Interest Inventory

An interest inventory is a data collection instrument designed to evaluate and measure an individual's interest in or preference for specific vocational areas or activities; it is also known as an interest test.

An interest inventory is a data collection instrument designed to measure and evaluate the level of an individual's interest in a variety of activities. The collection of interest-related data is typically done using a self-reported questionnaire format; other testing methods include direct observation of behavior, ability tests, and self-reported inventories or assessment scales of the test-takers’ interests in educational, social, recreational, and vocational activities. Each type of interest inventory has a specific scoring method used to indicate levels of interest in the items evaluated.

Interest inventories are widely used in vocational counseling and career planning, both with adolescents and adults. However, since these tests measure only interest and not ability, their value as predictors of occupational success is limited. Nevertheless, they are especially useful in helping high school and college students become familiar with career options and aware of their vocational interests. Interest inventories are also used extensively by businesses for employee selection and classification and by educational psychologists. Interest inventories may also be applied as assessment tools in research studies.


Assessment scale—
An evaluation tool in the form of a paper or computerized scale that is used in education, research, and clinical practice to assess subjects’ characteristics, attitudes, or clinical symptoms either qualitatively or quantitatively.
Data collection instrument—
A testing method or device, such as a questionnaire or computerassisted interviewing system, used to collect data for evaluation or measurement of specific variables.
Representative sample—
A sample from a given population that matches or represents the overall demographics and characteristics of the population as closely as possible.
Validity testing—
A measurement of how well a testing instrument or system measures what it is intended to measure; includes criterion validity, content validity, and construct validity, which together represent reliability and validity of the instrument.

Another commonly administered interest inventory is the Kuder Preference Record, a 168-item scale originally developed in 1939. Each item on the scale lists three broad choices concerning occupational interests, and individual test-takers select the one that is most preferred. The test is scored on 10 interest scales consisting of items that correlate highly with each other. A typical score profile will have high and low scores on one or more of the scales and average scores on the rest.

Other interest inventories are the Guilford-Zimmerman Interest Inventory, the G-S-Z Interest Survey, the California Occupational Preference Survey, the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey, and the Ohio Vocational Interest Survey. A newer scale is the Uni-act Interest Inventory, a shortened version of the DISCOVER Interest Inventory, designed to save time evaluating college students and other adults. Interest inventories have also been designed especially for children, for the disabled, and for those interested in the skilled trades.

Interest inventories are routinely tested for their quality and proficiency as assessment instruments. Testing a scale requires evaluating its suitability for specific audiences and, as such, must be representative of the population in which it will be used. Therefore, an inventory scale is usually tested with an established General Representative Sample (GRS) to make sure it is appropriate for the population that will be tested. The GRS for the Strong Interest Inventory, for example, consists of 2,250 individuals, 50% men and 50% women, who are representative of the gender, racial, and ethnic characteristics of the U.S. workforce. All interest inventories, as with any research instrument, must meet certain statistical criteria for reliability and validity. Validity testing is done for any data collection instrument, testing instrument, or assessment scale before it is used in evaluating a specific area such as individual interests. In this way, test results using the interest inventory can be trusted to represent the interests of individuals from a given population without introducing bias.

See also Aptitude tests; Testing bias ; Vocational aptitude test .



Hilderman, Robert, and Howard J. Hamilton. Knowledge Discovery and Measures of Interest. Medford, MA: Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

Kline, Paul. Handbook of Psychological Testing. New York: Routledge, 2013.


Blackwell, T., and J. Case. “Test Review: Strong Interest Inventory.” Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin 51 (January 2008): 122–26.


DISCOVER Interest Inventory. “The UNIACT Interest Inventory (Version for College Students and Other Adults).” (accessed August 17, 2015).