Profile of Mood State (POMS) Questionnaire

The Long Form Profile of Mood States questionnaire (otherwise known as the POMS questionnaire or POMS test), which was first developed by McNair, Lorr and Droppleman in 1971, is a validated psychological test that contains 65 words and statements that describe feelings.

It is widely used in sport to measure athlete’s transient, distinct mood states over a period of time. These mood states include:

  • Tension
  • Anger
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Vigour

In this article we’re going to look at how to conduct the POMS questionnaire, how to score it, what to do with the data and the questionnaire’s advantages and disadvantages.

How to Conduct the POMS Questionnaire

The athlete will need access to the POMS Questionnaire. They must then read each word and statement on the questionnaire. For each word and statement, they must circle the number on a Likert scale from 0 to 4 of how often they have felt those feelings today and over the past week. The numbers 0 to 4 represent the following statements:

  • 0 – Not at All
  • 1 – A Little
  • 2 – Moderately
  • 3 – Quiet a Lot
  • 4 – Extremely

The athlete can complete the test in their own time – there is no time limit.

How to Score the POMS Questionnaire

Scores for each word and statement is awarded:

  • 0 for Not at All
  • 1 for A Little
  • 2 for Moderately
  • 3 for Quite a Lot
  • 4 for Extremely

EXCEPT for the words “Relaxed” and “Efficient” where they are reversed scored. For example:  

  • 0 for Extremely
  • 1 for Quite a Lot
  • 2 for Moderately
  • 3 for A Little
  • 4 for Not at All”

To calculate the athlete’s individual scores for the six distinct dimensions of mood, follow the below instructions:

Tension

To calculate the athletes total score for tension, add together the scores for:

  • Tense, shaky, on edge, panicky, relaxed, uneasy, restless, nervous, anxious.

Anger

To calculate the athletes total score for anger, add together the scores for:

  • Anger, peeved, grouchy, spiteful, annoyed, resentful, bitter, ready to fight, rebellious, deceived, furious, bad tempered.

Fatigue

To calculate the athletes total score for fatigue, add together the scores for:

  • Worn out, listless, fatigued, exhausted, sluggish, weary and bushed.

Depression

To calculate the athletes total score for depression, add together the scores for:

  • Unhappy, sorry for things done, sad, blue, hopeless, unworthy, discouraged, lonely, miserable, gloomy, desperate, helpless, worthless, terrified, guilty.

Confusion

To calculate the athletes total score for confusion, add together the scores for:

  • Confused, unable to concentrate, muddled, bewildered, efficient, forgetful, uncertain about things.

Vigour

To calculate the athletes total score for vigour, add together the scores for:

  • Lively, active, energetic, cheerful, alert, full of pep, carefree, vigorous.

Overall Measure of Mood

Now that we have the scores for each dimension of mood, we can calculate the athlete’s overall measure of their mood, known as their total mood disturbance. To do this we add the total scores for tension, anger, fatigue, depression and confusion together and then subtract the score for vigour. For example:

  • Total Mood Disturbance = (Tension + Anger + Fatigue + depression + Confusion) – Vigour

What to do with the POMS Questionnaire score?

So, now that we have conducted the POMS questionnaire, we can compare our athlete’s score to normative values. In 2000, Peter Terry presented normative values based upon athletes at an international (n = 622), club (n = 628) and recreational (n = 836) level completing the POMS questionnaire, which can be seen in the table below:

GroupTensionDepressionAngerVigourFatigueConfusion
International5.664.386.2418.515.374.00
Club9.628.679.9115.648.167.38
Recreational6.003.113.6017.786.374.84

Elite athletes tend to score below average for tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion and above average on vigor – which is known as an “iceberg” profile. This profile is typically a desirable mood status for athletes and can be visually represented by plotting the mood state results on a graph, as shown below:

Profile of Mood States (POMS)

It is important to be aware that an “inverse iceberg” profile also exists. This is characterized by lower levels of vigor and higher levels of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion, and is associated with a poor state of physical and mental functioning.

An athlete’s mood profile can be monitored over time – it can be re-tested at a later date by the POMS questionnaire and results can be compared to their previous scores and normative values.

If an athlete displays an inverse iceberg profile, they may wish to consider implementing mental skills training to their weekly training schedule to enhance their mood status. Check out our article on mental skills training to learn more.

Advantages of the POMS Questionnaire

The POMS questionnaire has many advantages, which include:

  • It can be completed anywhere.
  • It’s low cost.
  • It’s simple to complete.
  • It’s relatively fast to complete.

Disadvantages of the POMS Questionnaire

There are a few disadvantages to the POMS questionnaire, which include:

  • Athletes may alter their answers to be more socially acceptable rather than being truthful.
  • It doesn’t consider the intensity of athletes mood states or optimal zones of functioning.
  • The Likert scale doesn’t allow athletes to expand on their answers.

Summary

The POMS questionnaire is a useful tool which has many advantages for coaches to have in their tool box. It allows us to measure athlete’s transient, distinct mood states over a period of time.

Once the athlete has completed the test, we can use basic maths to calculate the athletes mood states. The most desirable mood status for athletes is categorised by low tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion scores and an above average score on vigour. To learn more, click on the further reading links below.

Further Reading

Hanin, Y: Iceberg Profile

Terry, P: Normative Values for the Profile of Mood States for Use with Athletic Sample

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Emily, co-founder of Sport Science Insider, graduated from the University of Leeds in 2020 and went on to become an accredited S&C coach with the UKSCA in 2022. A former athlete herself, Emily has since gone on to deliver S&C coaching for the Southern Academy of Sport, GB Rowing, GB Taekwondo and works currently as a full-time S&C coach at the University of Leeds.