Forced choice scale

Forced choice scale definition:

There are a lot survey questions that allow you to collect more actionable data. A forced choice scale is one of them. A forced choice scale (also known as an ipsative scale) is a rating scale that does not allow for an Undecided, Neutral, Don't know or No opinion response.


Why? Because they are designed to force respondents to express an opinion or attitude. The scale forces the respondent to choose between two or more desirable options and pick the one that is most preferred and clearly indicates a definitive opinion.


Forced choice survey questions are usually written in the form of an agree/disagree statement or consist of statements where respondents select the one closest to their true feelings.


Ipsative measures may be more useful for evaluating traits within an individual, whereas Likert-type scales are more useful for evaluating traits across individuals.


Survey research studies generally indicate that excluding Don’t Know and Neutral options don't necessarily change the proportion of responses leaning toward certain sides of a Likert response scale. So these questions can add value, especially when you want to make business decisions based on customer preferences.


Take the two suggestions below into account if you’re considering forced choice questions:

1) It is still usually a good idea to include a Not Applicable response choice if there are segments of your survey sample to which the question does not apply. For example, respondents who haven’t used the type of product or service you’re asking about before.


2) Make sure that the respondent is familiar with the topic you are asking about. In addition, see if there isn’t a significant number of them who might honestly hold ambiguous opinions. If you think a don’t know/neutral option is necessary for your target market, it’s probably best to include one.


Keep in mind that your goal is to force customers to make a choice,  but not at the risk of losing valid, reliable survey data.




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Forced choice scale examples:

A 6-point rating scale with three positive and three negative options but without a neutral option is a classic example of a forced choice scale.