Numerical scale

Numerical scale definition

A numeric (or numerical) scale, also known as a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), is basically any scale that renders a quantitative symbolization of an attribute. This type of scale is used by presenting the respondent with an ordered set from which to choose, for example, 1 to 10, coupled with anchors. These anchors can be put at the endpoints or at each point on the scale.

The numerical presentation is used to provide the data with interval properties beyond just ordinal properties.

Choosing the best feedback mechanism or rating scale will depend on what you're trying to measure and what you hope to learn from the feedback. Numerical ratings will be appropriate for some situations while verbal comments will provide much more useful information in others.

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Types of numerical scales

Ordinal scale

This has to do with ranking the extent to which a certain attribute is present (such as a classroom rank for students, or the order in which participants finished a race). So 1st and 2nd might be separated by a teeny bit, but 2nd and 3rd by a huge amount. Also, there can be no zero-eth rank.

Interval scale

Each number here represents an actual amount and the difference between two consecutive numbers is fixed. A zero is present in this scale, but it's not a "true" zero. For example, the temperature scale or an intelligence scale. An IQ score of zero or a temperature of zero degrees does not mean that intelligence and temperature do not exist at all.

Ratio scales

Here, we're measuring the actual amount of something. For instance, 4 liters of water means, there's 4 actual liters of water, and 0 liters means there's no water at all. The zero has its "true" meaning.

Numerical scale example

A tape measure is an example of a numerical scale.

Rating questions are based on the same principle, although here the scale is not always present.

One of the most well-known examples is the Pain Score, used when measuring the amount of pain a patient is enduring.

Numerical scale

Learn how to use the Text slider, Number slider, and Radio button rating in Survey Anyplace.

Other scale types

  • Survey scales - a scale is an ordered series of response options, presented verbally or numerically from which the respondents select to indicate their level of feeling about the measured attribute. 
  • Guttman scale - an ordinal scale type where statements are arranged in a hierarchical order so that someone who agrees with one item will also agree with lower-order, easier, less extreme items. 
  • Likert scale - Questions utilizing a Likert scale generally present the respondent with a statement and asks for his/her level of agreement with the statement by selecting a point on the scale. These points have often verbal statements or numbers attached to them. The scale should be balanced between positive and negative agreement options.
  • Verbal scale - a verbal scale also referred to as a “word statement” or “scale expression”, is where the response options are presented to the respondent using words, whether spoken or written. 
  • Continuous scale - On a continuous scale, respondents rate the objects by placing a mark at the appropriate position on a line that runs from one extreme of the variable to the other. The form of the continuous scale may vary considerably. 
  • Comparative scale - Comparative scales involve the direct comparison of stimulus objects. Most often, the respondent is asked to compare one brand, product or feature against another. Comparative scale data must be interpreted in relative terms and have only ordinal or rank order properties. 
  • Discrete scale - Discrete data, like counts, are numeric data that have a finite number of possible values and can only be whole numbers. Discrete data arise from observations that can only take certain numerical values. Fractions are meaningless. In some situations, mathematical functions or calculations are not possible either. 
  • Forced choice scale - A forced-choice scale (also known as an ipsative scale) is a rating scale that does not allow for an Undecided, Neutral, Doesn't know, or No opinion response. 

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Vincent is the author of this solution article.

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