Rating scale questions

Rating scale definition:

A rating scale is a method that requires the respondent to assign a value, sometimes numeric, to the rated object.


Conditions of a good rating scale:

  • It should be easy to interpret the meaning of each scale point
  • The meaning scale points should be interpreted identically by all respondents
  • The scale should include enough points to differentiate respondents from one another as much as validly possible
  • Responses to the scale should be reliable, meaning that if we asked the same question again, each respondent should provide the same answer
  • The scale’s points should map as closely as possible to the underlying idea (construct) of the scale


The number of scale points depends on what sort of question you’re asking.


If you’re asking something that ranges from positive to negative (also known as bi-polar constructs) then you’re going to want a 7-point scale that includes a middle or neutral point. In practice, this means the response options for a satisfaction question should look like this:


Bipolar rating scale


If you’re asking a question which ranges from zero to positive (also known as unipolar constructs) then you’ll go with a 5-point scale. The response options for this kind of question would look like this:


Unipolar rating scale


The goal is to make sure respondents can answer in a way that allows them to differentiate themselves as much as is validly possible without providing so many points that the scale becomes unreliable. Even on an 11-point (0-10) scale respondents start to have difficulty reliably placing themselves: for example, 3 isn’t so different from 4.




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Types of rating scales:

a) Numeric rating scale
b) Graphic rating scale


graphic rating scale


c) Descriptive graphic rating scale: A descriptive graphic rating scale has two defined endpoints. A line connects these points. Descriptive phrases identify different points along the continuum.