Evaluating Your Purpose in Life: The PIL Test

21 March, 2020
Purpose in life is important because it gives people the will to go on even under the most adverse of circumstances. The PIL test attempts to measure a person's purpose.
 

Logotherapy considers meaning to be one of the foundations of life. According to this philosophy, having a meaning in life is one of the major needs of every human being. This aspect is closely related to the motivation you feel about your own existence. The PIL test, which is the subject of today’s article, is a questionnaire that tries to measure how strong a purpose you have in your life.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl founded and expanded logotherapy. After spending several years in Nazi concentration camps, he discovered that people attribute varying levels of meaning in their lives. The strength of this sense of meaning can push you to keep going even in the most adverse of circumstances.

Meaning and purpose are primary motivators. That’s because they make you see and experience life as valuable under even the harshest of situations. The strength of your life purpose is precisely what the test we’re talking about today tries to evaluate.

The PIL test, a purpose in life

The PIL (Purpose in Life) Test is an evaluation instrument that consists of 20 items. You answer its questions on a Likert scale that goes from 1 to 7 in ascending order.

A man looking out at the field trying to find his purpose which is what the PIL test measures.
 

As such, when you add up the points for each heading, you’ll find the extent to which a person has a life purpose. The test analyzes:

  • Perception of meaning. This measures the value that the individual places on life. It tries to assess how strongly they feel there are reasons to live.
  • Experience of the meaning. This measures whether the person perceives life as something that’s full of good things.
  • Goals and tasks. Here, the test looks into the person’s goals and the personal responsibility they feel over them.
  • Discourse on destiny/liberty. This aspect investigates the test taker’s attitude toward death as something uncontrollable that people should fear.

Items on the questionnaire

Questions 1 – 10 of the PIL test

  1. I am usually: 1 (completely bored) to 7 (enthusiastic).
  2. To me, life always seems: 1 (completely routine) to 7 (always exciting).
  3. In my life, I have: 1 (no goal nor desire) to 7 (many well-defined goals and desires).
  4. My personal existence is: 1 (without purpose or meaning) to 7 (full of meaning and purpose).
  5. Every day is: 1 (exactly the same) to 7 (always new and different).
  6. If I could, I would choose: 1 (never to have been born) to 7 (to have nine more lives just like this one).
  7. After retiring, I will: 1 (laze around for the rest of my life) to 7 (do the exciting things I’ve always wanted to do).
  8. In terms of reaching my life goals, I: 1 (haven’t made any progress) to 7 (have achieved all of them completely).
  9. My life is: 1 (empty and full of desperation) to 7 (a collection of good and exciting things).
  10. If I were to die today, it would seem to me that my life has been: 1 (complete trash) to 7 (very valuable).
 

Questions 11 – 20 of the PIL test

  1. When I think about my own life: 1 (I often ask myself why I exist) to 7 (I always find reasons to live).
  2. In relation to my own life, the world: 1 (completely confuses me) to 7 (significantly adapts to my life).
  3. I consider myself to be: 1 (an irresponsible person) to 7 (a very responsible person).
  4. Regarding the freedom people have to make their own choices, I believe that human beings are: 1 (completely slaves of the limitations of their natural circumstances and environments) to 7 (absolutely free to make all of their life choices).
  5. Regarding death, I’m: 1 (unprepared and terrified of it) to 7 (prepared and unafraid of it).
  6. Regarding suicide,: 1 (I have seriously considered it as an escape from my situation) to 7 (I’ve never spent a moment of thought upon it).
  7. I believe that my capacity to find a meaning and purpose in life is: 1 (practically nonexistent) to 7 (very great).
  8. My life is: 1 (outside my control and determined by external factors) to 7 (in my hands and under my control).
  9. Facing my daily tasks is: 1 (a boring and painful experience) to 7 (a source of pleasure and satisfaction).
  10. I have discovered: 1 (no mission or purpose in my life) to 7 (clear goals and a satisfactory purpose for my life).
A woman looking at at the sunset on a lake.
 

Interpretation of the results of the PIL test

Keep in mind that you can get a maximum of 140 points on this exam. People who get scores lower than 90 are in an existential void. On the other hand, those who get between 90 and 105 points have meaning in life, but it’s not very well defined. Finally, those who get more than 105 points have clear goals and find strong meaning in life, according to the creator of this test.

Meaning in life is unique and personal for each individual. Not only that, but it changes throughout a person’s life cycle. It’s everyone’s job to discover, in their own way, that source of motivation that will fuel their daily lives. The PIL test helps people discover just that.

 
  • García-Alandete, J., Martínez, E. R., Lozano, B. S., & Gallego-Pérez, J. F. (2011). Diferencias asociadas al sexo en las puntuaciones total y factoriales del Purpose-In-Life Test en universitarios españoles. Universitas Psychologica10(3), 681-692.
  • Ortiz, E. M., Cano, Á. M. T., & Trujillo, C. A. (2012). Validación del Test de Propósito Vital (pil test-purpose in life test) para Colombia. Revista argentina de clínica psicológica21(1), 85-93.