Simple psychology test

BK Cottle, Rikkyo University


Quick guide

  • Key words:Communicative activity, psychology test, icebreaker, favorites, adjectives, cultural comparisons
  • Learner English level:Beginning and above
  • Learner maturity level:Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time:5 minutes (requires photocopying of handouts)
  • Activity time:60 to 90 minutes
  • Materials:Activity handouts, deck of playing cards


This is a simple psychology test I use as a first day activity for university classes. It has three questions asking about favorites and one imaginary situation. After each question, students are asked to provide more information. The imaginary situation asks students to describe the situation or their feelings. Students are required to use only nouns and adjectives as simple, one-word answers. It is important to wait until students have finished before revealing the nature of the activity; otherwise answers will lack authenticity.


Make enough copies of the handouts for your students. For beginning students, I only use the “Favorites” handout, as most students have little problem producing one-word answers. The follow-up activities (“Psychology Test Revealed” and “Common Japanese Answers”) are better suited for higher-levelstudents, as they require greater amounts of discussion.

Class management

Step 1:Use a deck of playing cards to randomly distribute students and encourage pairwork. Let’s say you have 32 students. Separate the aces through eights from the deck, equaling 32 cards. Shuffle the 32 cards and distribute to your students. Have the aces sit in the first row, seated left to right:spade, heart, club, and diamond. Twos sit in the second row, threes in the third row, etc., until all students are seated according to row (one to eight) and column (spade, heart, club, diamond). The spades partner with hearts (e.g., ace of spades with ace of hearts, etc.) and the clubs partner with diamonds (e.g., ace of clubs with ace of diamonds, etc.) This results in random pairings and good manageability, even with classes of 40+ students.

Step 2:To change partners, have the hearts and diamonds move one chair forward (e.g., ace of spades with two of hearts, etc.) Repeat Step 2 as necessary. This entire procedure is easily modified for odd student numbers. It just requires some creativity on the part of the instructor. Although you may choose alternate methods for changing partners, I prefer this one as it is quiet, orderly, and very efficient.


Step 1:Distribute only the first page entitled “Favorites.” Ask the first question and write your answer for the students to see. Give students time to write their answer. Next, ask students to write two adjectives describing their favorite animal. Write your answers and give students time to write theirs. Continue guiding students through the remaining questions, allowing sufficient time for answering. Students will require an explanation of the third question, regarding their favorite form of water. Anything composed of mostly water is acceptable (e.g., ocean, lake, river, rain, snow, ice, etc.) Because students have been seated according to the class management procedure, it is very easy to monitor and assist students requiring help. Proceeding in a stepwise fashion allows for greater manageability, especially with large classes.

Step 2:Once all students have finished, pair them with their first partner according to Step 1 of the class management procedure. Students question their partner and write the answers in the spaces provided on the handout.

Step 3:Once all students have finished, pair the students with their second partner according to Step 2 of the class management procedure. Students question their second partner and write the answers in the spaces provided on the handout. Repeat this step until students have been paired with three different partners.

Step 4:Once all students have finished, explain and write the meaning of each question for the students to see.

Follow-up activity

Depending on the level of the class, you may decide not to use the follow-up handouts, “Psychology Test Revealed” and “Common Japanese Answers.” Most students enjoy going over the questions again with classmates and laughing at their answers. The common Japanese answers were taken from data gathered using the psychology test in university classes from the past several years.


It is important to note this psychology test is not a precise instrument. The goal is promote English communication using a personalized and enjoyable activity. The overall level of students will determine how long the psychology test takes and whether the follow-up activity is necessary or not. In my experience, students have a lot of fun and it’s a great way to start the semester.


The appendix, including “Favorites” and the follow-up handouts, is available below