Rating and Ranking Scale


Rating scale is defined as a closed-ended survey question used to represent respondent feedback in a comparative form for specific particular features/products/services. It is one of the most established question types for online and offline surveys where survey respondents are expected to rate an attribute or feature. Rating scale is a variant of the popular multiple-choice question which is widely used to gather information that provides relative information about a specific topic.

Researchers use a rating scale in research when they intend to associate a qualitative measure with the various aspects of a product or feature. Generally, this scale is used to evaluate the performance of a product or service, employee skills, customer service performances, processes followed for a particular goal etc. Rating scale survey question can be compared to a checkbox question but rating scale provides more information than merely Yes/No.

Types of Rating Scale

Broadly speaking, rating scales can be divided into two categories: Ordinal and Interval Scales.

An ordinal scale is a scale the depicts the answer options in an ordered manner. The difference between the two answer option may not be calculable but the answer options will always be in a certain innate order. Parameters such as attitude or feedback can be presented using an ordinal scale.

An interval scale is a scale where not only is the order of the answer variables established but the magnitude of difference between each answer variable is also calculable. Absolute or true zero value is not present in an interval scale. Temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit is the most popular example of an interval scale. Net Promoter Score, Likert Scale, Bipolar Matrix Table are some of the most effective types of interval scale.

There are four primary types of rating scales which can be suitably used in an online survey:

  • Graphic Rating Scale
  • Numerical Rating Scale
  • Descriptive Rating Scale
  • Comparative Rating Scale

(i) Graphic Rating Scale: Graphic rating scale indicates the answer options on a scale of 1-3, 1-5, etc. Likert Scale is a popular graphic rating scale example. Respondents can select a particular option on a line or scale to depict rating. This rating scale is often implemented by HR managers to conduct employee evaluation.5 point likert scale for satisfaction

(ii) Numerical Rating Scale: Numerical rating scale has numbers as answer options and not each number corresponds to a characteristic or meaning. For instance, a Visual Analog Scale or a Semantic Differential Scale can be presented using a numerical rating scale

(iii) Descriptive Rating Scale:  In a descriptive rating scale, each answer option is elaborately explained for the respondents. A numerical value is not always related to the answer options in the descriptive rating scale. There are certain surveys, for example, a customer satisfaction survey, which needs to describe all the answer options in detail so that every customer has thoroughly explained information about what is expected from the survey.

(iv) Comparative Rating Scale: Comparative rating scale, as the name suggests, expects respondents to answer a particular question in terms of comparison, i.e. on the basis of relative measurement or keeping other organizations/products/features as a reference.


A ranking scale is a survey question tool that measures people’s preferences by asking them to rank their views on a list of related items. Using these scales can help your business establish what matters and what doesn’t matter to either external or internal stakeholders. You could use ranking scale questions to evaluate customer satisfaction or to assess ways to motivate your employees, for example. Ranking scales can be a source of useful information, but they do have some disadvantages.

Businesses typically use ranking scales when they want to establish preferences or levels of importance in a group of items. A respondent completing a scale with five items, for example, will assign a number 1 through 5 to each individual one. Typically, the number 1 goes to the item that is most important to the respondent; the number 5 goes to the one that is of least importance. In some cases, scales do not force respondents to rank all items, asking them to choose their top three out of the five, for example. Online surveys may remove the need to key in numbers, allowing respondents to drag and drop items into order.

Advantages of Ranking Scales

Ranking scales give you an insight into what matters to your respondents. Each response to an item has an individual value, giving results that you can easily average and rank numerically. This can be a valuable business tool, as it gives a statistical breakdown of your audience’s preferences based on what you need to know. If you are making business decisions and have various options to choose from, data from a ranking scale might give you a clearer insight into how to satisfy your audience based on what is important to them.

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