The differences between counterintelligence, lifestyle, and full scope polygraphs

Polygraph types and the differences between them.

For security clearance screening purposes two types of polygraph exams exist, and either one or both exams may be administered.


A Counterintelligence Polygraph asks the candidate questions limited to those necessary to determine whether the examinee ever had any involvement with or knowledge of espionage/sabotage against the United States, unauthorized contact with representatives of a foreign government, or unauthorized disclosure of classified material. A Counterintelligence Polygraph is the most common polygraph. Within the Department of Defense (DoD), polygraph examinations used to determine initial eligibility for special assignment or special access are limited to counterintelligence questions.

The DoD CI exam questions cover:

  • Espionage
  • Sabotage
  • Terrorist Activities
  • Deliberate damage of U.S. Government Information Systems
  • Intentional compromise of U.S. Government Classified Information
  • Secret contact with a foreign national or representative


A Lifestyle Polygraph asks the candidate questions the concern the subject’s personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior. A Lifestyle Polygraph attempts to look for issues in a person’s private life for which he or she might be susceptible to blackmail or coercion.

The DoD Lifestyle exam questions cover:

A Full Scope Polygraph is a combination of both the Counterintelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs.