Perceived Competence Scales (PCS)

Purpose: To assess feelings of competence about an area.


Short description: The Perceived Competence Scale (PCS) is a short, 4-item questionnaire, and is one of the most face valid of the instruments designed to assess constructs from SDT. Like several of the other measures–including the Self-Regulation Questionnaires and the Perceived Autonomy Support (Climate) Questionnaires–items on the PCS is typically written to be specific to the relevant behavior or domain being studied. The PCS assesses participants’ feelings of competence about, say, taking a particular college course, engaging in a healthier behavior, participating in a physical activity regularly, or following through on some commitment. In this packet, there are two versions of the questionnaire concerning the feelings of being able to stick with a treatment regimen and being about to master the material in a course.

Sample questions: For a PCS about quitting smoking.

Instructions: Please read each item and mark the number that indicates your level of agreement with that statement on a scale of 1-5.

Sample questions:

  1. I feel confident in my ability to quit smoking.
  2. I feel capable of quitting smoking now.

Paid or free: Paid?

Reliability/validity measures: 

Validity: The alpha measure of internal consistency for the perceived competence items in these studies was above 0.80


  • Individual
  • Educational
  • Health settings


  • Individuals
  • Life coaches
  • Educators
  • Students

Type of measurement: Questionnaire

Possible uses: Pre- and post- test evaluations for an intervention

Ease of implementation: Extremely easy. 5 items, est. 3 min.


  • Easy to answer and administer
  • Minimal time commitment
  • Questions can be adapted for different settings (ex. educational, healthy eating habits)


  • There are only 4 questions, so this scale may not provide very much information about an individual.
  • Self-report

Studies this has been used in:

  • Williams, G. C., Freedman, Z.R., & Deci, E. L. (1998). Supporting autonomy to motivate glucose control in patients with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 21, 1644-1651.
  • Williams, G. C., & Deci, E. L. (1996). Internalization of biopsychosocial values by medical students: A test of self-determination theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 767-779.


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