Life Orientation Test: (A Complete Guide)

In this article we will discuss the Life Orientation Test. 

The purpose of a Life Orientation Test is to measure optimism.

This test is thought to be a standard psychological assessment method for optimism.

This test was initially designed in 1985, by Michael Scheier and Charles Carver.

There were some revisions done with the test and a more improved version of this test came out which was named as Life Orientation Test Revised or LOT-R.

This test became popular for personal and professional use. In this article we will discuss the Life Orientation Test in detail. 

Initially the life orientation test consisted of 12 items or questions.

Each question was designed to measure pessimism and optimism objectively.

The participants were directed to answer every question on a five-point Likert Scale on which Strongly Disagree was denoted by 0 and 4 means Strongly Agree.

The questions used in Life Orientation Test can be related to people of any age or background.

This questionnaire probes a few common elements of life which everyone comprehends at any stage of his life.

The Life Orientation Test includes:

  • Those statements which question about the feelings of a and about himself, others and how he sees life in general. 
  • Statements which question the feelings of a person about himself, others and life when he is going through depression or stress.
  • Statements which question the feelings of a person about himself, others and how he perceives life when he is having good times.

These statements consist of questions which are apparently simple, deep and investigate thoroughly to unleash the different aspects of mind which  usually remain unheard or untouched.

After attempting the questionnaire the analysis and the interpretation of the data gives us useful insights about at Which point in life we are currently standing and what are the ways to overcome the pessimistic thoughts and negative explanations to move ahead. It also helps in making you realize what is wrong with you and how to overcome it

Apart from giving directions to bring improvements in ourselves the Life Orientation Test and Life Orientation Test Revised also stress on the idea of self belief that if we will think about good and right to do in our lives then good things will happen to us.

Life Orientation Test-Revised

Life Orientation Test focuses on the evolution of optimism and pessimism in real-life conditions.

Scientists and researchers have criticised the original version of the test.

The reasons for criticising the test are that that course of future expectations which is mentioned in the theoretical base of this test is not covered. 

This criticism opened the doors for the creation of a new and modified version of Life Orientation Test which is known as Life Orientation Test-Revised in 1994, by Scheier and Carver.

Life Orientation Test-Revised is more specialised, more objective and more shorter than the original version.

This test consists of six questions which are evaluated on the basis of the same response system which was used in previous version, i.e., five-point Likert Scale. 

According to the developers of this scale, Scheier and Carver, the other items are filler items which are not used for the direct assessment of the optimism or pessimism levels in a person.

This is the reason that these items are not a part of this test.

The Life Orientation Test-Revised becomes more important and useful for behavioural and cognitive therapies as it is brief and impartial.

The Life Orientation Test was used on different populations and it had shown positive results.

It has been administered on the people who are fighting poverty in their adulthood, those who are victims of social anxiety, and suffering from different traumas.

It is, hereby, the most trusted and accepted method for measuring optimism and positive thinking for young people and adults as well.

What exactly is measured by these tests?

Studies conducted with large samples of population have exhibited that scores of life orientation tests are directly associated with different aspects such as, quality of life, fatigue, optimism, mental health and self-efficacy. 

Optimism and pessimism are measured by this test on a sole continuation and it produces accurate results regardless of social background, gender and other demographic variables.

Along with the indication of optimism levels, dispositional optimism is also measured through Life Orientation Scale. 

Dispositional optimism also investigates various factors of individual differences which explains various levels of sadness, happiness and anxiety between different people in the same situation.

For instance, how few people manage to come out of crisis than others, how some people become self-critical than other people of the same age group.

Dispositional Optimism provides information about the unknown causes of such complex individual differences.

A research conducted on those people who were suffering from chronic heart diseases showed that individuals who performed better on Life Orientation Test Scales are able to cope with their situation and have shown that they get to recover early from this disease.

In 1985, Scheier and Carver defined Dispositional Optimism refers to a universal anticipation that in future more good things will take place than bad things.

In 2000, Peterson stated that a personality dimension is part of the term dispositional which means that if it becomes part of personality it can increase the chances of hopefulness, self-motivation and goal orientation.

There are many positive attributes connected with optimism. Few or there are as follow;


The feelings of joy and pleasure of achieving something. 


It’s a repellant force to make a person do a task. 


Positive anticipations about something worth to happen in future. 


The capacity of a person to treat himself with appreciation and respect. 


The self-confidence is an internal security of an individual about himself about achieving his goals.


It’s a sense of being thankful to others and situations around which means something. 

Sense of Achievement

It’s an internal mechanism which acknowledges the efforts of a person and gives recognition to his achievements without seeking it from other people. 


It’s an internal drive and motivation which strengthens a person to learn from past experiences and move forward with good lessons in life to achieve.

Life Orientation Test gives us information about the proximity and non-presence of above mentioned factors by estimating optimism.

All these qualities are likely to be present in a person who scores high on Life Orientation Test or Life Orientation Test-Revised.

The presence of all these factors will ultimately indicate that the quality of life of the person is quite high. 

12 items Life Orientation Test 

The 12 items of Life Orientation Test use to measure the presence of optimism and pessimism level in a person on 5-point Likert Scale.

One factor model was used in the original version of Life Orientation Test for the evaluation of the responses.

It used to evaluate how optimistic a respondent is.

Many researches and studies have indicated that a two factor model is more favourable for assessment as compared to the single factor structure.

In 1996, Chang and McBride-Chang stated that, the Life Orientation Test being a bi-dimensional model it noe comes up with four items which aim to assess optimism, four items which measure pessimism and also it has  four filler items which are not scored. In 1985, Scheier and Carver explored that there may be presence of a third dimension in Life Orientation Test’s factor analysis which overlays the correlates of self-esteem, neuroticism and efficacy. 

How scoring works?

Direct and reverse scoring methods are used in the Life Orientation Test.

The answers provided by the respondents are analysed on a 5-point Likert Scale. I,e., Strongly disagree=0, Disagree=1, neutral=2, agree=3 and strongly agree=4. Each point of Likert Scale points towards a score.

Those times which are used to measure optimism the responses equal to ‘0’ will indicate the rating of ‘0’ and a response of ‘4’ will make the score ‘4’.

For reverse scoring items which are used to measure pessimism, the responses equal to ‘0’ will indicate a score of ‘4’ and responses which are equal tto’1’ will make the score ‘3’ and so on.

There are three parts of scoring of Life Orientation Test;

Items 3,8,9, and 12 are reverse scored.

Items 2,6,7, and 10 are fillers and not scored.

Items 1,4,5, and 11 are scored directly.

By adding the results obtained through direct scoring and reverse scoring it gives an idea about much pessimistic or optimistic a person is.

How to best review the results?

An easy and straightforward approach for reviewing the results of Life Orientation Test the individual who have scored higher on the scale is more optimistic and he will likely to spend a more happier and prosperous life and a person who have scored lower in the test is more pessimistic and will likely to spend his life in an unpleasant way.

Twenty four is the highest score a person can get in the Life Orientation Test which surely indicates that the respondent is optimistic and has a positive approach in life.

Demonstrating a good level of dispositional optimism shows that the person has a greater understanding of subjective wellbeing when he goes through a stressful situation.

A series of researches on mental health and self-confidence by using Life Orientation Test have revealed that those who scored high in the test find it is to socially adjust themselves and also have a higher and balanced emotional regulation as compared to others.

Those who have shown higher results on the Life Orientation Test are found more hardworking, expressive and high achievers as compared to those people who haven’t scored high.

Additionally, those who are optimists have found to be doing great in their professional lives and personal lives as compared to pessimists across all demographic variations.

Drawback of Life Orientation Test

Most studies have shown that the main disadvantage of using the Life Orientation Test are fake responses. 

In 1969, Glaser explained that giving fake responses in the Life Orientation Test is much easier than faking responses in other tests of positive psychology.

Many researchers related to the field of positive psychology have stated that by overcoming the issue of falsifying the responses in Life Orientation Test can be very useful in increasing its application and usefulness, in future, in different clinical settings.

Validity and Reliability

The validity and accuracy of Life Orientation Test has been measured by Item Response Theory. Research conducted on university graduates have shown that the scores of Life Orientation Test sufficiently measured dispositional optimism and other hidden characteristics such as, self-mastery and self-confidence. 

Test, retest reliability and internal consistency of Life Orientation Test have shown similar pictures.

Researches conducted on drug addicts and alcoholics have provided the same results with different demographic variables. In 2009, Solberg stated that strong criterion validity showed that higher scores in LOT are inversely proportional to hopelessness and depression.

FAQs about Life Orientation Test

Q1. What is a Life Orientation Test?

Life Orientation Test is a tool to measure the optimism in an individual.

Q2. What is Life Orientation? 

Life Orientation refers to the study of self in relation to the society and other people around. 

Q3 . What is dispositional optimism? 

dispositional optimism refers to the expectations attached with the future. Such as expectations that good things will happen rather than bad things. 

Q4. What is optimism?

Optimism can be defined as a stable personality trait related to positive expectations regarding future events.