Common Questions

Online testing and reports

How long does it take to complete the online version of the Self-Directed Search?
The SDS is made up of five different sections and takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Is my personal information secure?
Absolutely. We will not sell or rent your personal information (e.g., e-mail address) to anyone.
Are my results confidential?
Yes, all results are completely confidential. You can enter whatever name, nickname, initials, or personal identifier you choose on the demographic data screen prior to the assessment. The personal identifier you provide will appear on your report.
How secure is my credit card information?
All credit card information is encrypted using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for the highest browser security available. After your credit card purchase has been approved, you will be connected to the report generation section of the SDS site. This section does not require a secure connection because your credit card information will have already been processed. If your screen displays a message letting you know that you are entering a non-secure site, simply click on “Yes” to proceed.
What do I do if I experience any technical problem with the site?
In the unlikely event that you have any technical problems with this site, please e-mail our Technical Support Department for assistance.
How can I arrange to have a group or class take the SDS?
Visit our purchasing page for information about making prepaid group arrangements.
What type of information is provided in the SDS report?
  • A three-letter Summary Code that represents the three personality types that best describe the individual’s work personality.
  • A list of occupations that correspond to the code, along with the levels of education they each require.
  • A list of the fields of study that correspond to the code.
  • A list of leisure activities that correspond to the code.
  • A description of each of the six RIASEC types.
  • Guidance on appropriate next steps, the meaning of the code, how to further use the code, and more.
What is the SDS Interactive Report?
The SDS Interactive Report is a Web-based report that uses a tabbed interface to display your SDS results, enabling you to more quickly and easily navigate the various sections of the report. Choosing to view your results this way after you complete the SDS does not mean you can't access your full Client Interpretive Report—in fact, a link to your full report is available in the upper right portion of the Interactive Report. The SDS Interactive Report is available for only 30 days after you take the SDS, whereas access to the full report does not expire.
If I'm using accessibility software, which report should I use?
If you are using accessibility software, you should use the full Client Interpretive Report, which is displayed in a PDF format. It was designed and optimized to work with accessibility software.

Other SDS formats

Is there a paper-and-pencil version?
Yes. The same results can be obtained by having the user complete the paper-and-pencil Assessment Booklet and use the accompanying Occupations Finder and Leisure Activities Finder to locate the occupations and leisure activities that correspond to his or her Summary Code. Visit the SDS products page to learn more, or go directly to to order.
Is the SDS available on PARiConnect?
Yes. If you are a professional who has a PARiConnect account, this is the easiest way for you to ask your clients to take the test. Plus, using PARiConnect is the only way to obtain the SDS Professional Report. Visit and log in to your PARiConnect account to purchase.
Is the SDS available in other languages?
SDS 4th Edition forms are available in Spanish, Canadian French, and Canadian English—plus, the SDS has been translated into 17 additional languages.

General SDS information

What is the qualification level for the SDS? Is any special training required to use it?
The qualification level for the SDS is A. There are no restrictions on who can purchase, take, and use the test, and no special training is required to interpret the results. This is true regardless of whether the test is completed online (using the link above) or in paper-and-pencil format.
What ages can the SDS be used with?
The SDS is suitable for individuals 11 years and older.
What is the reading level of the items?
Individuals with a middle school or high school education level should have little or no difficulty completing the SDS. It is written at a seventh-grade reading level.
What is RIASEC?
RIASEC is an acronym that stands for Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional—the six types of personalities and occupations that the SDS classifies examinees into. When an individual takes the SDS, he or she receives a three-letter Summary Code that represents the three types he or she typifies best.
Is it possible to get a code that doesn’t correspond with any job options?
People with rare or uncommon codes may display combinations of traits and personality characteristics that are not typically associated with one another. Such combinations of interests and traits may require compromises in interests, activities, and goals as a part of educational and career planning. These individuals may also choose to focus on one high point code in their paid employment while using other life activities to express their other code(s). For example, a person with a CS code might pursue a career in accounting, but express his or her social side by singing in a community chorus.

Several strategies can help with the interpretation of rare codes. First, the user should look at occupations using only one or two letters of the code. Second, consider the fourth letter if its scores is eight or fewer points from that of the third letter. Finally, the user should examine options using the code of their first aspiration or the Aspirations Summary Code.
What if there’s a tie between two of my letters?
If scores for two or more codes are tied, comparisons are made of those code scores in the Occupations section; the code with the highest score breaks the tie. Continued ties are resolved by comparisons on the Activities and Competencies sections, in order. This sequence of comparisons for resolving ties is based on the reliability of the section scores of the SDS. Continued tied scores are resolved in terms of the RIASEC order (e.g., R has precedence over I).
How reliable and valid are the Summary Codes? What type of standardization sample was used?
The SDS standardization sample consisted of 1,739 individuals ranging in age from 11 to 70 years. The sample was well-matched to U.S. population parameters for gender, race/ethnicity, education, and geographic region.

The reliability of the SDS was established by examining its internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and inter-scorer agreement. Internal consistency coefficients for the Activities, Competencies, and Occupations scales range from .71 to .93, and the summary scale coefficients range from .88 to .93. Test-retest reliability coefficients range from .78 to .98 for a 2- to 4-week interval sample (n = 25) and from .87 to .96 for a 2- to 4-month interval sample (n = 24). 

The validity of the SDS was established by measuring its face validity, the intercorrelations between scales, the equivalence of prior editions, the equivalence between print and online versions, its convergent validity with other career interest measures, and its predictive validity.
When was the SDS developed?
The SDS was originally published in 1970 by John Holland, but has undergone four revisions since, the most recent in 2013.