closest to measuring someone's innate emotional intelligence.

2. The tests might not be able to identify an "emotional genius." For example, in the section on recognizing emotion in faces, it would be quite possible for many people to get a perfect score in this section. There are not enough questions or pictures to separate someone who is very good at identifying emotions from someone who is truly superb. Also, in the emotional problem solving section, there are limited responses. The questions are multiple choice. An emotional genius, however, might be able to think of a very creative response which is better than any of the given choices.

3. The tests are too subjective. The answers depend too much on your culture, your beliefs and what you have seen all around you all your life. The "right" answer depends on what a group of university professors has decided upon. They are supposed to be experts, but they will all share much training and many values. And just because they agree on what the answer is, does not make it the best one. Time might prove there are better answers, for example. At one point the experts in sailing would have said the earth is flat. And university professors are much too "cognitive" and intellectual for me to have much faith in using them as experts in emotional issues. Just because someone has a PhD does not make them good at solving personal emotional problems or being a good listener. In fact, I feel very, very skeptical about university psychology professors in general when it comes to their real-life emotional skills.

4. The test answers don't consider differences in a person's personality. For example, the best answer to a real life problem for a very shy person might not be the best answer for someone who is very aggressive. In other words, the best response for you might not be the best response for me. And the response that a group of university psych professors chooses might be very different than what is actually the best response for someone who has never been to a university, who is dealing with people who haven't been to a university either and who lives in a culture where not many people are even university graduates, let alone PhDs in psychology.

5. The tests don't measure potential as much as they measure a person's current abilities. To me, intelligence has more to do with a person's potential than with abilities.

6. The tests are not designed for very young children. Although there is an "adolescent" version of the test, by the time a person is a teenager they have already been influenced greatly by their parents, teachers, peers, culture etc. A 14 year old in Singapore will answer questions differently than a 14 year old in Indonesia because the cultures are so different. I believe the time to really measure a person's emotional intelligence is when they are under two years old. When I see a test that can do that, I will be happy to recommend it! Probably, brain scanning will be able to do just that in the future.

Problems with the Goleman ECI 360 and the Bar-On EQi tests

"Let us first begin by making one point crystal clear - we do not endorse a Goleman (1995) or Bar-On (1997) type of approach to studying emotional intelligence...we also feel that to an extent, they have done much more harm than good regarding establishing emotional intelligence as a legitimate, empirical construct "

From an article by academic researchers Catherine Daus and Neal Ashkanasy

There are two main problems with the Goleman ECI 360 test and the Bar-On EQi tests which Daus and Ashkanasy criticize in the above quote. First, they are not testing a person's actual ability. They are "self-report" tests, or they get responses from others, but they are not direct tests of ability or potential. Second, I and most academic reviewers believe they are measuring aspects of a person's personality and behavior which have already been measured with existing personality tests.

Let me explain both of these points.

With respect to the problem of not measuring actual ability I offer the example of one's typing speed. A test of actual ability would be having a person take a typing test which requires actual typing. If I were to simply ask someone how fast they typed they would be reporting their own estimate of their speed. Asking someone to report on their own abilities is known as a "self-report" test. In general, self-report tests are not good indicators of actual ability.

The Bar-On EQi is completely a self-report test. The Goleman ECI is largely a self-report test, but also asks others for their opinion of someone's abilities. Like self-report tests, asking someone to rate someone else's ability is not a good indicator of actual ability. It is like asking someone else how fast of a typist I am. Another person may be able to give an approximate or relative indication, but it would never be as accurate as an actual typing test would be.

With respect to the second point, that the ECI and the EQi are really just measures of personality, the academic community now seems to be largely in agreement that these two tests are not measuring anything which has not already been measured.

Also, here is something I found on the net about the Goleman ECI 360 test:

"The ECI is a 360-degree tool designed to assess the emotional competencies of individuals and organizations. From ECI technical manual on eiconsortium website

History of the MSCEIT and other tests

Beginning in 1990 with their first publication using the term "emotional intelligence," Mayer and his colleagues have been trying to develop what they refer to as an "ability test." An example of an ability test would be a typing test where one actually types. (A self-report test of typing might simply ask someone how fast they typed.) On tests used by Mayer et al people were asked to look at photographs of facial expressions and identify the emotions which were being displayed. (see for example, Mayer, J.D., DiPaolo, M.T., & Salovey, P. (1990) ) It was found that some people scored higher in this ability than others. This and other such tests lead the researchers to conclude there was some kind of "emotional intelligence." Since 1990 they have been continuing to find ways to improve their test. In the past few years they and others have been have been comparing their test results to measures of personality traits and to measures of traditional intelligence. From the results they are feeling more confident that they are indeed measuring a newly identified form of intelligence. As I see it they have been very cautious not to make exaggerated claims during the past ten years. Neither have they seemed particularly motivated by the prospect of becoming wealthy by selling their tests.

When Goleman's book came out, it seems they were, let's say inspired and energized, by what they perceived as his misuse and exploitation of the term emotional intelligence. Since 1995 they have performed a thorough review of the various uses of the term emotional intelligence as well as of the various tests which claim to be measuring it. The above mentioned article on selecting a measure of emotional intelligence, as well as another article entitled "Emotional Intelligence as Zeitgeist, Personality and Intelligence", offer a summary of their findings.

There is also a test developed by Reuvon Bar-On which he calls the Bar-On EQi test. As I understand it, the early version of this test was developed by Reuven before he had ever heard of the term emotional intelligence, back when he was a graduate student working on his dissertation. At that time he created a test of psychological well-being, but it was never designed originally to be a test of EI. Bar-On also seemed to be motivated by Goleman's book and he and MHS began marketing his test quite aggressively as a test of emotional intelligence.

Another indication comes from something I happened to read on an EMONET posting by Bar-On in which he said,"

Although the EQ-i is the first test of emotional intelligence to be published by a psychological test publisher, it may more accurately be described as a self-report measure of emotionally and socially competent behavior which provides an estimate of one's emotional and social intelligence. (EMONET digest 403, May 2000)


(This is nearly the exact statement Reuven makes in his book The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence.) Finally, in the manual that comes with the EQi test, the EQi is said to measure "an array of noncognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one's ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures." (Bar-On, R. (1997). The Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i): Technical Manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.)

As Bar-On acknowledges, the EQi is a self-report test. As with all self-report tests all it relies on the test takers' honesty and accurate self-knowledge when it comes to test questioins like: "I am able to identity my feelings." A concern I have with such tests, and to a lesser extent even with the Mayer et al tests, is that someone who is smart, dishonest and who has a little knowledge of emotional intelligence literature could relatively easily figure out the "correct" answers. To my amusement I have noticed that the researchers have a polite way of referring to someone who deliberately lies on such a self-report test. They call it "impression management!"

Sidenote: Apparently the sales people at MHS (see below for link) share my concern about self-report tests. Here is what they say about the Mayer Salovey Caruso test:

Because the MSCEIT is an ability-based measure, it is very difficult for respondents to “fake” a good performance. As such, the MSCEIT is ideal for testing situations in which it is expected that respondents will want to create a positive impression.

For a more detailed review of the Bar-On test, see Models of Emotional Intelligence, by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, in R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of Human Intelligence-2nd ed., New York: Cambridge, or Selecting a Measure of Emotional Intelligence, mentioned above.

The Bar-On test is available from MHS (Multi-Health Systems), who sometimes still promotes it as a test of emotional intelligence. For about two years, MHS was saying they were going to be selling the MSCEIT test, but it took them a very long time before they released it to the general public. The last thing I knew they had an exclusive contract with Mayer, Salovey and Caruso which unfortunately prohibits anyone else from selling the test.

More reading

Will the real emotional intelligence please stand up? - An article by Catherine Daus and Neal Ashkanasy

For a more detailed (and academic) discussion of tests which claim to measure EI, see Emotional Intelligence Meets Traditional Standards for an Intelligence, by Mayer, Caruso, and Salovey. The article discusses the definition of an intelligence and the criteria used to classify a set of abilities as an intelligence. It provides extensive statistical summaries of the authors' research and a discussion of their test.

Another article by the Mayer et al is in "Selecting a Measure of Emotional Intelligence: The Case for Ability Scales."

David Caruso's website about the MSCEIT test

OnlineTests -

Unfortunately, there are no free online tests which measure emotional intelligence, although many claim to. I did find an interesting self-test which might measure some components of it, however, as well as giving an indication of general self-esteem. That one is:


There is also an online empathy self-test made by David Caruso and John Mayer. It was once found on moodware.com but that link is down as of June 2012

Comments on the Youth Version of the MSCEIT (MSCEIT YV)

I don't believe David, Jack and Peter are qualified to create a youth version of their test. First, I don't accept their MSCEIT test as being a test of emotional intelligence. Second, I believe they know less about teenagers than they do about adults. It bothers me more they are trying to market a test for teenagers now. It bothers me they never asked for my opinion, my help, never offered to show it to me. Is this because a) they just didn't think about doing so, b) they thought about it and were afraid of my criticism, c) they don't think I am qualified to add any value to the test - in other words they don't think I understand teenagers, or at least not any better than they do, d) they thought about it and decided it would complicate things to get my ideas and it would be easier to leave me out, e) they didn't want to show any association with me because they think I would hurt their credibility more than help it, f) none of the above, g) some combination of all of the above!

I invite them to let me know, and to send me a copy of the test so I can have a look at it.

I would also invite them to try to answer my the questions on my own "youth version" of an EI test, as well as answer the rest of my questions on that page. Then I will feel more able to assess their EI test making abilities. Till then, I will stick with my current position which says they are not sufficiently qualified for such an important task.

S. Hein
Feb 27, 2005

The MSCEIT test

I have temporarily taken down my writing about the MSCEIT test because MHS, the company selling the test, complained to my hosting service, saying I was in violation of their copyright. I am waiting to get my new writing on the test approved by my hosting service before posting my edited files.

I have started a file about copyright issues, and suggestions for hosting companies on how to improve their customer service on this page.

Till I publish my edited criticism of the MSCEIT I will just say I do not believe it is a test worthy of being called a test of emotional intelligence. It maybe helpful with some things, but please do not let yourself be misled that you are testing a person's emotional intelligence if you use the test. Unfortunately, there are no tests which I can recommend as tests of a person's EI.

If you would like an online test to give you an idea of your emotional management skills, I can recommend the Queendom test on this link.


S. Hein
March 22, 2006